Goofy Tree

April 01, 2013

GoofyTree

Photographer: Roger Hopkins; Roger's Web site
Summary Author: Roger Hopkins

This tree was found at the potential site of a new State Forest near Ithaca, New York. It appears to be a healthy 30 ft (9 m) high tree estimated to be 25-40 years old. What's very unusual is that it has two healthy trunks. Even more unusual is that the bark on the trunk on the right appears to be a White Ash (Fraxinus americana); whereas the trunk on the left and the upper part of the tree appear to be a Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum). So the puzzle is, how did this happen?

It's unlikely that this is a natural event even though it's in a remote part of the forest. Although it's fairly common to see one tree falling against another and then the two trees continuing to grow as close neighbors, they wouldn't bond together in a functional "graft." For the bond to grow together like this one, both trees would have to have had their bark damaged and then the joint would have had to be immobilized for a long time, possibly several years. The slightest motion between the two parts would break whatever bond had grown.

So, we think that this was done by someone, perhaps as an experiment, perhaps to build a shelter of some sort, or possibly to play a joke on us when we found the tree 15-20 years later. For whatever reason, the person who did this would have had to bend the young trees down, break off the top of the ash, deeply scar the trunk of the maple and then bind them together. Or, they would have had to do this from a ladder since they were joined 10 ft (3.5) above the ground. None of the Cornell University tree experts we've spoken to have any better theories, so if you do, please let us know. Photo taken on January 10, 2013.

Photo details: Camera Maker: HTC; Camera Model: ADR6400L; Focal Length: 4.6mm; ISO equiv: 100; Software: Picasa.