Stop 8 - Tenacious Trees
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Trail marker
Marker where the Creekside Trail splits from the McCarver Trail.

Lightning slash
Lightning slash in the post oak tree.

Willow oak
Willow oak tree.

Cavity in willow oak tree
Cavity near the base of the willow oak tree.

Stop 8 vicinity

Stop 8 vicinity and directions to the next stop.

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Things to see at this stop:

  • A large willow oak is on the left side at the end of the boardwalk.
  • There is a cavity at the base of the tree.
  • A post oak is two paces further on the right side.
  • Walk beyond the post oak and look back to see the lightning slash on the side of the tree.
  • Look up to see calluses high up on tree trunk.

Pause and take a good look at the tree to your right. This is a post oak; it is not beautiful, but it has suffered much. Down the entire length of the side to your left is a lightning slash which decades ago exposed the heartwood to weather and insect attack, yet the exposed wood remains weathered but firm. In past years, a very large poison ivy vine grew within that slash, a vine that produced normal three-leaflet foliage, but also random leaves with four, five, and even six leaflets. Even that remarkable plant succumbed to the drought years: we miss it.

High on the tree's trunk are large calluses developed by many years of rubbing against another tree that grew too close. The post oak, however, has outlived its neighbor and long survived the lightning strike. It is the nature of post oaks to be relatively impervious to decay. Because of this, as the name implies, they are used for fence posts and also for railroad ties. Unlike its red oak cousins, a fallen post oak (a member of the white oak family) can lie on wet ground for decades before totally decomposing.

To your left across the trail is a large willow oak, a member of the red oak family which also shows a strong "will to live." Years ago it also suffered major injury to its trunk and has long attempted to heal the wound. Unlike the post oak, it is not resistant to decay, and its heartwood has been attacked by beetle larvae and a fungus that sometimes produces bracket- or shelf-like fruiting bodies. Such fungi are exceedingly important decomposers of dead wood, recycling nutrients into the soil. They do not attack the living tissue of trees but they will decompose the inert heartwood if it is exposed. As the fungal filaments invade the wood they feed by producing enzymes that soften it, also making it edible by wood-boring beetle larvae.

Directions to the next stop:

  • Walk 20 paces forward to a sign marking the split of the McCarver Trail (left) and the Creekside Trail (right).
  • Turn right onto the Creekside Trail.
  • Walk 35 paces to Bridge 3.
  • Walk 20 paces bearing left to Bridge 4.
  • The next stop is at the far end of Bridge 4.

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