I think we done killed another tree

Years ago, when we moved into our home, it was graced with magnificent trees. In the front yard, we had this huge weeping willow, one of the notable landmarks in our neighborhood, and a pair of tall pine trees; the centerpiece of the back yard was a grand old slippery elm. They’ve all succumbed to age, and we’ve had to pay experts to come in and chop them down as they became increasingly dangerous, losing limbs in storms and just generally falling into crepitude.

We have only one original tree left, right outside my office window. It’s a busy home to squirrels and birds. But it’s also doomed. Look at this hideous gnarled gap in the trunk.

It’s a deep wound, and that’s a horrible pale fungus eating away at the heartwood. We’re probably going to have to butcher this tree, too.

We’ve had a fair number of saplings planted around the yard, but it’s doubtful that I’ll live long enough to enjoy their shade someday.


  1. submoron says

    Reminds me of Thomas Hardy.

    The ten hours’ light is abating,
    And a late bird wings across,
    Where the pines, like waltzers waiting,
    Give their black heads a toss.

    Beech leaves, that yellow the noon-time,
    Float past like specks in the eye;
    I set every tree in my June time,
    And now they obscure the sky.

    And the children who ramble through here
    Conceive that there never has been
    A time when no tall trees grew here,
    That none will in time be seen.

  2. R. L. Foster says

    We had to take out a lovely, old maple in our front yard just last month. A damaged limb had allowed a fungus to get into the pith. It’s days were numbered. We had the choice to give it chemical treatments at $500 a pop every couple of years or take it down for $1000. The correct choice was obvious. Once the tree was gone I had the stump ground out and planted a Hollywood juniper in the hole. The growth rate is said to be moderate, so, hopefully, there will be more than what looks like a small Xmas tree in our front yard in a few more years.

  3. cag says

    We’ve had a fair number of saplings printed around the yard

    Amazing what can be done with 3D printers (they can even autocorrect).

  4. PaulBC says

    Wow, that could be the beginning of a Lovecraft story. You’d need to purple-up the writing a little but “Years ago, when we moved into our home, it was graced with magnificent trees.” is already off to an excellent start.

    The fungus out of space. Run away! Run away!

  5. PaulBC says


    Amazing what can be done with 3D printers (they can even autocorrect).

    I often read claims that 3D printed solid organ replacements are on the way. This is vaporware as far as I know, but it’s not totally crazy. You could maybe 3D print a substrate of stem cells that might develop the right way if you knew what you were doing. Plants are a lot easier to propagate and I wonder if you could 3D print synthetic seeds that would grow into clones. Maybe there’s no advantage over doing it with cuttings.

    Another thing about trees (fruit trees anyhow) is that a lot them are grafts onto a different rootstock, e.g. chosen for fungus resistance or to limit the height. But maybe you could 3D print a chimeric embryo of such a tree in a nutrient gel that would grow naturally with your preferred rootstock (just spitballing here).

  6. robro says

    We have two Ponderosa pines in our backyard that have suddenly turned brown. Two years ago when we had some Monterey pines removed, the arborist thought these two trees would be fine for years to come. We suspect the drought has done them in, or perhaps they got lonely after the Monterey’s were removed.

  7. PaulBC says

    robro@9 The previous drought killed our two birch trees. I thought we were being good citizens by cutting way back on watering the lawn, but apparently birch trees (which were here when we moved in) require a lot of water. Well, I always said that this was my way of developing a drought-resistant lawn. Just stop watering and see what’s left.

  8. seachange says

    @1 I found the fungus talk unwatchable

    @10 PaulBC

    Yeah, birches will just up and die on you. They are awfully lovely though. Maybe you can try again.

    A tree is like educating the young, it is a promise to the future. It is a promise made in the face of impending horrible climate catastrophe. We are not obligated to make the world a better place, but we must try.

    You have made many promises PZ. It will be sad to see the end of the life of that tree that someone else has blessed you with. Hopefully you and your trophy wife will be able to plant another, again.

  9. ffakr says

    That’s a shame.
    My pride & joy is the (estimated) 130-140 YO Elm in the back yard. It’s about the same age as my house, though my old house got moved to this lot in 1976.

    We lost a BIG limb about 7 or so years ago and at that time, an arborist told us to cut it down.
    We didn’t and it’s still going strong,.. still growing and pushing around the fence that abuts it.

    Had the arborist out again this past year to prune some dead branches and look at the exposed ‘stump’ of that long-removed large branch (12-18″ diameter) which had a huge mushroom growing out of it.. I was told no worries. At least with Elms, they’re hardy enough that they just cleaned the fungus out a bit and told me to keep an eye on it.

    If I ever do have to cut it down (assuming it doesn’t outlast me), I’m hoping I’ll be able to do something interesting with the 20′ section of 7′-8′ circumference arrow-straight branchless trunk. At the very least.. I’m thinking it’d make a nice slab dining table top AND a massive carved Tiki in the back yard. :-).
    The thought of a 20′ tall totem pole is tempting.. but I don’t want something like that falling into a neighbors yard after the roots finally rot.