Trees as Time Capsule

October 16th, 2010

I romanticize about gardening and landscaping sometimes, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I often fantasize about what impact I can leave on this world, what I can build that will exist after I am gone.

Acorn for the Future

Trees live for hundreds or thousands of years, and since they reseed, your actions in planting a tree, even if the tree doesn’t live that long, can affect the environment for, well, forever so long as man doesn’t get in the way.

There is a small public wetlands/park area by my house, it is public land and is completely enclosed on all sides by development. It is probably about 1 square mile and is trisected by walking paths. I’ve planted wild flowers back there before, and I know other locals have too, even a few trees. Some guy has put up bird houses. The people who live by it tend to take care of it.

It is the perfect place for bald cypresses, none of which grow near it, and which are beautiful trees that get quite large, and can live a long time. I know they can live in this climate, there is one in town someone has in their yard that is probably approaching 70 feet. I bought some seeds on eBay that I will start them into the Spring after I have given them the necessary cold treatment. Then, one they’re growing, next summer or fall, I will transplant them back into that area and pray the couple deer don’t eat them.

I won’t live in this area forever, I’ll probably move in 5 years, so I won’t get to enjoy the trees once they grow (if they grow) but someone will, and the animals will. In a hundred years, I will be gone, but those trees could still be there, and people may wonder how bald cypresses ended up growing there East Lansing Michigan. Well world, it was me, I did it.

My parents live a few hours north of me in a rural area and live more or less in the middle of the woods. There are a lot of deer, a lot of deer, rabbits, turkeys, opossums, raccoons, all the woodland animals. But not a lot of squirrels. There are also no oak trees in their forest. I have no idea why, but there isn’t. They have a lot of birch, of poplar, of hemlock, fir, and spruce, but no oaks. Meanwhile, down here in the suburbs where oaks have been prolifically planted, we have squirrels all over the place. I have always thought it was odd that more squirrels should live in the suburbs (where they get routinely flattened) than in the forest.

So I collected a bunch of acorns and sent them up for my brother who still lives at home to plant. Trees grown from seed always grow faster, especially initially, than those grafted. Additionally, with oaks, when grown from an acorn they have a better chance of growing a good taproot, thus being stronger and harder to uproot. To plant them you just pretend you’re a squirrel and dig down 2 or 3 inches and drop them in like you’re hoarding for winter (the same deal with walnut or pecan). Not all will grow, but some will, and if they mature they will be the first oaks in the forest, perhaps eventually spreading and colonizing more areas. The trees will provide habitat, and the acorns food for many forest animals. The squirrel population will explode.

It will be many years before that happens, the house may still be in my family, though, and even if it isn’t, the oaks will be providing wildlife habitat, I will have changed the local ecosystem like Johnny Appleseed, the effects of which could be felt for hundreds or thousands of years.

I’m sure there are some people who think “interfering” in nature is wrong, but I’m not one of them, if I want to plant a tree I’ll do it, it isn’t as if I’m planting something invasive. They may not naturally grow in the area, but they wouldn’t be wholly out of place. It is one way I can change the future, and I think that is pretty cool.

9 Responses to “Trees as Time Capsule”

  1. Michelle  Says:

    Thank you. It is a beautiful description.

  2. Joseph Tychonievich  Says:

    What a great post! I love the idea of planting a bald cypress! There is one in a front yard up the street from me (in lansing), and I always wonder about the person who planted it.

  3. Joe  Says:

    I am nearly 70 years old and I am still planting trees here in South Africa, one of my black workers asked me this morning ” Why do white men plant trees”, all I could answer was “That’s what us white people do, what would you answer, bearing in mind that most black people only plant trees if someone pays them to do it?

  4. Jill  Says:

    I enjoyed this article very much. My father pass away not too long ago and I planted a tree in his name. This tree will be shown to my children and grandchildren. I hope that it will keep his memory alive with the stories that will be told when the children visit the tree. It is better than flowers.

  5. abby jenkins  Says:

    I always gather up chestnuts when I see them in the fall and plant them around, our property, parks, hiking trails… Since blight (was is blight? some disease) wiped out a lot of the chestnuts in Connecticut I feel I am just spreading the wealth. Hopefully they will flourish and future generations will do the same. Yes, I like the way you think!

  6. Clint Sidney  Says:

    That was a very great idea. Yes one day we will leave this world but before we go we can plant trees that could live hundreds of years. We only not help the people around us but Mother Nature as well.

  7. Chris Karl  Says:

    Excellent post! I love trees too, and am lucky enough to live in the North Peak District in England (think moorland and woodland) so we have no shortage. My favourites are the Ash and Horse Chestnut, and you have inspired me to plant at least one next year. I will be planting a new apple tree in my garden (currently in a pot) and I have a 40′-50′ ash already. Wish me luck!

  8. Charles M  Says:

    I’ve grown quite a few trees from seeds in my day, but just about all of them have been bonsais. I’ve tried acorns before, but the birds and squirrels have always taken them because I planted them too close to the surface. Thank you for better information on this.

  9. Alicia @culinarybliss  Says:

    Someone once said to me “there’s never a wrong time to plant a tree” I think of it often, with the invasive species exception in mind of course 🙂
    Just found your blog and am really enjoying it!

Leave a Response

(Email field must be filled in)

Top of page...