The story of a tree
The first time I saw that tree it called my attention right away, it was very different from any other that I have seen before, with its trunk twisted and hollow, it was bending to one side, and its upper branches had green leaves, which was a sign that it was alive. Many people knew this tree and they called it the twisted tree. It was a lenga (Nothofagus pumilio), that perhaps how many seasons of the year has seen while it grew.
This tree is located in the Ascencio valley, inside Torres del Paine National Park, almost at the end of the forest, just before the beginning of the last stretch up towards the famous lookout to the three towers. Working as a guide in the park, I had the chance to see this old lenga a lot of times, usually I gave myself the time to stop by its side and listen how its bark made a cracking sound while it was moved by the wind.
But, why this lenga grew this way? There are two theories that I have heard of. The first one is that while it was growing, its main branches turned as they were in search of sunlight to capture energy, which led the trunk to twist. The second theory is that the wind was the responsible for this, shaping the tree during its first years of life. Don´t matter the reason, the result is the same, the vascular tissues or channels where the water and the nutrients flow through the tree, which are the xylem and phloem, compress and squeeze, obstructing the proper nourishment for the lenga, thus the tree gets weaker and weaker with the passage of time.
One day, on February 8th, 2013, I was told thanks to a fellow guide, that the tree broke and fell. She has seen it standing as always on her way up to the lookout, but a few hours afterwards when she walked by it again saw that finally the lenga had touch the soil with its upper branches. Is has come back to the earth. The forest had changed.
A few days later I was able to see it by myself; it was like that, broken to one side. But the trunk wasn´t touching the ground, a natural bow was formed by the curve that the tree made during its growth.
Then after almost three years, I was able to see the fallen lenga again, by that time its trunk had finally managed to touch the ground. When it fell it twisted again, the part of the bark that was possible to see on one side had spin and now is in contact with the earth.
In the years to come the trunk will continue to be home for different insects species, at the same time lichens and mosses will create soil above it, and the fungi will slowly decomposed the wood, making it part of the earth again. Probably a new tree will be able to grow were today lies this lenga, but that will be only seen as the years go by.