Sunday, January 29, 2017

Becky Harlan - These Ancient Trees Have Stories to Tell

Over three trillion trees live on planet Earth, and yet we know so few of their stories. Of course all trees play an important role—purifying the air, hosting the feathered and the furry, teaching kids (and kids at heart) how to climb—but some have spent more time doing these things than others. Quiver trees, for example, can live up to 300 years, oaks can live a thousand years, and bristlecone pines and yews can survive for millennia.
Quiver Tree, Aloe dichotoma, ub Keetmanshoop, Namibia. The Quiver Tree Forest in southern Namibia is home to a spectacular collection of some of Earth’s most unusual trees, some of which are three centuries old. Strictly speaking, they are actually succulent aloe plants that can grow up to 33 feet high. The Bushman and Hottentot tribes use the hollow branches of this plant to make quivers for their arrows. The forest was made a Namibian national monument in 1995.
Quiver tree, Aloe dichotoma, Keetmanshoop, NamibiaThe Quiver Tree Forest in southern Namibia is home to a spectacular collection of some of Earth’s most unusual trees, some of which are three centuries old. Strictly speaking, they are actually succulent aloe plants that can grow up to 33 feet high. The Bushman and Hottentot tribes use the hollow branches of this plant to make quivers for their arrows. The forest was made a Namibian national monument in 1995. Photo - Beth Moon

In 1999, photographer Beth Moon took it upon herself to begin documenting some of these more seasoned trees. Specifically, she sought out aged subjects that were “unique in their exceptional size, heredity, or folklore.” And it was a quest. “So many of our old trees have been cut down,” she says, “that without a concerted effort you are not likely to run across one.”

She found some of her subjects through research and discovered others through tips from friends and enthusiastic travelers. Beginning in Great Britain, she eventually trekked across the United States, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia to connect with oaks named after queens and baobabs shaped like teapots.

“Sometimes the journey is half the fun,” says Moon, citing a tree in Madagascar that was particularly hard to find. “It was so big, you would think it would be easy to spot. In the end, the local chief came to our aid. He rode with us, giving directions to the tree. The people of the village were so intrigued they followed along behind the jeep and sat in the field watching as I photographed.”

Part of what intrigues her about these trees, which are older than many of our most established institutions, is what makes them last. “I am always amazed at the way trees have the ability to endure and adapt to severe conditions. Some ancient trees hollow out as they age as a survival technique. 

The tree will send an aerial root down the center of the trunk, which will continue to grow from the inside out.” In her book Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time, she explains that these ancient individuals “contain superior genes that have enabled them to survive through the ages, resistant to disease and other uncertainties.”..

Many of the real trees represented, however, face hard times ahead. “Quiver trees are dying from lack of water in Namibia. Dragon’s blood trees are in decline and on the endangered list, and three species of baobab trees are currently listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List,” says Moon. “The disappearance of old-growth forests may be one of the most serious environmental issues today.”..
Read more and see photos:
http://proof.nationalgeographic.com/2016/03/24/these-ancient-trees-have-stories-to-tell/