Historic Beech Tree to Become Work of Art

By Victoria Ford | Jul 24, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Stafford Township, NJ — The massive American beech tree outside the Stafford Township municipal complex was overcome by a bracket fungus (a.k.a. artist’s fungus) and has been cut back to a 10-foot portion of trunk wrapped in a blue tarp. Competitive chainsaw carver Kevin Treat will turn it into a work of art of his own design.

Treat, based in northeast Pennsylvania, won second place in the Tuckerton Seaport’s “Carve Wars” competition this year. Since 1996, he has carved over 5,000 sculptures, located throughout the country and on public display in the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, Tuckerton Seaport museum and the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum. His carvings have been commissioned by parks, schools, hospitals and the U.S. Air Force. His live chainsaw carving, whereby he transforms logs into uniquely crafted one-of-a-kind sculptures, provides entertainment at fairs, festivals and other events.

Treat describes chainsaw carving as “a means to skillfully exercise creativity and imagination into producing unique wood sculptures.”

“That tree had been living on borrowed time for many years,” Mayor Greg Myhre said.

The approximately 200-year-old tree had been treated by an arborist for several years, he explained, but as experts informed officials, treating the doomed tree in its advanced state of decay was no longer ethical. Environmental Commission members examined the tree and concurred with the arborist’s assessment.

A bracket fungus produces shelf- or bracket-shaped fruiting bodies called conks. Artist’s fungus, or Ganoderma applanatum, grows as a mycelium within the wood of living and dead trees, according to Wikipedia. It forms fruiting bodies 12 to 39 inches across, hard as leather, woody-textured and inedible in raw form. They are white at first but soon turn dark red-brown.

“The wood-decay fungus causes a rot of heartwood in a variety of trees. It can also grow as a pathogen of live sapwood, particularly on older trees that are sufficiently wet. It is a common cause of decay and death of beech and poplar.

“A peculiarity of this fungus lies in its use as a drawing medium for artists. When the fresh white pore surface is rubbed or scratched with a sharp implement, dark brown tissue under the pores is revealed, resulting in visible lines and shading that become permanent once the fungus is dried.”

“While the living tree could not be saved, the carving allows us to preserve a part of Stafford’s history and create a work of art that anyone driving by could enjoy,” Myhre said.

— Victoria Ford


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