Purposes of a solitary tree

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Have you ever wondered why a solitary tree is left standing in a field? There may be several reasons. I will list a few, but surely no one leaves a tree standing alone in a field so a photographer can be enamored with its beauty during or just after a snowstorm.

It is possible that the solitary tree marks a spot where something significant took place years ago, and only the property owner knows for sure why the lone tree remains standing. Could it be marking the spot where a favorite dog or horse was buried? Was it a tree growing in the front yard of a homesite that no longer remains?

Maybe the tree stands as a surveyor's bench mark to aid in locating a section line or property line corner. Years ago it was a relatively common practice to use a healthy hardwood tree for this purpose. Some of those old trees may remain standing today.

Most likely a solitary tree standing out in a field is (or has been) a shade tree for cattle. During hot summer days cows seek shelter from an oppressive sun under solitary trees where the breeze can blow freely. A wise cattle farmer may leave several solitary trees in his cow pasture for this purpose. A negative aspect of leaving a solitary tree in a cow pasture is that during a summer thunderstorm cattle can be killed if lightening strikes the tree they are under.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by Aaron at The Painted Wren Gallery.

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