Note: This is part four of the story of a recent visit to Ashuelot Park in Keene, New Hampshire.
Every time I step into the woods I see strange things that boggle the mind and can’t be satisfactorily explained. (At least by me) My recent trip to Ashuelot Park proved this once again. Below are a few examples of what I think are fairly unusual sights.
These two shrubs-one on the left and another on the right-have somehow become woven together at their tops and, judging by the size of the branches, have been growing this way for quite some time. How this could have happened I’m not sure, because they grew about 4 or 5 feet apart. This has been done purposely in gardens since medieval times and is called pleaching. One reason trees are pleached is to create a living arbor to shade paths. Over time the trees often graft themselves together and grow as one. I can’t recall ever hearing of this happening naturally. These were well off the beaten path, but I suppose someone could have done this in the past.
This has to be one of the strangest things I’ve seen. Beavers have been gnawing at this cherry tree for so long that the wound is starting to heal over at the top. They keep the wound fresh but it isn’t deep and they haven’t girdled the tree to kill it, so they obviously have no intention of cutting it down. But why do they gnaw on it? Is it a tooth sharpening station? Do they come just to nibble off a piece of sweet cherry, as we would chew a stick of gum?
I think it’s probably accurate to say that I’ve seen tens of thousands of maple trees in my lifetime, but I can’t remember ever seeing one with circular patterns like these in its bark. I can’t even guess what would cause this, or what use they are to the tree. If you know what causes this, I’d love to talk to you.
The maple in the previous photo may have circles in its bark, but at least it still has its bark. This oak had its bark slide right off and tangle around itself. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this happen either.
Witch’s broom isn’t that strange, but in my experience it is rare, or certainly uncommon on white pine (Pinus strobus) in this area. The best description I’ve seen of witch’s broom is “a dense mass of shoots growing from a single point, with the resulting structure resembling a broom or a bird’s nest.” The deformity has many different causes, including bud damage, infection, and parasites such as mistletoe. I had to boost the contrast a bit on this one so the broom would stand out from the background.
This is the final entry for the long walk that I recently took in a place that I spent a considerable amount of time in as a boy. I hope you enjoyed seeing it as much as I enjoyed showing it to you, even though the sun was shining a bit too brightly for the best photography. If you ever find yourself in Keene, New Hampshire, please stop in and see it for yourself. Whether you have a few minutes or a full day, you’ll surely see something interesting.