June 2004
Purple European Beech
Trunk like an elephant leg.

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Purple European Beech
East Chestnut Journal
Borough Hall Journal
Detailed Facts
Julie's Trees




Facts at a Glance
Fagus sylvatica

Planting date unknown
Planting height: unknown
Planting trunk: unknown

Mature Height: to 100'
Spread: 40 to 60'
Growth rate: Slow
Form: Broad, round
Flowers: Inconspicuous
Fall color: Copper
Hardiness zone: 4 - 7
Culture: Sun

Best feature:
Purple leaves, majestic crown

Worst problem:
Hard to transplant

Do over? Yes

Still Crying At the Senselessness of It All

Careless Construction May Be the Death of This Tree

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Blog | Julie's Trees | About | Links | Essays | Mail | Julie's Photography
A Tree Grower's Diary
Purple European Beech

PURPLE EUROPEAN BEECH EAST CHESTNUT JOURNAL

Photographs and text by Julie Walton Shaver

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MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE TREE..
The majestic purple European beech on East Chestnut Street can be seen from any place in my yard.
(June 2004)

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THIS IS A HUGE TREE..
Notice the scale of my sons playing near her massive trunk. This Purple European Beech on East Chestnut Street in Metuchen, New Jersey stood by a house that was built in the early 1800's. That house was demolished and two new houses were built on the lot. There is no doubt in my mind that this tree, as shown in this picture from June of 2004, is well over 100 years old. She was probably a mature tree by the time Abraham Lincoln became president.

I honor the tree's life here.

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ELEPHANT LEGS..
The trunk measures 13 feet around. What history lies beneath the folds in her bark? I see the leg of an elephant, her wrinkles telling the tale of her life as provider to countless living things.

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BEAUTIFUL DRESS..
The leaves on her inside branches are green, but . . .

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ELEGANT ACCESSORIES..
The outside leaves are deep purple. Stunning!

LONG ARMS..
The tree's spread measures about 60 feet, and the branches on one side are so long, they swoop down and touch the ground. (This is one reason Purple European Beech trees are not often used next to the street. The most graceful of branches would need to be pruned in order for the cars to get by.)

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SHE CATCHES THE LIGHT JUST SO . . ...
Standing beneath her in the early morning reveals shades of purple highlighted by a patch of green.

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RUMORS ABOUND..
I admired this tree ever since I moved here in 1996, but didn't start photographing her until I heard a rumor that she was going to be cut down to make more room for those new houses going up on the lot. Hearings were held, and by late June 2004, there was a rumor going around town that the tree may be spared after all. Still, considering the fact that Purple European Beech trees have far-reaching, shallow root systems, there was almost no chance she would survive construction trucks sitting on top of her roots. If saving the tree had been carefully planned for before demolition of the old house began, there might have been some hope. Please read this from the University of Minnesota Extension Service for a well-documented discussion on how to protect trees from construction damage

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I AM NERVOUS EVERY TIME I SEE A TREE TRUCK COMING DOWN THE STREET..
But, as of May 2005, the tree was still there, albeit, with crates and construction junk surrounding the trunk. I didn't like the implication of that.

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JULIE, DON'T CRY..
June 20, 2005, 8:46 a.m.
Off in the distance, she's still beautiful from my window.
I did not know when I took this shot of my October Glory red maple
that it would be the last one ever with that glorious purple beech in the background.

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I HEARD A LOUD NOISE..
June 20, 2005 -- 4:33 p.m. I was in my house when I heard the noise of what I soon found out to be large branches falling to the ground. The tree service guy told me it wasn't his idea to cut down such a beautiful tree.

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NO CHANCE TO SAVE EVEN A PIECE..
They chipped her branches as soon as they cut them down.

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TWO GLOVES, FOUR HANDS..
The rope was tied to another tree,
and the two men were guiding the ropes,
one with bare hands.

I think they were just a tad crazy.

Not a hard hat in sight.

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4:56 p.m...
Getting ready for the fall.

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4:57 p.m...

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5:01 p.m...
Last cut.

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5:02 p.m.

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THE
EARTH
SHOOK
..

There were
no cheers.

Screams.

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SPECTATORS APLENTY..
Many neighbors I'd never before met came to pay last respects. This family discovers that the wood smells fresh and sweet.

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CLIMBING HIGH..
These children discover she was tall, even after the fall.

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THEY HAVE A HISTORY..
My neighbor has lived on this street since he was a child. He said she was just as big 60 years ago, and that, as a boy, he used to climb up into her branches to look at the town; he was well hidden.

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COOL AS ICE TEA..
The outside of the trunk felt hot from the day's sunshine;
the center was downright cold.

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LIFE RINGS..
Where she broke.

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A HEALTHY TREE..
No sign of rot or decay. A certified arborist later estimated her age at 120 years.

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LIFE SUPPORT..
Here, some bugs had found her bark quite tasty. I wonder how many creatures were homeless that night.

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A CHANGED NEIGHBORHOOD..

We will miss you, old girl.

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ONE YEAR LATER..

The new house. Seems to me there was room for the house AND the tree.

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BUT I'LL REMEMBER YOUR LIVING..

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..
And so will Bradley.

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WE HONOR YOU..
This Dawyck Purple Beech cultivar will not grow as tall or as wide as her parent, but she will honor the memory of my favorite tree as long as I am alive, and possibly longer.

And Gregory will remember too. (April 2006)

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TOWN HAD MORE THAN ONE..
There's another purple European Beech I'm following down at Metuchen Borough Hall.

   


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