The Biomass of the Tree in Permaculture

Permaculture Designers Manual




Section 6.2 –

The Biomass of the Tree in Permaculture

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A tree is, broadly speaking, is made up of many biomass zones.

These are the stem and crown (the visible tree), the detritus and humus (the tree at the soil surface boundary) and the roots and root associates (the underground tree).

Like all living things, a tree has shed its weight many times over to earth and air, and has built much of the soil it stands in..

Not only the crown, but also the roots, die and shed their wastes to earth.

The living tree stands in a zone of decomposition much of it transferred, reborn, transported, or reincarnated into grasses, bacteria, fungus, Insect life, birds, and mammals.

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Many of these tree-lives “belong with” the tree, and still function as part of it.

When a blue jay, kerrawang or squirrel buries an acorn (and usually recovers only 80% as a result of divine forgetfulness), it acts as the agent of the oak.

When the squirrel or wallaby digs up the columella of the fungal tree root associates, guided to these by a garlic-like smell, they swallow the spores, activate them enzymatically and deposit them again to invest the roots of another tree or sapling with its energy translator.

The root fungi intercede with water, soil and atmosphere to manufacture cell nutrients for the tree, while myriad insects carry out summer pruning, decompose the surplus leaves, and activate essential soil bacteria for the tree to use for nutrient flow.

The rain of insect feces may be crucial to forest and prairie health.

What part of this assembly is the tree?

Which is the body or entity of the system, and which the part?

An Australian Aborigine might give them all the same “skin name”, so that a certain shrub, the fire that germinates the shrub, and the wallaby that feeds off it are all called waru, although each part also has its name.

The Hawaiians name each part of the taro plant differently, from its child or shoot, to its nodes and “umbilicus”.

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It is a clever person indeed who can separate the total body of the tree into mineral, plant, animal, detritus and life!

This separation is for simple minds; the tree can’t be understood only as its total entity which, like ours, reaches out into all things.

Animals are the messengers of the tree and trees are the gardens of animals. Life depends upon life. All forces, all elements, all life forms are the biomass of the tree.

A large tree has from 10,000 to 100,000 growing points or MERISTEMS and each is capable of individual mutation.

Unlike mammals, trees produce their seed from multitudinous flowers.

Evidence is accumulating that any one main branch can therefore be an “individual” genetically.

Some deciduous poplars may produce a single evergreen branch.

Seedlessness” in fruit or a specific ripening time, may belong only to one branch.

Grafts and cuttings perpetuate these isolated characteristics, so we must look upon the tree itself as a collection of compatible genetic individuals, each with a set of persistent characteristics which may differ from place to place on the tree and each of which may respond differently to energy and other stimuli.

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Like ourselves, trees are a cooperative amalgam of many individuals; some of these are of the tree body, but most are free-living agents.

As little as we now know about trees, they stand as a witness to the complex totality of all life forms.


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