Sunday, June 22, 2008

Widowmakers


Redwoods make very attractive landscaping trees, and are suited to the dry summer, wet winter cycle of their home territory. As they grow skyward, they put out a lot of branches to collect as much sunlight for energy as they can. As they grow further on up, the abundant branches now lower on the tree can't all catch as much sunlight as before, so some of them wither and die, while others grow stronger and spread out further from the trunk. It's a way for the tree to focus its growth near the top where it brings the most return, and this self-pruning is natural for a healthy tree. However, when a stout wind comes up, or even if a butterfly lands as a final "straw," these dead branches will fall to the ground. When the early loggers worked in these woods, they discovered that cutting activities around the base of the tree would also shake down dead branches that may have hung up on still living branches overhead. In a day without hardhats or other safety procedures, these projectiles earned the name "widowmakers". It's something to know about if you're going to live this close to a redwood.

I have added some pictures of the "widowmaker" that inspired this post on my Overflow blog.

17 comments:

Chuck Pefley said...

And I thought riding on two wheels was hazardous to ones health. Never dreamt living under a redwood could be of concern. Good information and well written!

Julie said...

Hah, the River Gum in South Australia has the same nickname for exactly the same reason!

I like the image which intruiges because you have cut out one of the windows of the house leaving it unbalanced and hence throwing even more attention onto the tree.

Good combination ...

I remain appreciative of your kind comments.

http://plumbingthedeeps.typepad.com/sydney_eye/

Steven (Cavite Daily Photo) said...

Very good shot elaine! At first, I said, is this redwood cause you're in California and it was indeed. On your first part of your well written post, I said, oh! I wish I have one on our backyard! But then as you said it is also called "widowmakers", I kind of doucted^^

Thanks for dropping by and saying Get well! I'm feeling better now than yesterday. I just hope classes will be of tomorrow so I still have time to cope up with loads of assignments!

God bLess and Mabuhay from the Stormy Philippines!

Steven^^

Dina said...

Beautiful tree trunk. You keep us guessing at the size of those potentially fatal branches. Abe would approve. I have to learn this.
Near where I lived in Switzerland was a long wide walkway in the middle of open fields (army training grounds and farm) bordered on each side by a row of tall old trees. When wind would sweep over the plain, the posted sign in French was very relevant: "Danger of falling branches!!" I always felt I was running the gauntlet when I had to pass there.

Jilly said...

Love this photograph. And fascinating story about the redwood tree.


Apologies for lack of comments recently. I'm in America. But slowly am getting back to commenting a little more regularly. Thankyou so much for your comments.

Abraham Lincoln said...

I do visit and I do comment and I was here. I did look at your picture(s) and I did read what you wrote about them. I could say how great you are and how beautiful your work is but alas I would soon run out of things to say on the next blog I visited, so I just left this to prove I stopped and said a few words on Sunday. Perfect title.

My Rheumatoid Arthritis hurts so I am using the same message for all.

Meead Saberi K. said...

Thanks for your comments Elain.
Nice pic, I like it.

Kelly said...

This is a great post! I don't know that I would want to live in that house, so close to falling branches!

magiceye said...

beautiful picture accompanied by an educative commentary.

Afyonkarahisar said...

wow, wonderful!
nice composition

Jim said...

I guess they could leave a mark. I dont think I would want to live in that house.

Hilda said...

That's an interesting factoid. I hope the owner of the house knows it!

Benjamin Madison said...

Nice tree, beautiful photo, but I hope that's not your house there....

Knoxville Girl said...

So, plant a redwood and make sure your budget includes home repairs, and your health insurance is paid up.

Kym said...

I'm enjoying your redwood posts. They are such interesting trees.

USelaine said...

Now that I've alarmed everyone, I should point out that the house you see in the photo is as old as that tree, and it looks like it's in great condition.

The other thing is that the pictured tree is not "old growth" such as the early loggers were cutting, so the branches that fall are not so big on this size tree as they are on the oldest trees. But they could still injure you if were struck.

Finally, I need to clarify that a branch falls only about once a year, if that much, because the number of dead branches aren't infinite, and the odds you would be right at the spot where it fell are minuscule. It's not like the trees are gunning for you. ;^)

In the autumn especially, redwoods drop quite a lot of branchlets and swags of needle-leaves, and that just tends to be messy rather than dangerous. Please don't panic about traveling through the redwoods on road trips! You'll be fine, I promise! 8^)

I've added some photos to my Overflow blog of a real "widowmaker" that dropped on my street about a week ago, inspiring this post. If I'm not losing sleep over it, neither should you.

D.C. Confidential said...

The other thing to know about redwoods is, they're natural air conditioners. They gather coastal fog in their topmost branches, or crowns, and hold that cool air, which helps keep temperatures down.

Redwoods are stunning! I use to love the drive up the Navarro River to Mendocino and the drive from Ukiah to Humboldt. Absolutely breathtaking!