Longleaf Stories

full circle in the hundred acre wood

Pine pulling apart from storm

This old longleaf pine was literally pulled apart by Hurricane Ivan’s winds. And yet it stands.

Another  collided so violently with a nearby falling oak that a divot was scalloped out into the quick, exposing the tree’s heart.

Walking over the cleared roads and firelines today, awed by the graphic images of death and rebirth, I kept thinking back to the day I walked over the property following a prescribed burn. Everywhere I looked there was black soot and burned brush. The fire smell was in my clothes and in my hair. I remember reminding myself that we had done this as part of an overall management plan for the forest, but I had the visceral reaction of experiencing it as a disaster.

Within a few weeks, colonies of ferns emerged from the ashes. Within several months, the pitcher plant prairie doubled in size and was dramatically lush and colorful. Pine seeds were stimulated to germinate by the fire. Today we have a huge crop of new little volunteer trees joining the containerized planted seedlings which are jumping up out of the ground.

Nature is what it is. Does what it does. Sometimes our piss-ant little design schemes work out for awhile. But it’s best to stay loose, stand back, watch, and cover our faces in wonder.

Most of these photos show some of the tree damage at Longleaf from Hurricane Ivan. Storm-spawned tornadoes snapped huge old longleaf pines like twigs, twisting them and using their tops in some cases to knock down an oak.

A few of the photos are from downtown Pensacola. Fortunately, not nearly all of it is rubble as these pictures might seem to suggest. Just next to a smashed storefront, I visited Reynolds Music House and they had no damage at all, all of those fabulous pianos safe behind a row of steel shutters which were put up to cover the store’s series of plate glass windows.

And what you don’t see amongst the ruined trees are the thousands of baby trees we have had planted over the past two years, coming up strong. It’s hard to see the old trees this way, but the silver lining is that the new generations coming up now have more sun and space and will grow more quickly, beneficiaries of nature’s brutally efficient clear cut.

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