Old Black Cherry Tree

I walked across the meadow yesterday after doing my stream keeper observations. I hadn’t been to the preserve since before the derecho storm of June 3. So I was saddened to see that a large branch had come down from the old black cherry tree by the Meadow Crossing Trail.

The part of the branch which fell across the trail has been sawed off and moved.

This tree, to me, was iconic of the Pennypack Preserve. It is one of the first and most obvious sights on the Meadow Crossing Trail. Because of it’s picturesque nature, it has featured in many of my photos. This picture, from 2007, was one of my first successful photos after I took up serious photography again.

I took the picture below, to see which branch had fallen. The missing branch is at the center left in the picture above. The tree is now less symmetric than before.

While I was sad to see the damage, I was not surprised. This cherry tree is clearly very old. Black cherry (Prunus serotina) can live up to 250 years. While this tree may not be that old, it has certainly been here for a long time. In recent years, it has had fewer leaves, and some branch breakage at the ends. A big storm will bring it down some day. Typically, we think of black cherry trees as colonizing trees. In a typical field to forest succession, black cherry, along with other fast-growing trees such as white ash and red cedar, will initially colonize the field. If you walk the trails that border the fields of Raytharn farm, you will see a lot of black cherry trees growing at the forest edge. As the forest evolves, taller trees of the mature forest such as oaks and hickories, will eventually take over and shade out the colonizers. However, this black cherry was isolated in a maintained field and was able to grow to full maturity.

It will be sad when this tree finally does come down. However, directly across the Meadow Crossing Trail is another black cherry which has been steadily growing since I have been coming here. Years from now, when the old black cherry is gone, this other tree may take it’s place as the iconic tree of the preserve.

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