Dr. Alex Shigo (Bless you, Alex) and I were having a conversation about the “Balance of Nature” as it were, over dinner a few years back. It turns out that there is no such thing!
Think about a see-saw, you know, the thing you played on as a kid, until the other kid stepped off mid stream. And you hit the dirt so hard, well you know…
If the see-saw were to be “balanced” per se, the game would grind to a halt.
The life of trees is NEVER balanced. It is always a game of hold back, or catch up.
Stored reserves assist a tree in time of need, mostly in the form of starches that the tree has squirreled away when times were good. When the time comes, the tree quietly converts these carbohydrates into sugar, and puts this energy back to work.
A surplus of anything is never wasted in the forest. The miracle of nature never turns her back on a free lunch!
O.K. now back to the balance! Consider an oak tree in its first year of life. For example: an acorn falls to the ground in late October. When fall rains come, it spears a taproot 3-4 feet straight down. This uses most of its battery life, and it needs to recharge at the first opportunity. In the spring, the little guy produces two little leaves atop a tiny stem. These are essentially solar cells that make sugar to replenish the battery.
Stuff happens, and a deer may nip of these little leaves. The determination of the tree will come into play here! It may have enough in its gas tank or bank account to pull out of this setback, or it may not.
This would be the kid jumping off the see-saw! If it has enough battery left it will make two more leaves at the first opportunity, and start the see-saw going again!
You see, trees like to play as much as we do!
When you are visiting a 500 year old oak, think about its first years of its life, what it must have gone through as an acorn, as a seedling, as a sapling, as a juvenile, as a teenager, as a middle ager, as an old man…
The fact that a tree can even make it to a half century is really a miracle, much less a thousand years, or two thousand, or three…
That is a whole lot of see-sawing!
When you hit a hard spot in life, hug a tree, it may have enough in reserve to help you along! Don’t forget to repay it, nobody like to play alone…