This is a bit more than just slightly inconvenient. The trail continues forward from here, with another trail up the stairs to the right.

It is that time of year. Warming weather accelerates vascular activity, which makes foliage heavier. If evapotranspiration is inhibited by humidity and a lack of wind, the foliage can get too heavy to be supported by the trees that produce it. All that increasing weight can bring down big limbs or entire trees at the most unexpected times. The process is spontaneous limb failure.

By ‘unexpected’, I mean that it happens when there is no wind. It is startling because broken limbs and fallen trees are typically associated with wind rather than a lack of it. Gentle wind actually accelerates evapotranspiration, which relives affected vegetation of some of its weight and susceptibility to spontaneous limb failure. Aridity helps too, by absorbing more moisture.

Of course, even a gentle breeze at the wrong time can have disastrous results for vegetation that is already about to succumb to spontaneous limb failure. I suspect that is what happened here, since the air was not completely still at the time. It was just a bit warmer than it had been, and slightly more humid than typical. It is too late and pointless to analyze the situation now.

This is the top of the stairs that are to the right in the picture above.

At about noon on Thursday, someone who works nearby alerted me to the sound a a big tree falling. I was in the same neighborhood, but was driving by with the radio on. The tree is precisely where I was told it would be. No one was nearby when it fell. Damage was originally minimal, with a portion of trail displaced by roots, and a rail on a bridge crushed by the trunk.

By ‘originally’, I mean that this was not the extent of the damage. After barricading the trails and road leading to the site, and leaving, we heard another loud crash from the same location as a bay tree that had been leaning against the already fallen fir tree collapsed in pieces on top of the whole mess. Fortunately, the damage to the bridge, although worse, is not too terribly bad.

There is more timber here than lumber. The short section of main trunk is severely fractures. The double trunks beyond are not as big as they look.

9 thoughts on “Timber!

    1. Well, it only broke a section of rail off of the bridge. The rest of the bridge is fine. Most of the rest of the tree fell into the forest. Only a bit of it needs to be removed from another part of the trail. It will be difficult to remove it without causing more damage, but we will figure it out. I used to inspect fallen trees regularly, and was more often than not impressed by how trees seemed to find the best spot to land where they would cause the least damage. There were a few that seemed intend to cause as much damage as possible. I wrote an article about it a while ago, after observing that trees hate Porsche, but have never hurt a Buick. They really seem to dislike certain cars, but not others.

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    1. It is more common than most realize. As an arborist, I can sort of sense the sort of weather that will likely cause some of it. Right now, I expect broken limbs in some of the deciduous riparian trees, but for different reasons. They are heavy with new foliage, and are now getting wet with a slight bit of late rain.

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