Old Town Hall Weeping Beech

Branches grow vertically, and gradually bend toward the ground. That is what “weeping” means in the tree world — a phenomenon that happens to trees with a genetic anomaly. This variety of European Beech was developed in England in 1836 by propagating cut branches of a Weeping Beech found by chance in a forest. An American nurseryman introduced it to the United States a decade later, when he brought a sapling from Belgium to Queens, NY. After DNA testing, scientists believe that every Weeping Beech in America descends from that one sapling.

Want to see huge Weeping Beeches up close? The Newport RI mansions have 120-year-old massive specimens. They are at the end of their lives, so hurry! A nearly-as-big centenarian Beech —70’ tall and 60’ wide — stands on the grounds of the historic Captain Bangs Hallet House, in Yarmouth, MA.

Photos show this tree at Old Town Hall was planted after 1984. Its admirers hope it will grow to become a massive tree with an almost entirely enclosed space within the branches, as mature Weeping Beeches do. Their branches root into the ground when they touch moist soil, and the tree starts also growing vertically. That process is called layering, and it is widely used to propagate plants. So, when does one tree become many? When we separate the new shoots from a main tree? No one can really tell!

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