Windthrown Tree – Photo of the Week

Trees that grow in wetlands like this hardwood swamp have shallow root systems making them prone to being pushed over by strong winds.  When I tree tips over (tipups) like this Green Ash tree, in this manner it digs a hole and leaves a pile of dirt.  The whole process creates a number of tiny new habitats in the wet woods.  The removal of the trees canopy allows more light to the forest floor, creating a small area for more sun loving plants, and young trees to grow.  The whole dug creates bare ground for new plants germinate and complete where once a tree grew.  In this case the hole the tree roots left behind creates a little pond, which acts like a little refuge for more aquatic creatures as the spring flood waters subside.

Windthrow Tree

When a tree falls and no one is around, does it make a sound? Maybe not, but when it falls as a windthrow, or tipup, The roots dig a hole. These tipups can provide unique habitats in a forest. The holes can fill with water, and the fan of roots can provide safe places for mammals to hide. In drier areas these tip ups may be visible for decades or centuries after the trees have rotted away. The holes are still there, and the pile of decayed roots, soil and rocks remain in a pile, sometime with new trees growing on top.

As the decades pass the mass of rotting roots will provide comes for all sorts of animals, and eventually a pile of dirt that will provide a little piece of high ground for a new tree to grow.  Most likely that tree will meet the same fate as the original.  It makes me wonder how many times times has this happened in this swamp over the centuries.  How many countless plants and animals have owed their existence to that first tree that toppled over in a thunderstorm so many years ago.

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