What happened here?

Somebody has stripped bark from the whole length of the trunk of tree number 5477. Why would anybody do that?

We can tell it’s not just mindless vandalism because, bar a couple of pieces left propped against the tree, the bark has been carried away. We are inclined to assume that somebody has taken it for their flower arranging class, or to decorate a shop window or a display of spring flowers. This is purposeful vandalism.

Our countryside is in danger enough without people breaking picturesque bits off to arrange in flowerpots and vases. You can buy that sort of thing, responsibly sourced, in your local garden centre.

1. Wiltshire numbers notable trees; 2. bark stripped from the length of the trunk;
3. two pieces of bark left behind.

Tree number 5477 is an ancient willow pollard, probably as much as 200 years old, growing next to the Lambrok tributary. Its split and gnarled bark is safe habitat for dozens of species of invertebrates, and rich hunting grounds for the creatures that eat the invertebrates. There is a robin that hunts insects in the willow pollards by the stream; you may have seen it.

Willow pollard 5477 is a garden of mosses, small ferns and germinating seeds of all kinds. It is home to more fungi than we can name or count; we photographed the strange fruiting bodies of candlesnuff fungus on the very bark that has been removed.

Tree 5477 photographed January 28th.

The tree has not been ring barked but it has been wounded. The injured tissue will not repair and will not heal. Trees do not heal; they seal. They create a callous around the edges of the wound and try to isolate the damage in a process called compartmentalisation. A tree as old as 5477 will do this very slowly and meanwhile the living tissue that has been exposed by the wound is open to infections and pathogens.

The park is full of old and beautiful trees; please treat them with the respect they deserve.

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