The Architecture of Trees

Reblogged from The Dirt: Uniting The Built & Natural Environments:

Renowned botanists, Francis Hallé and Peter Del Tredici, came to the University of Virginia (UVA) to teach landscape architecture students about the architecture of trees. Hallé is a professor emeritus at the University of Montpellier II, where he studies tropical rainforests. UVA landscape architecture chair Teresa Gali-Izard, International ASLA, introduced him as a botanist, biologist, artist, and poet. Del Tredici is a botanist and research scientist at Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum and professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. His research includes wild urban plants and plant morphology.

As the first workshop on Saturday afternoon began, Hallé defined plant architecture through 22 known models of tree growth and morphology. We learned how certain logic plays out in the growth of a tree. The diagrammatic quality of his drawings demonstrated growth habits and the potential for reiteration, which refers to a tree’s response to damage with the redirection of nutrients. Hallé developed concepts of reiteration and tree adaptability, explaining how these capabilities formed out of tree evolution.

Hallé insists the key to understanding trees lies in the difference between unitarian and modular models. Unitarian trees have ancient methods of reproduction – they are consistent and symmetrical throughout their entire life. When a unitarian tree is pruned, the plant lacks the means to reproduce from the cut. Modular trees work in a more complex way – as the tree grows the branches create a dendritic pattern. When a modular tree is pruned, the tree responds through reiteration. A modular tree is adaptable because it can reproduce more modules of the original tree form throughout the canopy.

Read the full blog here…


About Kay Haw

Assistant Conservation Adviser, Woodland Trust. Nature is my passion, especially woods and trees which are just amazing elements of life. One day (soon) I hope we humans learn to work in harmony with Mother Earth.
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4 Responses to The Architecture of Trees

  1. Fewer chemicals – more trees

  2. sherwoodforestcommunityvision says:
  3. matt derrington says:

    i always try to point out, there are not only 2, black and white choices. 1- leaving a tree to carry on growing completely naturally, so letting it (totally predictably) become a real or imagined menace and thereby sign its own death warrant among fearful and ignorant people (most people). 2- completely destroying a tree by cutting it to the ground and pouring vile poison into a groove around the edge of its stump.

    In today’s teetering environment, especially in the still solidifying urban environment, it is vital to remember all the options in between, and ALWAYS choose one of them. There must be a vanishingly small number of cases where a tree cannot be allowed to help save us and the rest of the world by existing in some form or other, even if it is as the most pitiful, yearly coppiced set of shoots. Personally i am not afraid to intervene if i have to, but always make the least intervention possible, on the principle that if you really have to take a little more off, you can do so later. Hard to sellotape your environment back together again if you’ve diced it.

    More to the point, it would be nice if we spent our time appreciating and nurturing our lovely trees, instead of sullenly wondering whether they might be the reason we’re miserable most of the time- having as they do the temerity (or perhaps evil intent!) to occasionally stand somewhere between us and sunlight. If you want more sunlight and less misery, ask your truly evil and or insane ‘rulers’ to stop clouding the sky with more vile poisons- this time to keep you down too. No, i’m not a nutter. The U.N. is talking openly about this now (chemtrails, etc).

    • matt derrington says:

      Oh- and if we really must completely remove a tree, because of some inescapable necessity, let us not forget the option of transplanting (if it’s small enough), taking a cutting (if it’s the type amenable), collecting seed from it (well ahead of removal, if that’s being planned), layering a stem, etc. In other words, even if that tree really must be lost, we often have the opportunity to stop its genes being lost as well.

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