Trees that set their seed, grow, bud, flower, leaf and become great living beings will eventually fall, as with everything. But sometimes, and more often than you’d think likely, the tree that falls in the howling storm survives, and is reborn as something beautiful.
The White Willow (Salix Alba) situated on the west bank of the lower canal at Russborough is such a tree. Having fallen in a storm many years ago, it remains, growing in its new form and providing a beautiful feature in our lush parklands.
Next time you walk through the parklands, take a moment to reflect on the power of nature and how its capacity for renewal is nothing short of remarkable.
Willows are known for their ability to regenerate quickly and easily, and they can grow back from a stump or even a small piece of stem or root depending on a variety of factors, including the age and health of the tree, the growing conditions, and the species of willow.
As the Willow, a native tree to Ireland, likes to grow in or near wetlands, where it is positioned in the parklands beside the upper canal, likely helped in it's recovery.
Here’s a really remarkable thing that can keep a fallen tree or stump alive for a long time. Trees often form unions with other trees beneath the ground and exchange water and nutrients. They can also pass nutrients to symbiotic fungi which can, in turn, pass the nutrients to other trees. Whole forests may be connected this way.
At some point in its life, the willow tree toppled, creating an archway that visitors can now stroll beneath. Initially only visible sometimes during summer when the water levels were lower, the archway has now become a regular feature.
In recent years, to reduce the strain on the weir wall, the water level in the pond was lowered, revealing the land beneath the archway and enabling the grass beneath and around the willow to be kept trimmed. This opened up the site to visitors, who can now both appreciate the full size of the willow and wander through its picturesque archway.
A beautiful, large, fast growing tree with deeply furrowed bark, Salix alba, grows in most situations.
Highly valued by wildlife, the wood can also be used in a variety of wood crafts, or even coppiced for firewood to heat your home. Its medicinal bark is also the original source of salicylic acid, better known as Aspirin.
What might, at the time, have been considered a tragedy of nature, the white willow can transform an unfortunate event into something awe-inspiring. Next time you walk through the parklands, take a moment to reflect on the power of nature and how its capacity for renewal is nothing short of remarkable.