Lone Tree

Trees, like us, live not only in the present but remember the past and anticipate the future.

The Larch, for example, remembers a caterpillar attack. The next year, it grows
shorter, stouter leaves, which don’t photosynthesise as efficiently as its usual longer, more narrow ones but are better at fending off pests. A tree shaken by wind, processes this information and responds by growing thicker and more sturdy.

A tree out on its own grows much stronger than in a forest. It has to fend for itself, put out root systems strong and deep enough to withstand winds and rain from all directions. And from a young age, too.

There are positives. A lone tree does not have to compete for light or space or nutrients; it can grow as tall and wide as it likes. And drop its limbs with freedom. It will never be in the shande of another.

I grew up admiring big old trees like that, who seemed to carry such wisdom and weight. Here, giant ficus up on the Range capture me, too, their green tangled growth, multitrunked, forming a world of their own.

It must be a lonely life though, without the comfort of others, and the richness of a whole ecosystem about you. There is only so much remembering or learning you can do on your own; surely the collective wisdom of a forest is far greater, and the company of others worth the loss of a little independence.

A ‘wolf tree’ is no longer lone. It once grew in open ground, spreading its branches wide and high, stretching and yawning with all the leisurely freedom of one who lives alone and bathed in light. If the field is left unmowed, unplowed and ungrazed, however, younger trees move in. The gather around the older tree, growing close together and reaching up for light. The original tree, its style cramped by a dense woodland of young and slender trees, is forced to send new branches upward, seeking light.

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