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Trouble in the Oak

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In October of 2007, a big vibrantly colored fungal growth appeared on our oak. I duly cooked and served a good part of it, for it was the purportedly delectable chicken-of-the-woods.

Part of me hoped I was eating the enemy's heart.


 I knew the sudden appearance of this spectacular fungus was a bad, bad sign for our tree; even said as much in my post about the experience. I wrote:  Chicken of the Woods, for all its homey name, is a serious tree pathogen, which infects and kills trees with brown rot. Buhhhmer. I hope it's slow-acting. We love this old oak, which shades our mail (good for shipping mealworms in summer) and the bluebird box.

And in a bit of history that now pleases me with its symmetry, the mushroom made me sick as a dog that night and part of the next day.

Looking at it, it doesn't look like something one should probably eat.

 All right, it made me sick because I paired it with a nice sauvignon blanc, and I was unaware that that’s a no-no with this particular mushroom. But still. We writers look for foreshadowing wherever we can.

Still, three more springs and summers and winters came and went, and the tree sheltered us, appearing in my photos when I was planning to include it

And even when I wasn’t. (Tree photobomber).

It watched Bill teach Liam to throw (not a fait accompli as yet)

It made its own island of habitat for northern fence lizards and many kinds of birds and animals, who perched in its branches, drilled nest cavities in its limbs, and fed on its caterpillars and acorns. Gray and fox squirrels, redtails and red-shouldered hawks, crows, bluebirds, red-bellied woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, mourning doves; even a scarlet tanager who made it his song perch every summer morning in 2010. Everyone wanted to perch in the oak, for it was the highest point around.

Oak prominent moth larva.

 I could not imagine our entry without it. I hoped it would be true, as my DOD used to say, that trees are 50 years growing, 50 years living, and 50 years dying. Then I wouldn't have to say good-bye.


The dead treetop branches in the "Oakentire" photo are signs of the distress.

To lose an oak must be a terribly troubling thing.
I am just now, after 5 years, becoming used to the gaping hole left in our yard by the passing of an old, sprawling sugar maple. I knew its time would come. Maples struggle so down here.
But an oak...strength, age, sad it's gone.

Few things are sadder than the loss of a beloved tree from your landscape. I'm pretty cold-hearted when it comes to deaths in nature - they are part of life afterall - but when I lose one of "our" trees it really, really gets me down.

Such a beautiful oak, Gilly and I have rested under it many times on our rides down the road.
Several years ago we lose an oak even larger than that one. It fell in a storm, huge tree now laying in ruin on a hillside.

Your great oak was what I call a sentinel. I have many favorites along the roadsides and even stop to take pictures. Had I not done so, who would celebrate those who are no longer with us?

Posted by Anonymous May 17, 2011 at 6:01 AM

It's like losing a member of the family. :-(

I did have a little chuckle at the evil mushroom story. Nasty thing, fighting back even at the very end! LOL

I, too get a great attachment to the ancient leviathans of the forest and fields around where I live. On my property in Adams County, Ohio there is one of the largest White Oaks I've ever seen (and I've seen my fair share of huge Oaks!). I'm always nervous for what the future holds for it. I know nature has a time and plan for it but I selfishly desire to see it stand proud and tall for the rest of my days. May you also never have to say goodbye to your beloved tree.

When my tiny copse of Japanese maples, only five years old, began dying from verticillium wilt, it kept me awake mourning at night. For weeks. And they had practically no history at all.

perhaps a carpenter can make some beautiful things from the wood of this old friend after it has passed...

Posted by EmilyS May 17, 2011 at 3:12 PM

If only it had been a bald cypress and not an oak. You could have had a millenium.
... of course, we would have to wish for an Ohio climate shift too while we are doing that whole cypress wishy thing.

this last winter saw some huge trees down where we walk. a wind/snow fall oak blocks the path, so we clamber over it.

i once ate some delicious shaggy manes with a nice red wine. got sick.

hmmm. my previous comment reads like a bad haiku.

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