The Torturous Tenacity of Trees: Nurse logs, stumps, and rocks

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Gnarled roots entwined from Cedar and fir trees seeking sustenance where they can

This is a photo diary on some unconventional looking trees I’ve observed in my various local wanderings. Some appear to be growing and prospering under rather difficult and stark conditions. Their shapes are often graceful and even artsy. Others are contorted, gross, gangly, and even eerie, but all are interesting.

Roots serve many purposes for plants providing structural support, gathering and conveying water, nutrients, and oxygen for growth.  But what they sometimes have to do to achieve these purposes is fascinating.

Anyone who has been in the woods at all has seen the results of the process of dying or dead trees begetting new life in the form of nurse logs and stumps which provide them with initial structure and nourishment. Other trees seem to grow even without such ready access to nutrients and demonstrate their tenacity to survive under seemingly the harshest of conditions. The lengths to which they will go seeking a small foothold in the earth for nourishment is astounding. And in some cases, it is equally interesting of how little a purchase they seem to need to grow.

Nurse logs and stumps:

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A classic example of a nurse log

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A nurse stump with spring board cuts still visible. Loggers cut notches in the trees they were falling and inserted a board on which they cold stand to raise them higher up the tree to cut.

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Goal Posts?

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Almost totally incorporated into the new tree


Mother stump smothered in roots and moss

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Old growth stump nursing several new trees — Spring Board cuts visible

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Looks like an ent walking in the dark forest

Roots seeking nutrients on and around rocks:

The next two photos are of the same tree. The roots spread so far I needed two photos to capture it all.
Roots on Chuckanut Sandstone
the root continues down slope in search of nutrients
These next two images are from different angles on the Title Photo. They show the fir tree on the left and the cedar on the right and how their roots overlap and mingle over the same hunk of Chuckanut Sandstone.
Fir and roots on left, cedar and roots on right
Fir and cedar roots mingle and appear to grow into each other
 Alder tree and sandstone


Cedar roots across the creek look like an octopus, Whatcom Creek, Bellingham

Who needs Soil, or, I’ll take it on the Rocks


A Silhouette of trees on a rocky island, Langara, BC


More trees out of sea stacks, blown by the winds of the north Pacific


Flower Pot Rock, Langara Is., BC.


Who needs soil? Not Madrona.

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It looks like this tree is walking away (another ent?)


I love the patterned roots after the brick shapes.  (not mine but I forgot where I got it online.)


Vincent van Gogh, “Trees, Roots, and Trunks, 1890, This is perhaps his last painting (Amsterdam Museum, wiki commons)


2 thoughts on “The Torturous Tenacity of Trees: Nurse logs, stumps, and rocks

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