Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Exploded tree

My best guess is that this tree was "exploded" by ice. When I first saw it, I thought lightning destroyed it, but there’s no sign of burn marks. I haven’t had any lightning for months now, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been past this tree since the season’s last lightning storm. If you forced me to guess, I’d say it’s been no more than a month since I’ve been past this tree in my wanderings around the forest.

The damage on this tree looks pretty fresh. The wood is pale and isn’t discolored the way I would expect it to be if the tree was damaged months ago. Since I believe the damage was caused recently, the only option I can come up that would damage a tree like this is ice. I’d be happy to hear other ideas.

It is true that no other trees that I’ve seen show anything like this level of damage. I’ve seen some trees that fell over from the weight on the ice on them and lots and lots of downed branches, but nothing that looks like this. The tree isn’t near a road, not even a two-track road, so I can’t really imagine this is some kind of human-caused damage either. So, for the moment at least, that’s leaving me with ice as the damaging agent.

And if this is ice damage, about all I can say is, wow! The poor tree is a goner, completely destroyed. It’s certainly an impressive level of destruction, too. It really makes me hope I don't have any more ice storms this year, that's for sure. The damage around the mountain is already bad enough without having to worry that more trees will end up looking like this.


The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

I’d say your ice theory is the logical answer, although I’d be prone to think ice as in the tree’s bole freezing through (or nearly so) where you see the damage rather than the weight of an ice load breaking it off. Seems to me, unless the tree was leaning a lot already (and I see no evidence of that in the photo) it couldn’t take on enough ice to snap it.

We had a really, really bad ice storm here in southwest Ohio last year. Thousands of trees were taken down. In some communities, woodlots, and along certain roadways, maybe 75 percent of the trees were downed or severely damaged. It took tree crews months to clear up the mess. So I saw a lot of trees felled by ice…and yours doesn’t appear to have toppled JUST from ice load alone.

Maybe there were a few sunny days beforehand and this particular tree began pumping a little sap. Then a deep freeze occurs, maybe a cold little micro climate, a freeze pocket, only around that place; a degree less than the temperature twenty yards away. Sap freezes, and if that alone doesn’t pop the trunk, then the ice storm comes hauling in, dumping its load. A double whammy for the tree. It can’t bend so it snaps.

There’s my guess…and I could easily be wrong. Hey, maybe you have some really big bucks around there and a late-bloomer, hormonally speaking, was just recently rubbing off his velvet. (You gotta think monster, bigger-than-an-elk buck to make this scenario work.)

Anyway, I’m pretty sure you can forget lightning as the culprit.

Carolyn H said...

TGBSISH: I agree that this isn't a toppled tree--I've got plenty of those around. The tree looks as though it took on ice inside itself and then during a heavier freeze--pop! In any event, it's unusual.

Carolyn H.