Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Intricate roots of a fallen tree

with 36 comments

Glacier National Park, Montana; August 31.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 15, 2017 at 4:53 AM

36 Responses

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  1. Dendritic shapes are recognized in the body….nerve cells for instance, the name taken from these shapes. From the Greek word for tree, déndron in latin letters.


    November 15, 2017 at 6:19 AM

    • Nature does seem fond of that pattern, both in plants and animals. Native English tree is a relative of Greek dendron.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2017 at 8:14 AM

  2. I hope not to offend anyone because I’m not religious, but my immediate reaction when I saw this image was, “Jesus!”
    I don’t know the last time I saw such an incredible untouched thing. It also broke my heart a little to see so much of nature’s effort destroyed, even if it was by nature herself.

    My Small Surrenders

    November 15, 2017 at 6:52 AM

    • Good to hear that the picture produced a strong reaction in you. What felled this tree wasn’t clear: lightning, wind, floodwater, old age. I don’t believe I saw any evidence of fire here (though I did in many other places). Whatever the cause, the fallen tree had lain there for a good while. Its trunk was dried out, and you can see the weathering that the exposed roots had undergone.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2017 at 8:23 AM

  3. An art…well spotted!


    November 15, 2017 at 7:52 AM

    • As soon as I saw it I knew I’d have to photograph it, even though the light was poor and I had to use flash.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2017 at 8:24 AM

  4. At first glance, I thought you’d found a pile of antlers. Shed antlers can be beautiful, and some people spend time searching for them. There are public collections outside the National Bison Range in Montana, and in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

    I still have the antler piece my pet squirrel liked to gnaw on. I got it from a friend’s shed pile many years ago. His pile was impressive, but it appears these roots would have dwarfed it.


    November 15, 2017 at 8:01 AM

    • It’s easy to see why these exposed roots suggested antlers to you. Just imagine the monster deer that would sport—and support—such antlers. Artists, pick up your pencils.

      I’ve seen the kinds of antler piles you mentioned. In fact I believe the first one was in Wyoming. Google has no shortage of pictures.


      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2017 at 8:33 AM

  5. Nice! It’s a striking image. And a demonstration of how much “work” trees are doing, “they also serve who only stand and wait,” creating this network, digging down for nutrients and holding the soil together.
    I once hiked into what had been a pasture, now part of a state forest, where the farmer had dragged these into a perimeter, as a “stump fence” – -kind of an eerie effect.

    Robert Parker

    November 15, 2017 at 8:05 AM

    • In 2015 I attended the wedding of a former student. She was stationed outside the church in her wedding dress until all the guests had gone in. As I passed her, I quoted the same line: “They also serve who only stand and wait.” Later I e-mailed her the whole sonnet.

      In Mexico people plant cacti to make fences. This is the first I’ve heard of a stump pence of the type you describe. Eerie, perhaps, but effective. Have you managed to get any pictures of one?

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2017 at 9:01 AM

      • No, I was hiking, somewhere near Naples, NY, I think, and didn’t have a camera or phone. I’ve never seen a fence like that, before or since. I read about it, afterward, in one of Eric Sloane’s “Americana” books, but I can’t seem to find any of his sketches online.

        Robert Parker

        November 15, 2017 at 9:23 AM

        • Ah, too bad. I searched a little but didn’t come up with what you mentioned. However, I did find this:


          Steve Schwartzman

          November 15, 2017 at 9:51 AM

          • Yes, that’s the look. If your library has any Eric Sloane books, he discusses all sorts of old-time stone and wooden fences, and stump pullers & log jacks, etc.
            Incidentally, one of my great-grandfathers worked for Atlas Powder Co. (orig. part of DuPont explosives) and they used to advertise their blasting powder for farmers to remove stumps! I guess that was faster and more exciting than digging!

            Robert Parker

            November 15, 2017 at 10:55 AM

  6. It kind of looks like a frozen explosion…an explosion of life that became an explosion of death I suppose.


    November 15, 2017 at 9:49 PM

    • I like your conception of this as a frozen explosion. I imagine when the tree fell it must have made a kind of explosion as it hit the ground. That sudden event is in contrast to the slow weathering of the exposed roots in the ensuing years.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2017 at 10:12 PM

      • So true. If a tree falls in the woods and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? 😉


        November 15, 2017 at 10:14 PM

  7. These magnificent roots would be very much at home in a Stumpery. https://parksandgardensuk.wordpress.com/2015/05/02/stumperies/


    November 16, 2017 at 6:00 AM

  8. Wow!

    Birder's Journey

    November 16, 2017 at 6:21 PM

    • We found this reward along a circuit highlighting several types of large trees.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 16, 2017 at 8:01 PM

      • So intricate and beautiful to see from this perspective.

        Birder's Journey

        November 16, 2017 at 8:05 PM

        • This was the best side from which to see the intricacy. It was also the shadow side, so I had to use flash to get enough light for pictures.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 16, 2017 at 8:57 PM

  9. Great picture! Of course, the fallen tree should share in the credit, too………LOL

    Russel Ray Photos

    November 23, 2017 at 7:06 PM

  10. What a marvelous image. Toward the end of summer I was exploring the ravines near Lake Michigan and came across a similar tree. It was still standing but probably won’t be for long as the soil is eroding right out from under it. It also had intricate roots that were hanging on for dear life.


    December 12, 2017 at 9:05 AM

    • This is one of those more-is-more kinds of pictures. I’m glad to hear you came across a similar tree near you. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to do a painting of it once the roots have been fully exposed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 12, 2017 at 5:27 PM

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