Some of the most awe inspiring organisms on the planets are the ancient trees. Standing underneath them is a humbling event. Their canopy can seem so far away and is a mysterious world in itself. The presence of such a large tree can dominate the land around it. When I visited the largest bloodwood in the southern hemisphere, the “ old bottlebutt tree” Sp. Corymbia Gummifera, it felt like going to church. Even when shooting the videos that I took of it, I had to reshoot many times just to get one minute of film – as I kept being lulled into a serene state of awe with the tree.
Modern science shows how the largest tree in an area, can influence many different biological events within its local sphere. Old trees are somewhat like a Grandparent to the local fauna and flora around it, holding space and guiding resources, sharing energy and fulfilling needs. Some of the oldest trees on Earth can be almost 10 000 years old. Imagine being that old! What memories would you have? What sense of time? What Love would you have for other beings?
What stood out to me, was how it was truly the largest thing around. As far as could be seen, nothing came close to its magnificent size. Yet a few stumps were to be seen, that were bigger than many of the other trees around. As humanity moved with power into the Earth and forged our civilizations and industry, the beauty, significance and need for these giants was obviously not recognized. Yet, something stopped the foresters from cutting down this one specimen, the biggest of all the trees in the area. Respect is naturally evoked in the presence of giant trees, and maybe this is what stopped the saws of the foresters from felling “Old Bottlebutt”. Now the tree has become a symbol , representing giant life that nowadays is rarely seen and not really understood.
Something that we are finding with giant trees, like the ones remaining in National parks , is that they are truly exceptions. Even when we plant the same exact species, the likely hood that it will reach this full and magnificent maturity, is nowadays unlikely and proving to be nearly impossible to do.
What we must realize, is that the reason that these giant trees became giant and reached their potential – was through millions of years of progressive evolution of biodiversity in forested areas. As the forms of animals, arise, and die – their bodies become the soil of the national parks that we walk on today – and this richness of soil, gives birth to the giant trees. Simply planting a tree of the same species of giant tree will not produce a giant. It is the biodiversity of soil, and the richness of life, climate, and specific conditions that created the fertile ground from which the biggest trees on earth can emerge.
In New Zealand the giant Cowries, are suffering with a fungal illness. People managing the crisis continue their spraying of copper sulfates to mitigate the spread of the fungus – yet what balance of organisms and conditions prior held the fungus at bay from its extreme rampancy for the thousands and even millions of years of the Cowrie tree’s evolution until now? With modern agricultures largely misguided practices and impact – we can easily tip the balance of nature and then we start to lose things that we have taken for granted.
Studies show that medium age trees from the genetic giants of the Sequoia family are dying. Young trees develop until their mid twenties and then will die. This means that there are really no mid age Sequoia forests on the planet. This should be a signal to the world, that the conditions on Earth are changing and we must strive to protect, maintain and learn about the conditions that have allowed for the trees to reach their potential. If we can only ever hope to see the giant trees in national parks, then do the parks have more the feel of museum where giant trees are a thing of the past?
Soil is life, and without good soil, NOTHING reaches the heights and potential that it can. All of life has come from the soil, and the health of the soil will be reflected in the health, and potential of the organisms of the Earth!
This is why we feel so strongly about soil at LifeRocks and why we have made Soil fun, bringing it to life in a series of educative materials, games, and workshops that are all budding and are almost ready to flower into the world. Our hope is to inspire a genuine Love, care, and respect for the earth and soil beneath our feet. Future and current generations can be inspired to connect and reinvigorate this earth becoming the symbiotic stewards that humanity was designed by Nature to be!
The hidden life of trees – Peter Wohlleben
Giant Sequoia Insect, Disease, and Ecosystem Interactions – Douglass Piirto