In The Field

The impoverishment of isolated trees

In work both simple and poetically sad, Florian Werner shows how trees left behind in clearings, separated from the mass of the forest, lose their epiphytes—those plants that live on them, including ferns, orchids, and bromeliads. Werner discovered that the harsh micro-climate of an isolated tree kills off epiphytes, especially those that love moisture, while the distance from the forest reduces new seedlings and that same harsh micro-climate kills off many of the seedlings that manage to germinate.

The presentation reminded me of a work of art in the new Seattle Olympic Sculpture Park, on the waterfront downtown. The piece is by Mark Dion, the same fellow who did the excellent “”http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/ViewWork?workid=27353">Thames Dig" exhibit at the Tate in London. It is a mammoth and gorgeous 60-foot long fallen tree in an 80-foot long greenhouse. The tree has become a nurse log, and is covered with ferns, lichens, fungi and insects. But since it is in a glass box in downtown Seattle, the beautiful log will not develop as other nurse logs do in the rainforest it was helicoptered out of

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