This is what being rotten to the core looks like.
A mature pecan tree fell a few days ago forming a kind of bridge over the creek.
Once upon a time this tree was somehow injured. Even a small wound can open a tree to infection. An insect or bird may have bored into the bark. A branch may have been torn off. Maybe someone carved their initials. However it got hurt, the wound allowed the entry of a heart rot fungus. I wonder if maybe this tree was ready to die. When a tree dies of this kind of rot it usually means the tree was already suffering. Our unrelenting drought has been particularly hard on pecan trees — even this one living right next to a creek.
Seeing a horizontal tree is pretty rare in the city but absolutely normal in a forest. In a way, trees kind of live two lives. A tree’s first life is the normal sprouting and growing kind. The second life begins after death. When a tree dies, it doesn’t disappear but continues on as a vital feature in its community until it is completely decomposed. That process can take many years.
A fallen tree can revitalize its immediate area. As in life, this particular tree will continue to provide food and shelter for many creatures. But in falling, it has also opened up an opportunity for change. More light will reach the ground and as the tree decomposes it will improve the soil in every way. I look forward to seeing the changes to come.
UC Davis has a nice fact sheet about heart rot here. After I read it I realized some of our pecan trees at home may have heart rot.