Arborglyphs on Old Beech Trees

American Beech trees have thin smooth bark even as they mature and this surface has been used by many generations of humans for carving or writing. The messages can remain visible for the life of the tree, which might be as long as 300 hundred years. Words/pictures carved into tree bark are often called arborglyphs.

Beech trunk arborglyphs are found in Eliza Howell Park, just as they are found in most other places in the eastern U.S. where old beech trees are found.

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Most appear to be initials or dates or declarations of love (initials in hearts), though there may be some art or other messages there that I have not recognized or deciphered. What makes them fascinating is that they have endured for so long and that they are often located 12 or more feet above the ground.

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In some western states (e.g., Nevada and California), many arborglyphs are found on aspen trees, another smooth bark species. There is a special interest among anthropologists in the tree art of nineteenth-century immigrants from the Basque region (border area between Spain and France) who worked as shepherds in the U.S. West, often alone among the aspens for long periods of time.

Beech trees are not the most common trees in EHP and their number may be decreasing as some of the old ones fall or break off.

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While there are some young beech trees in the park woods, often growing close to mature ones, I have not yet seen any carving on them.

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Perhaps carving on smooth-barked trees is no longer the preferred method of making a statement or expressing oneself in a natural setting. There is an old vehicle body that got deposited in the flood plain of the river some time in the past and recently I noted that someone has made use of this artistically.

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Ways of expressing ourselves, of leaving our mark in a natural setting, may change over time. Beech tree carving has been a common practice for a very long time, however, and the arborglyphs of Eliza Howell Park remain visible to park visitors who would like to view or study them.

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