Friday, January 27, 2012

Just an Old Dead Tree

The other day a pair of pileated woodpeckers came flying through the trees in the yard. They are always an awesome site; wide wing span and wobbly headed, their call precedes them.

For years they have come to the yard and what do they seek out? The dead wood in the trees. They eat any bugs that inhabit the branches and bark.

Tom and I have always left old dead trees, being careful to cut down to a point that part of any tree that could dangerously fall on the house or my beloved patio.  Hurricanes visiting every year or so has lead us to make that decision. We leave this botton part of the tree, or the dead tree itself if it isn't in a troublesome spot, for the very purpose of attracting the pileated woodpeckers and allowing housebuilding for other birds and mammals.

 In my little corner of the world, I can see the variety of life nesting within the confines of the old dead trees, like the Eastern Screech Owl and the Red Bellied Wood peckers, as well as the insects and the anoles (lizards).

On a greater scale, nearly a third of all forest creatures depend on trees at all various ages and stages of life for their survival. Healthy forests need to contain trees of all ages, even standing old dead trees. Even fish benefit from trees that have fallen into stream channels and use them as nurseries. I just read that wood ducks like to use cavities in old dead trees by water to raise their young. Sweet.


Old dead trees tend to have large branches break off and create an area that is called a snag. This snag is prime real estate for nest building.

Actually, when a nesting pair chooses their home snag, they come back year after year after year to raise young. This is true for the American Bald Eagle, the Great Horned Owl (who actually likes to move into a preowned model); and Coopers Hawks.

Also, snags are loved by mammals, like raccoons and bats (especially if their are cavities adjacent). 


Black bear coming out of hibernation.

Holes are made in the trunks of old dead trees over time or are easily made, the animals who love these are the cottontail rabbit, red fox, striped skunk, and if you live in an area with the habitat, the Black Bear.

Actually, on a hike one time in the Appalachian Mountains, I saw a Black Bear in a tree cavity. I didn't know for certain until I got home and read that this is indeed a hibernation home, an old dead tree, for the Black Bear.

The pictures below are of old dead trees protected by individuals, societies, or communities that have realized that the from death comes life.

Some are just taken by the photographer because of the awesome beauty and untold story of an old dead tree.

I am always reminded of this pattern in life: from death comes life, when I come across the growth of resurrection fern on the rotting log of an old dead tree. The fern was named because of the very notion that from death comes life.

Oh, yes, I didn't even go over all the plant life, flora, that loves an old dead tree. But, that my friends, is another story....

To everyone all over the word PLEASE leave your dead trees standing!

These last two pictures are of the two trees, old dead trees, that are existing in the yard at this time. Slowly, they are contributing to the future of so many tomorrows. 

I hope in some way, the beauty you have seen in the old dead trees, and the realization of the life they actually cradle, will open your heart to allow one to " do their thing," slowly in your yard next time it dies. Maybe you could just leave just a little, cutting only the top part that could be a potential harm to your home or structures.  If you do, you'll be amazed at the life you'll be able to witness. Get your camera ready!!



  1. The first time I read about wood ducks raising their babies in trees & then jumping out, my heart took a leap too!
    I am fortunate to have acres of untouched land. The tiny Fairy Slipper orchids require very special conditions to grow, and the decaying trees enrich the soils where they grow.
    Wonderful post, Brianne! I hope you have a great weekend.
    ~ Zuzu

  2. Such a great post! We have dead trees on the property. I confess they are there because we don't have the tools to take them down, but your post has made me very happy that we've left them there.


  3. What a nice post Brianne. I love when I read a blog and it gets me thinking in a different direction. I honestly can't say I ever thought of a dead tree being anything more than a eyesore. Now I can see that they are actually homes for all these amazing creatures. Really enjoyed my visit tonight.