Wednesday 19 January 2011

Whats's Old is Ancient

While it is difficult to sell tree preservation techniques that have been practiced for hundreds of years as new, reexamining ancient tree cultural methods may be just what we need to do. I have been interested in preserving trees right from the start of my career in arboriculture. I used to camp and canoe along the Souris River back in the 1980's and was amazed to see what was then billed as a 500 year old Burr Oak. Even then I remember being underwhelmed by its stature. Thirty years later it is still standing and I am only now able to see the beauty of its aged form. As an ISA Certified Arborist I am required to participate in a minimum of ten hours of continuing education per year to maintain my certification. Beyond maintaining my certification CEUs keep you current with the latest techniques and methods. Most legitimate professional accreditation programs realize that with research, methods and concepts change and what you took as fact yesterday may be proven to be fiction or close to it by the latest scientific research.
As part of my CEU requirement I was excited to participate in a two part session with Philip van Wassenaer, a preeminent expert on “Veteran Trees” from Eastern Canada.
For many years fear of litigation rather than solid research has driven the field of arboriculture when it came to dealing with vintage trees. No one wants to see anyone get hurt, but there are individuals and tree companies that offset their expenses and increase their income by playing on peoples fears about older trees. The duty of care for aged trees falls squarely on the shoulders of the property owner, but they should be well informed and presented with treatment options that include preservation as well as removal. Taking these ancient giants down unnecessarily struck me a bit like drinking a fine bottle of wine just to get the 10 cents bottle deposit. Modern arboriculture has evolved from the techniques of tree surgeons and plants men of a hundred years ago and is now reexamining the very techniques that may have been discounted.

The first step in conservation arboriculture is a thorough examination of the tree to possibly be preserved. Hollows and cracks along with declining canopies do not necessarily mean that a tree removal is imminent. Carefully examining the tree with modern methods will allow a current accurate diagnosis of the long term viability of the tree as well as its hazard potential.
One of the greatest revelations from the presentation and the too short field trip was grasping the concept that trees grow for a long time, and go through senescence for a longer time. Just as the youthful or mature form of the tree has great beauty so can the gnarled battle worn veteran be a beautiful presence in the landscape. With this new knowledge I rushed to the computer and found an image of The Souris Old Oak Tree and it is in exactly the beautiful mature form that Philip had described.
If you have a “Veteran Tree“or are interested in tree preservation contact an ISA Certified Arborist who is knowledgeable in the techniques to preserve and maintain these ancient giants