Through the natural aging process ancient deciduous trees become hollow. Hollowing in the trunk usually starts when the tree is mature and only affects the heartwood or dead wood in the centre of the tree. Once it starts the process is progressive and the more ancient the tree, the more likely that only a living shell of sapwood is left and the entire centre of the tree has decayed away. Standing, living, hollow trees like this are one of the rarest habitats in the world and are keystone features for biodiversity – for further information see Ancient Tree Guide no 6: The wildlife of trees
As part of a French workshop run by Atelier de l’arbre on the management of ancient trees, the course participants were taken to see the ancient oak in the farmyard of the Mazevet family in Côtes d’Armor. It is just one of a number of Arbres Remarkables in Brittany identified by Mickaёl Jézégou from the Conseil General of Cotes d’Armor. There are a growing number of such projects in France that seek to raise awareness of the value of the living historic landscape and the ‘bocage’ (mixed hedge with pollard or shredded trees, pasture and small woods) so special in some parts of rural France.
So how many Frenchmen were able to squeeze into this hollow tree? You can count for yourself but you need to include the portly Englishman, Ted Green, Founder President of the Ancient Tree Forum second from left, who didn’t want to miss out on the fun. Is this a European record? Let us know if you know of trees where this record could be beaten….
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Jill Butler, Ancient Tree Adviser