Surfaced Tree Roots Worn By Passing Feet

Woodland path laced with tree roots

My first picture provides some context for those that follow. A narrow walker’s path tracks a drainage ditch along the edge of a wood. Often muddy, part of its fascination comes from the patches of tree roots that weave through each other just above ground level.

These roots are familiar, yet I marvel at them each time I pass. Have they been left behind as soil eroded or did they surface to find air in a boggy place? Are their buttressed forms better able to anchor trees that lean out into the neighbouring meadow for sunlight, or are they seeking out better soil?

Some look more like hands or arms than roots, others remind me of alligators; many bear marks left by decades of passing feet.

A post full of them is indulgent, even given the fine excuse of Becky’s TreeSquares, but here goes!

Buttress roots

Tree roots worn by walkers

Exposed tree roots with leaning tree trunk

Exposed tree roots that look like hands

Tree roots above ground

Tree roots with fallen pine straw

Worn surface roots on a path

Mossy roots with fallen leaves

Tree roots left bare by erosion

Usually hidden, when revealed, even in half-light, they are curiosities. Clearly they are sensitive, feeling their way, forming natural overpasses wherever two meet. Though gnarly, sturdy and seemingly timeless, their fragility strikes me too, and I gnash my teeth to see deep tracks left by mountain bikers forcing their way past them through the mud.

These creeping, in places, creepy roots at my feet are part of a different life form I would like to understand better – not as something to be identified or material to be made into something useful; not as decoration or greenery; not even as the life-supporting communities they are.

Just for themselves.

20 Replies to “Surfaced Tree Roots Worn By Passing Feet”

  1. I’m always fascinated by tree roots like these. There’s somewhere similar near us, eroded and filled again as the river rises and falls. I tell myself stories about these roots every time I pass.

    1. This path is a mudbath for a good deal of the year, although you’d be hard pressed to tell from these pictures. What happens in your stories?

  2. I think tree roots, infact trees as a plant life, are far more complex than we yet understand.
    I find it humbling that I can touch a tree that is two, three or five hundred years old and still growing.
    I’ve greeted Juniper on Jebel Shams Oman at 10.000ft and they are several hundred years old: if they could talk ! what history they could tell.

    1. I agree and would love to hear their history. Scientists are learning more, but we tend not to discover things we do not look for, even when they are hiding in plain sight.

  3. Curiosities indeed — what an interesting idea for a post! How like writers: gnarly, grasping, feeling our way, sturdy and fragile at once. It’s no wonder you want to know them just for themselves. Kindred life.

    1. When it’s muddy, turning an ankle is a real possibility and at the best of times you have to pay attention. I don’t pick my feet up very high either, so am stumble-prone.

  4. I always want to cover them back up to protect them. It is sad to see roots and soil so compacted, but the intricate lines are fascinating to see.

    1. The trees seem to have reached some concord with the soil, and even with the feet. The path is set hard and smooth as concrete in dry spells but readily churns up into boot-deep, slippery mud in winter and when it rains. I’ve been more concerned not to fall in the ditch than to take pictures on muddy days.

  5. The path to our vegetable garden has a revealed tangle of roots from a large pine. It’s always a challenge to walk on them, unavoidable, and as Eliza mentions, there is the temptation to cover them up.

    1. I am not sure covering would do much for the tree, although it might help the human. Darwen is in a valley, so quite a few of our park trees are clinging on to a hillside, roots exposed on one side, perhaps even winding their way over rocky outcrops so you’d hardly know which is rock and which tree but for the curved lines of the roots.

  6. oh these are amazing. I want though to come along and protect them, or at least move the path so bikers and walkers no longer tread upon them

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