Fence eating trees

Neil

by Neil Carleton

 There’s much to discover on a hike along a trail, or a bike ride along a concession road.  It’s important to stop from time to time so there are quiet opportunities to look around and listen.

The Birders on Bikes event back in June was a good example.  Stopping to identify a flash of orange revealed a Baltimore oriole, the melody of a hidden red-eyed vireo, a profusion of wood anenome flowers, and a waft of heady spring fragrances on the breeze.

We also marveled at mature maples, oaks, and pines along the roadside.  While most trees seem to grow better at some distance from their neighbours, it’s not uncommon to find them thriving close to steep rock outcrops, or next to buildings.  Some grow right up against boundary markers.  These are the fence eaters.

As trees grow, their trunks expand outwards.  Beneath the bark a tree thickens by adding a thin ring of wood each year.  The circumference of the trunk increases year by year as annual rings of new wood are added.

By counting the annual growth rings on a tree trunk cross section, the age of a felled tree can be determined.  This small hemlock was about 45 years old when it was cut down.
By counting the annual growth rings on a tree trunk cross section, the age of a felled tree can be determined. This small hemlock was about 45 years old when it was cut down.
Cookie 2 July 27 2013
Tree trunk growth rings can vary in thickness from year to year. Growth will be less in a drought year, for example, or if a nearby tree is restricting the amount of sunlight that’s available.

It’s a slow process but, cell by cell, the powerful outward growth of a tree trunk will overcome some formidable obstacles.  Engulfing strands of wire fencing doesn’t pose much of a problem for trees in our area.

This young elm down the lane of the Thompson farm on Ramsay Cconcession 7 has grown over a strand of barbed wire.
This young elm down the lane of the Thompson farm on Ramsay Cconcession 7 has grown over a strand of barbed wire.
Another elm a little farther along the farm lane has engulfed several strands of page wire.
Another elm a little farther along the farm lane has engulfed several strands of page wire.
Three strands of barbed wire seem to have been absorbed by a mature hemlock along the Old Perth Road.
Three strands of barbed wire seem to have been absorbed by a mature hemlock along the Old Perth Road.
Over at the Almonte Fairgrounds, it looks like a Manitoba maple oozed through the chain link fence.
Over at the Almonte Fairgrounds, it looks like a Manitoba maple oozed through the chain link fence.
Another Manitoba maple at the Almonte Fairgrounds has engulfed barbed wire, chain link, and a length of pipe.  What a fence eater!
Another Manitoba maple at the Almonte Fairgrounds has engulfed barbed wire, chain link, and a length of pipe. What a fence eater!
When this photo was taken on March 9, 2010, a young Manitoba maple had just begun its encounter with the chain link fence along the railway tracks by the Almonte branch of the Mississippi Mills Library.
When this photo was taken on March 9, 2010, a young Manitoba maple had just begun its encounter with the chain link fence along the railway tracks by the Almonte branch of the Mississippi Mills Library.

 

The same tree, 3 years later, had made considerable progress as a fence eater when this shot was taken on July 27, 2013.
The same tree, 3 years later, had made considerable progress as a fence eater when this shot was taken on July 27, 2013.
“A belated thank you to Penny Skelton for her nomination of the black locusts at Appleton which were featured in June.  Her good suggestion was inadvertently missing when I clicked on send to submit my column.”

Do you have a notable or favourite tree?  Readers are invited to submit their nominations for an honor roll of trees in our area that could be featured in future articles.  You can contact me at 613-256-2018, <ve3nce@rac.ca>, or Neil Carleton, 3 Argyle Street, P.O. Box 1644, Almonte, Ontario, K0A 1A0.  I look forward to hearing from you.

My volunteer columns started in March 2010, as print features, to support the tree planting and tree awareness initiatives of the Mississippi Mills Beautification Committee.  The contact for the Tree Working Group is Ron Ayling, 613-256-4617.  In Carleton Place, the contact for the Urban Forest / River Corridor Advisory Committee is Jim McCready, 613-257-5853.

Until the next column, you’ll find me looking for and hanging out with shady characters.