Cycle of Life in your Landscape
This week the cycle of life takes another turn at the Scott Arboretum. We say goodbye the Fagus sylvatica ‘Atropunicea’, European purple beech, that has stood at the entrance to the Terry Shane Teaching Garden since 1881. Trees, like all living things, have a life cycle and cannot stay with us forever. As an educated reader of landscape, you can observe the signs that a tree is in decline.
This European purple beech was planted as a class tree, commemorating the class of 1881. It’s beautiful smooth bark added interest in the winter. Its lovely leaves emerged deep purple and faded to a purple-green during the summer, adding color to the garden. The sweeping branches provided shade and privacy. While majestic in the garden, the symptoms of decline have been evident for a number of years.
One of the first symptoms of problems was visible during the spring flush of new growth. The tree would leaf out beautifully with vibrant deep purple leaves, but within several weeks, many of those leaves would shrivel and die. This is a symptom of Phytophthora bleeding canker which disrupts the water transportation inside a plant. The weeping sticky sap from the canker was visible on the west side of the trunk.
A dramatic indictor of decline was the loss of a major limb in 2010. This loss changed the landscape allowing more sunlight into the rear entrance of the garden, thus resulting in some new plantings along the pathway.
An observer may have also noticed the growth of fungi throughout the crotches of major tree branches. In more recent years, the root rot symptoms of Phytophthora canker were evident and gardeners observed the bark around the roots coming off in chunks.
As a landscape observer, we often look up and marvel at the majestic canopy of trees. Within the past year, over 50% of the European purple beech’s canopy was lost, leaving it a skeleton of its former self.
Many living things succumb to old age and our tree friends are no different. At over 133 years old, this beech also suffered from extensive dry rot in addition to its various other ailments. After assisting our green giant for many years it was time to say goodbye before someone or something was injured by falling debris.
The garden has become less shaded with the death of this tree, allowing the cycle of life to continue by opening up this space to the realm of sun-loving plants.