Tap Roots

Ranger and I talk about tap roots today. It’s not a topic that has much occupied my time, until I learned about those of the long-leaf pine. But it certainly serves as a good object lesson.

“Roots” as applied to people:

At other points in this journal we’ve talked about washing up on the shore, Darryl, Ranger and myself. We share a common rootlessness, having lived in many different places and finally landing here together in our own rooted place. Perhaps, since we have little rootedness in space and time, our current joy and peace in this particular place and time are understandable. We carry that with us. We speculate that people who are more rooted in space and time might have a different sense of belonging. One way or another, what we have is a blessing.

Ranger: “I thought you were going to tell me about the long-leaf!”

Me: “So I was. The tap root of the long-leaf is about as long as the tree is tall. There are stories about folks who wanted to push over a longleaf that was in the way of a road crew, and the effort nearly wrecked the caterpillar sent to do the deed. Longleaf trees grow slowly, but they grow to be enormous. When you look at one and think about the root system being a mirror image of what you’re looking at it’s pretty staggering.

Slow and steady, with an enormous tap root.
Slow and steady, with an enormous tap root.

There are faster growing trees. Slash pines were often chosen by tree farms once the longleaf were cleared off. They could be harvested for pulp or wood products within a decade. Not the longleaf.

Ranger: “So why bother with the slow growing longleaf?”

Me: “It becomes critical for the recreation of the ecosystem…. remember the goal of Half-Earth? In order to make an ecosystem that can help all of us survive, big tracts of land must be set aside to restore the system that was clearcut. When this is done, as it is on the Nokuse Plantation, it’s a major investment in time, space and resources. M.C. Davis called it a 300 year commitment.”

Ranger: “And it’s in such an ecosystem that the gopher tortoises thrive, right?”

Me: “Yep. And we’ll talk about that in our next session.”