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Mourning for the veteran trees

His Journal on Jan. 29, 1860, relates Henry Thoreau watching “a noble pine” being felled near Concord.
Old and tall with trunk about 100 feet long, the tree is the last of a dozen left when the forests were cut. For 15 years, he notes, it has “waved in solitary majesty over the sprout-land.”
Its branches still waving in the wind as if “destined to stand for another century,” the pine finally falls.
It fans the hillside as it lies down in the valley, “folding its green mantle about it like a warrier, as if, tired of standing, it embraced the earth with silent joy.”
Reflecting on the space this elder tree has occupied in the upper air, now to be vacant for two centuries, on the fish hawk circling in vain to find his accustomed perch in spring and other animals missing a nesting place and food, Thoreau wonders why the village bell sounds no knell and no “procession of mourners [is seen] in the streets.”
For lumber primarily then, for reasons of urban spread thereafter and still today, trees have been disposed of, continually and relentlessly.
As urbanization and commercial development increase, old city trees especially must go, the growing expanses of asphalt leaving little room but for trees of smaller stature, less demanding of space and water resources.
The Zeit newspaper has reported on this trend, for the city of Hamburg.
This German metropolis, with claimed title of “Environmental Capital of Europe” has busied itself for some years supplanting many old beech, oak and linden trees with smaller “designer-flora” species.
In the view of a local tree expert cited by the author, it would take a thousand such trees to replace the ecological value of just one centenarian oak or beech.
That’s a trade off, he states, that any city can ill afford.
A thousand-to-one valuation of old trees to new may seem high, but Germany’s Federal Agency for Nature Conservation calls it an understatement.
It asserts that twice that number, 2,000 of the smaller, young trees would be needed to equal the benefit of that centenarian beech, the old tree being a remarkably efficient air-cleansing machine, 40 pounds of carbon dioxide being withdrawn by it and nearly 30 pounds of oxygen released, during a summer day.
Our area has seen the cutting of scores of large trees, or removal of large limbs from them, in recent months.
Preventive action to reduce the risk of economic damage to utility infrastructure is the newly significant cause for this, due to expectation of heightened frequency of violent storm events under a warming, disturbed climate.
A rare old pecan tree, towering over a home on Jonesborough’s Spring Street, also became a victim of this new concern.
Donald Peattie described the pecan as “North America’s most famous nut tree, the largest and kingliest of all species of hickory.”
Although a town bell didn’t sound, the old pecan tree’s loss was deeply mourned by its owners.