It is good to know that everything has a use, even in death, and the garden is no exception. I have long known about the importance of snags, that is to say, dead standing trees
, in the forest. They provide important habitat for a wide variety of animals and fungi. Their slow decay returns nutrients to the surrounding soil, providing a bountiful harvest for other, nearby, plants.
I was thinking about this because today, as I sat in the garden thinking up ideas for another column I write
, I noticed a female carpenter bee
putting the willow to good use. I frequently see these bees around the garden, but I have rarely seen one of their solitary nesting holes. Sure enough, when I walked over to where I had seen the bee disappear, there was a perfect hole about 1/4" in diameter punched into the trunk of the willow. Thank goodness she found this wood more accommodating than my wisteria trellis or the pergola with the Clytostoma callistegioides
vine. I plan on using the good zoom on the video camera tomorrow to get a closer look. THe nest is about 10-12 feet up the main trunk of the tree and just barely visible from the ground.
I have also spotted various fungi hard at work breaking down the roots of the willow. Whenever we have a little moisture, they spring up around its feet. These mushrooms were my first confirmation that the tree was sick and dying. Mushrooms at their feet indicates either an extreme level of organic matter, or rotting roots.
The tree will have to go soon, but we need to gather the $200+ to have the tree company come and remove it. Hopefully the carpenter bee couple will have moved on by then. I don't know exactly what their life-cycle is like. Maybe we can postpone the demolition until whatever brood is there is ready to move one.