Maintaining our
wooded heritage for
future generations.
      N 43° 21.598'
      W 81° 17.683'
      Elev. 1064 ft.

Decline Of The Maple Tree

In 2002, the largest maple tree in the woodlot unexpectedly died. It represented a significant timber value but also a major potential for wildlife habitat. After heated debate by the entire membership, the decision was made to leave it to serve as a "den tree". Part of that decision included documenting the decline for educational purposes. The following are photos as time and mother nature breaks down the once stately tree. Most photos are taken in the early spring.
Click photos for larger view. Note: Some pictures are composites due to height of tree.

On November 4, 1979, the London Free Press ran a full page photo feature titled: "His trees get tender loving care" by Ed Heal. This was the origin of our treasured "Tree Hugger" photo -- but it also documents something else -- the largest tree in the woods at that time. That same tree, a quarter century later, is the subject of our own documentation here as it completes the circle of life (and death) and returns to the earth.

Although pictured from a different camera angle, your can identify many of the unique features of the majestic specimen. The photo is as published -- complete with the inset of our tree hugger.
The caption reads:
         Sawyer's favourite tree (he shows his affection, inset) is
         this 125 year-old maple that stretches above everything
         in the woodlot.


A stately tree still with fine branches in place. Looks like all other wintering trees.


Fine branches disappearing. Bark deterioration noticable.


Fine branches all gone. Many small branches gone as well. Notice bracket fungi forming at base.


No small branches remain. Some bigger branches have fallen. Upper bark practically all gone. Evidence of birds feeding. Bracket fungi present at higher points.


No bark present in crown area. Only larger branches remain. Now providing a valuable food source for birds.


Branches extend only a short distance from the trunk. A few years ago, the crown displayed a majestic diameter of nearly 75 feet.


The decline continues. Larger branches continue to fall. Compare the upper branches year-to-year to see the reduction of the crown.

A number of photos were taken to document the decline in greater detail.
Click here
to view those photos.


Seems like only major branches now remain. It is possible that it is beginning to lean.


Fewer branches remain. Most of the bark has fallen. Wildlife dens appearing within the tree.


The declining maple tree seems to be structurally sound. In the past 2 years it has endured several high wind events that have downed other trees in the woodlot.
This is the 10th annual picture of the declining tree. The photos speak for themselves.


Only a couple of branches remain. Significant dens appearing in the upper section. Lots of evidence of birds seeking grubs


The major change this year is the loss of an approximately 25' major branch section on the top right. In the expanded photo, you can see part of it on the ground to the right of the trunk. Most of the section survived the fall intact.
This is no small tree. Trunk diameter is more than 4'. Height is still more than 50'.

On May 4, a pair of Red-Bellied Woodpeckers were observed using it as their home.


No significant changes in the main structure from last year. Ample evidence of birds using the carcass for nesting and feeding. Around the tree base, the fallen smaller branches have mostly decayed and no longer are prominent. Larger branches are quickly disintegrating.


We have lost the last significant branch to the east and now have only the stem remaining and a short stubb on the north side. Also falling this past year was about a 20' top section — home to several nesting cavities.


Very little change from last year visible. Fewer nesting cavities available, but feeding evidence abounds. Around the tree base, only the major fallen branches are obvious. Decay and other vegetation growth has consumed all smaller debris. Trunk has slight lean to south-west.
Again a number of photos were taken to more closely document the decline. Click here
to view those photos.


Another year with very little change. The lean is still noticeable.


Surface changes minimal from last year. On close-up viewing, the trunk shows softening and decay. Lots of evidence of feeding activities. Lean to the southwest a bit more pronounced. Only a few ground remenents remain identifyable.


Decay is progressing. Lots of evidence of insect activity and birds feeding. No dramatic changes from last year.

Click images to enlarge

How To Study These Photos

Look for specific changes over time. For example, notice the large branch with the elbow bend on the right side of the tree. In the 2003 photo, the branch is progressively subdivided into many small branches in the upper crown area. The next 3 years sees the upper area decline and disappear. The 2007 photo show that the branch has broken just below the elbow feature with only the base portion remaining on the tree.

Look at other specific areas of the photos and observe the year by year changes.