Treehuggin’ in Hangzhou

Elderly trees bent over, dipping their branches into the water. The trunks filled with something resembling concrete, filling hollows like filling cavities. Heavy wood posts supporting the tree where it extends horizontally over the water’s edge.

Clearly, the trees around West Lake receive lots of attention and care. Being from the United States where the street trees seem to only get pruned when the threaten overhead power lines, I marveled at how much attention these trees received. The West Lake area in Hangzhou, China is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Hangzhou, China. It became the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty in 1132. As a popular tourist site and UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is no wonder that the trees receive lots of care.

Many trees were provided with support – from young trees needing guidance to grow up straight and tall, to older trees leaning over, preventing them from falling into the lake. Some of the support clearly needed, but one wonders if all the support under branches and limbs is actually required, and how it is determined to be needed. One rarely, if ever, sees a tree with poles supporting branches in the US.

Far Eastern Asia seems to have more knowledge and love for their trees than America. Trees get pruned. They get bent and twisted into art. And when they get hollow in the old age, the get filled – much like you would have a cavity in your tooth filled. They get metal bands around the trunk to provide extra support.

Sometimes one sees an elderly and much loved tree in Europe that receives extra care and attention. Typically it’s a tree that is associated with somebody famous. Thus providing the impetus to keep the tree alive well into old age. A tree in Rome still standing in the Chiostro di Michelangelo at the Terme di Diocleziano, rumored to have been planted by Michelangelo, has been kept alive with considerable effort and expense. It has a metal cage as well as poles to support it. But in the Far East, one sees this level of care provided to trees that are anonymous.

The trees in Hangzhou also sported fake vines. The “vines” were cover for electrical wires connected to lights located up in the trees. The “vines” decoratively wound around the tee trunks and branches. At first, I really thought that they were vines, but then I saw a few where the outer covering had worn away or had been damaged, and I could see the insulated wires.

In the US, when a tree on a city street or in a park gets old and bent, we are quick to cut it down, and plant a replacement tree. Older trees are not considered to be valuable. In Hangzhou, this was not the case. Old trees were worth the effort to provide them with, effectively, healthcare.