In the wake of Hurricane Sandy last year, I noticed that a "crack" had developed in the soil between a huge, old tuliptree (Liriodenron tulipifera) and the edge of one of the trails in my preserve. The storm had undoubtedly tilted the tree up a bit, but not enough to tip it over. (The trail adjacent to which the tree was growing had been a public road until 1984 when our organization petitioned the municipalities in the area to close and abandon several roads so that the right-of-ways could be incorporated into the trail network in the growing preserve. About three miles of roads were abandoned, much to the delight of the municipalities, I'm sure, because they didn't have to maintain these troublesome, flood-prone dirt roads any longer. But I digress.)
The soil "crack," a few inches wide and about two feet long, appeared to be stable. Kali and I walk the trail frequently and hadn't noticed any changes during the months following the storm. Then, last week, our area received three periods of very heavy rain. After the first deluge, one of our members telephoned on his cell phone to say, "I'm on the Creek Road Trail, and a huge tree has fallen away from the trail." When the call came in, I knew which tree had fallen over.
Last evening, about a week after the tree toppled, Kali and I walked the trail to inspect the damage and take some photographs. Fortunately, as the caller had said, the tree had fallen away from the trail, but the root ball had torn up half the trail surface. In the interval between the tree's falling and our walk, my staff had built a wooden retaining wall and repaired the trail surface with crushed stone.
As everywhere else we lost trees to Hurricane Sandy, we'll now have to do battle with the sun-loving invasive plants that will quickly colonize this gap in the forest canopy. Tuliptrees are not valuable for lumber, so we'll just let the tree decompose over time in place. And, as the limbs and branches decompose, we'll plant new trees to replace this regal giant.