Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 12:17 pm
by Ranger Dan
Hi Cindy-

Delighted to have a new member on board posting interesting picutres! It's been a while since we've seen pics from folks in the Smokies. It is my "spiritual homeland", and I've spent many a day squirreling around off-trail there myself, since 1976, so I loved seeing your picture and witnessing your curiosity. You crawled through a tree! Cool! I'm connected right there! I can remember doing the same thing at times. Thank you!

In my mind, the tree is almost certainly a yellow birch. The only other tree it might be is black birch, but the latter would be more likely to have some blocky plates in the bark. In yellow birch bark, even on old trees like this one, there is a brassy-colored shine in much of the bark. I can't see any of that in the photo (in part because there is a lot of algae and moss on it), but the smoothness and wrinkled quality of the root bark says "yellow birch" to me. The fact that there is a passage under the tree is another characteristic sometimes encountered in both of these birch species, because they often begin life as seedlings on nurse logs or stumps, which rot away. The open spaces develop as roots grow around voids in the rotting wood. So, what you often see are really interesting figures like the ones in your photo, with large exposed roots, looking as if they grew in the air from the beginning. There are trees in tropical rainforests that do indeed have aerial roots which grow to massive size, even to the point of resembling trunks, in the case of strangler figs and other species. But in our part of the world, those hanging or exposed roots were once in rotting wood, or soil.

I hope you will continue to show and tell us what you find in your wanderings. The topics on this list that I, personally, find interesting and worth commenting about are the non-technical items such as the one you bring up (well, if you don't consider tree identification by nuance technical, that is). There are so many qualities of trees and forests to discuss...the quirky, curious, mysterious, gorgeous, magnificent, awesome things that inspire and satisfy in a way that is completely different from discussion about measurements and technical issues...not that those things are any less valuable, they just don't hold much popular appeal. There has been talk of "what direction to go" with this discussion list, and I assume that we want more attendance and attention to our topics. I think you're bringing us back, Cindy. Keep it coming!

Dan Miles