Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Almost-Dead Tree - Oh, How I Love Thee...


...let me count the ways!

In our neighbor's back yard, there lives an old shagbark hickory tree. It's so close to our yard, you might think the tree is ours, but it isn't. You also might wonder why it hasn't been cut down. In fact, our neighbor's wife had been begging her husband to cut it down for quite some time.

We were talking out in the yard one day when he mentioned this to me. I immediately said, "OH NO! Please don't cut it down!" While he was glad for an excuse to dismiss the task, he looked at me quizzically and said, "But why?"

The photo above is the tree, taken from its "good side".
But wait - is it really the good side?

I began to tell Tom about the things I'd witnessed concerning the almost-dead tree.  I've lost count of the number of times I watched and listened to downy and hairy woodpeckers rat-a-tat-tatting away on its bark, looking for insects within.  The nuthatches - both white-breasted and red-breasted - were looking, too.

Though the tree no longer produces fruit in the form of its edible nuts, the squirrels like to hide in its larger cavities, likely from its neighbor's cats. (Ours!)

I've seen many a bird take materials for nesting into those cavities and have heard the tiny chirps from baby birds within.


There are a couple of hiding places at ground level, too. Voles and mice have made their homes there, and while I can't vouch for how long they live once they've left the nest, it's proof that the tree provides a home for yet another living thing.


The open branches are a wonderful perch for the Baltimore Orioles that come here every spring. I've seen them singing to the heavens from there.


The tree was allowed to remain, and I thanked Tom for that, on behalf of the wildlife, but for myself, too. I selfishly love to watch the comings and goings at that almost-dead tree of his.

We are getting new neighbors at the end of next month. I have a feeling they'll want to take the tree down. Admittedly, it isn't very pretty. And I suppose it could eventually fall over onto the building near it or onto a person.  I'm prepared to see it go, but I hope it doesn't happen anytime soon.

There's a lot of life left in that tree, with more than its leaves to show for it.

A young robin sat preening himself in the almost-dead tree today.



21 comments:

Cameron said...

A great habitat for the wildlife.

Sometimes I wish I had a wood chipper for all our debris, but we place it, stack it, along the edges of our woods and it becomes wildlife cover. Not the prettiest thing in the landscape, but it serves a purpose and breaks down naturally!

Michelle said...

Sounds like the giving tree.

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

Maybe the new neighbors will at least leave part of the tree and put a birdhouse or something on top. I love the character of old trees. There was a dead tree standing just over the fence from us and it's where the hummingbirds would rest between visits to the feeder. It finally blew down, but I still kind of miss it.

Vagablonde said...

Beautiful proud old tree..Reminded me of a John Prine song called Hello in there. About really seeing whats behind a sometimes less than new (young) facade. Great post

Aerie-el said...

Save the snags! The wildlife there is so thankful you convinced Tom to do them a good turn in allowing nature to run its course, and we thank you too!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a lovely ode to a tree that has done its duty all the way to the end of its life.

Dave@TheHomeGarden said...

Sometimes those old trees give a great shelter to the wildlife around us! We forget sometimes that the nature we enjoy needs a place to live too. Of course you didn't forget that! ;)

JEANNE ILLENYE said...

Oh, a kindred spirit, indeed! I'm thrilled you've pusuaded your neighbor to keep that beautiful, old tree which has proven through it's tenacity that it sincerely deserves to remain....

Birdwoman said...

Dead and almost dead trees are so important to wildlife habitats, as you have observed. I hope your neighbor continues to let the tree stand as a shelter and source of food for many types of animals.

antigonum cajan said...

The thing with NATURE is that even when looking dead, a lot of life springs from it.

A rare post, not found at all in my multiple, frequent blog peregrination.

Congratulations, and thanks a lot.

As a creative abrasive horticultural critic, sensibility, vision and forethought in gardening are a rare find.

Cindy Garber Iverson said...

Nature always amazes me and this is a perfect example of why. Something that appears to be "dead" is teeming with life. I would be in the same frame of mind as your are. Maybe the new neighbors might be wildlife enthusiasts? You never know!

Kim and Victoria said...

It's funny how birds really flock to the dead branches in our trees also. Hummingbirds included. That tree could be made into a natural-scape, with live plants around it.

Nutty Gnome said...

I hope your new neighbours don't chop it down whilst it's still doing such a good job for the wildlife!

Hey - I thought you were taking me rain........it's still bucketing it down here - have it, have it now!!!

Rose said...

What a lovely post, Kylee! This tree has certainly provided its share of beauty and refuge; I hope the new neighbors appreciate this and don't cut it down anytime soon.

Kylee said...

Cameron ~ I like seeing things like that in their natural setting, Freda. Really, there's a place for everything!

Michelle ~ It's been YEARS since I've read that book. I hadn't thought about it, but you're right!

Catherine ~ I'm hoping they'll leave the tree. I'm going to share my experiences with them, so maybe they will!

Debbi ~ I'll have to check out that song!

Aerie-el ~ Save the snags - I like that!

Lisa ~ I didn't realize just how much I love that tree until I thought about the possibility of the new neighbors taking it down. Perhaps they'll look forward to seeing what I've seen!

Dave ~ Sometimes seeing is believing!

Jeanne ~ I think most gardeners and lovers of wildlife would feel like we do! :-)

Birdwoman ~ I'm hoping for that, too!

antigonum cajum ~ Gardening has opened my eyes to a lot of things, not the least of which is the cycle of life and how each thing interacts with another.

Cindy ~ I've known our new neighbors since they were in high school (they're our youngest daughter's age) and they have three boys with another one on the way. I'm hoping to appeal to the aspect of that tree being a teaching instrument for their kids!

Kim and Victoria ~ I've seen things like that done and they're beautiful!

Nutty Gnome ~ I'm waiting for that rain! Please send it on its way! ;-)

Rose ~ I hope they decide to let it stay, too, Rose! I'm sure going to plead its case!

joey said...

A gift that just keeps on giving. Enjoy while you can, Kylee. Happy October :)

Carole said...

What a lovely story! It's always amazing to me just how much life there is in a tree that from a gardeners perspective may be past its prime. I'm so thrilled that you talked him into letting it stand so that the woodpeckers and other critters will continue to find shelter.

Layanee said...

It is amazing how much wildlife that benefits from a seemingly dead tree. It will fall when it is time.

Marguerite said...

If only more people would recognize the value of a dead tree. if you look there's so much life to be seen. Kudos to you for recognizing that.

Gail said...

A beautiful post Kylee! I'm glad it's still standing for your benefit and the wildlife. gail

garden girl said...

I want to jump through the computer screen and give you a hug Kylee. I love this post and can completely relate to how you feel about the old hickory.

It reminds me of a certain big old dying juniper way in back in our yard, and the conversations I've had with the Lawn Man when he talks about taking it down.

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