Stilt or Prop Roots on Yellow Birch
Here, a yellow birch (right) and hemlock (left) seed grew on a large stump or rotting log. Or, perhaps the end of a rootbal from a larger, fallen tree lifted the saplings into the air when they were young. Either way, the trees sent roots around their "nurse log" or rootball and into the ground. When the log or roots rotted out from underneath them, these trees were left standing on "stilt" or "prop" roots and appear to be doing just fine. This amazing ability is common in both species, but more so in the birch. It has been described as "almost epiphytic", which means almost like the tropical trees whose roots get moisture from the air. In this case, the damp atmosphere of the cove kept the log or rootball moist long enough to all the trees to thrive and get their roots into the ground.
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Western North Carolina