"The Old Man in the Tree"
"the OLD MAN IN THE TREE"
St. Simons Land Trust Tree Spirit
People have been carving their initials and declarations of love into the bark of trees for centuries. On St. Simons, the practice has been taken to a whole new level, with hidden and not-so-hidden “tree spirits” appearing to be living parts of trees across the island. Recently, one of these carvings – what we’re calling “The Old Man in the Tree” – was created on one of our live oaks at the Land Trust’s offices.
Our first bit of advice is, “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME!” Although many of us may have whittled a heart or initial onto a tree during our youth, taking a chisel to a tree is not for the unskilled or inexperienced. Before our Old Man joined the other “tree spirits” on the island, we made sure we picked a strong and hardy species of tree, found an optimum site, and selected the safest place on the tree to have a carving. And we agreed that if we were going to commission a “tree spirit,” we would have it carved at our offices here on Frederica Road so that we could monitor the tree carefully as the carving is slowly “swallowed back up by the tree.” We followed other recommendations from arborists and naturalists. This included not painting or putting anything on the carved surface. Most importantly, we made sure that our carver knew what he was doing!
Keith Jennings (left), a master carver from N.C. who has been bringing “tree spirits” to life for decades, helped us choose a mature live oak, one of the toughest species in the Golden Isles. Because of its age, this beauty was far less likely to be negatively impacted than a younger, more vulnerable tree with a smaller diameter. The “spirit” was also placed under a branch (one of the safest locations), on the “less healthy side of the tree.” In addition, Keith and his apprentice son Devon adhered to the wisdom of not carving more than 20% of the healthy bark diameter so as not to defeat the tree’s defense systems or disrupt nutrient transfer than can cause lasting damage.
Please feel free to drop by our offices soon and visit our “Old Man in the Tree.” And if you’re interested in a “tree spirit” of your own, make sure you hire someone like Keith or Devon who are certified tree huggers and know the best ways to love and protect our magnificent island trees.
Keith Jennings can be found on Facebook at "Tree Spirits of St. Simons Island".
To learn more about St. Simons Island Tree Spirits and their impact on live oak trees, visit the Golden Isles website HERE.