Cherry orchards surround the town of Zug in Switzerland and this cherry tree was photographed numerous times and in all four seasons over a period of a year. It stands to the south of the town and the mountain in the background is the Zugerberg.
The German word for cherry is kirsch and the town of Zug is well-known for its Kirschtorte, a delicious cake, the mere mention of which sets many mouths watering. But, you won’t find one single cherry in this cake, because there aren’t any! Just Kirsch, a high-grade, clear schnapps distilled from cherries, for which the town of Zug is also famous.
Trees are the longest living natural organisms on our planet, and many live for hundreds of years. One of the longest living is the yew, which is thought to live for thousands of years – yew trees alive now could have been already growing at the time of Christ. However like any living organism, trees are subject to disease and will eventually die. Some tree illnesses have simple descriptive names like “ash die-back disease”, “Sudden oak death” and “Dutch elm disease”. Many trees succumb to attack from fungus or bacterial infection when they are already stressed by drought or injury to their structure.
Humans may try to protect trees from disease, for example by culling individual trees to stop the spread of infection, but this is rarely successful. An alternative strategy is to try to reduce its effects by re-planting. In Slovakia in the 1990s, millions of trees died due to acid rain blamed, rightly or wrongly on the coal power stations of Western Europe. National Park authorities used the fallen trunks of dead trees as a source of food for new saplings: holes were drilled in the horizontal decaying tree at metre intervals and the new trees were planted in them; the parent tree gave it a head start and eventually the roots of the re-planted trees grew through the rotting trunk and into the ground.
In protected “first growth” forests of British Columbia, Canada, they adopt a different policy, which is basically to leave nature alone to get on with it. Forests of huge trees which have never been logged are protected from human interference by wooden walkways for tourists, constructed among the historic trees. Visitors are not allowed to go anywhere off the walkways, and even touching the great trunks is forbidden. When a tree comes to the end of its natural life and falls, it is left on the ground and no active management of the forest floor takes place.
A similar shift in attitude has taken place in Canada with regard to forest fires: traditionally every effort has been made to put out the fire by all means available. Now the thinking is that forest fires that do not threaten people or property are left to burn, the effects of occasional burning being seen as natural and beneficial to the forest.