Episode Description: This week’s episode is all about a tree from Middle Earth whose tallest branches support an Elvish city and a real-life tree that supports a diverse community of organisms hundreds of feet from the ground.
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-Intro music “Age of Technology” by DP Music fades in then down into background-
Welcome back to Stories Plantarum, the podcast all about fabulous fantastical plants from sci-fi and fantasy and real-life plants that seem out of this world. I’m your host Rebecca Hayes, and today we’re discussing two gigantic trees that support whole communities up in the sky.
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Let’s dig in to Stories Plantarum, Episode 2: Tall Wood, Old Wood, Redwood, Goldwood.
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For this story, we’re travelling to the forests of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth where a striking golden leafed tree species supports an entire Elvin city.
This tree, called the Mallorn (plural is mellryn). These plants grow in Valinor, Tol Eressea, Numenor, and Lothlorien.
In appearance, mellryn resemble beech trees with their smooth, silver-gray bark. They have leaves that in the summer are green on the top but silver beneath and they’re much longer than beech leaves.
In the fall, the leaves transform into a beautiful translucent golden color. Unlike other deciduous trees, mellryn leaves remain on the branches of the tree throughout winter until delicate golden flowers mark the beginning of spring. The nuts of the tree are large and silver.
These titanic trees provide structural support for the Lothlorien city of Caras Galadhon, which is built in the tops of the tallest mellryn.
Mellryn were introduced to Lothlorien by Galadriel and thrived in their environment, which inspired Lothlorien’s nickname of “The Golden Wood” in reference to the nearly year-round golden display of leaves and flowers.
Galadriel was also responsible for introducing a mallorn tree to the Shire, which was gifted to Samwise Gamgee as a nut to replace the felled party tree. This was the first mallorn tree in the Shire, and was thought to have grown only because Galadriel included magical soil from her garden back in Lothlorien.
Finally, mallorn leaves were used to wrap and preserve lembas, which is an ancient nutrient-packed elvish bread eaten during long journeys, for months at a time. So basically, the mallorn tree provides both the foundation for awe-inspiring magic tree houses, and also can be used as an eco-friendly alternative to plastic to store a trendy Elvish healthfood.
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If the idea of a society living high up in the tops of the tallest trees fascinates you, stay tuned to learn about a tree that creates a forest within a forest.
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Coast redwoods are native to southwest Oregon and northwest California in the United States. They thrive in the foggy conditions along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. These are the tallest trees in the world, with the tallest measuring just under 380 feet. These are also some of the oldest trees in the world, with the eldest clocking in at 2500 years old. They are coniferous so they reproduce by cones which ironically are relatively small compared to the size of the tree at around 1 inch.
Young trees can grow up to three feet per year, which is around the height of an average four-year-old child.
They support entire ecosystems over 100 feet off the ground that are unique from the forest floor. Redwoods have a habit of sprouting hundreds of branching offshoots from their trunks once they reach maturity, which essentially creates a forest from one tree. These forests in the sky are complete with water sources, carbon cycling, thousands of pounds of soil, and diverse plant and animal life including at least 220 species of lichen, 30 types of bryophytes, 44 kinds of vascular plant, numerous insects and several small mammals.
Finally, although the redwoods do not support human communities in their branches, there are several redwoods that are big enough to drive through and one in particular that contains a living space in the trunk. That particular tree suffered a lightning strike that blew a 50-foot cavity into the trunk. This tree was converted into “The World-Famous Tree House” in Piercy, California in the 1920s, a room inside the hollowed-out tree that can still be visited today.
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Alright, that’s all I have for this episode of Stories Plantarum. If you enjoyed the show, please rate, comment, and subscribe on iTunes, it helps other people find the show. Follow us on twitter @PlantarumPod and facebook.com/PlantarumPod, feel free to reach out with any feedback or suggestions for future episodes. You can also find infographics about each episode there. I’ll be back next episode with more tales from the weird and wacky world of plants.
Stories Plantarum is written and produced by me, Rebecca Hayes. Intro music is “Age of Technology” by DP music, and outro music is “Business Talk”, also by DP Music. Also featured are “Fantasy Loop Mystical Journey” by Plasterbrain and “New Theme 6” by Bruno_ph on the Free Music Archive. The source material for the Mallorn Tree is J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Background info compiled from the Lord of the Rings Wiki. Redwood background information was compiled from the Gymnosperm Database at conifers.org, roadside Americas world famous treehouse page, and a Save the Redwoods League post about their lichen, bryophyte, and vascular plant canopy epiphyte research.
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“Mallorn | The One Wiki to Rule Them All | FANDOM Powered by Wikia.” Accessed July 6, 2019. https://lotr.fandom.com/wiki/Mallorn.
“Sequoia Sempervirens,” n.d. https://www.conifers.org/cu/Sequoia.php.
Sillett, Stephen C., and Robert Van Pelt. “Trunk Reiteration Promotes Epiphytes and Water Storage in an Old-Growth Redwood Forest Canopy.” Ecological Monographs 77, no. 3 (2007): 335–59.
“What Is Growing in the Canopies of the Tallest Trees in the World?” Save the Redwoods League. Accessed July 6, 2019. https://www.savetheredwoods.org/grant/what-is-growing-in-the-canopies-of-the-tallest-trees-in-the-world/.
“World Famous Tree House, Piercy, California.” RoadsideAmerica.com. Accessed July 6, 2019. https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/11300.