I went to visit the oldest tree in Paris today. It’s not that old as ancient trees go but four hundred years is a long time in the turbulent life of the city.  The tree, a Robinia pseudoacacia, was planted in 1601 by it’s namesake, royal gardener Jean Robin, who introduced the species from North America.  At first sight, it’s a rather sorry specimen.  The trunk is half rotted through and leans at a precarious angle.  The tree is supported by an old iron beam, disguised in faux bois concrete, supplemented by a later frame in more modern reinforced concrete.

……

At some stage, someone decided that it would be a good idea to hide the supporting structure by training ivy up it.  You can imagine the results, or see them in a quick web search.  Pictures taken a few years ago show a massive bush of flowering ivy with a few tufts of the original tree sticking out the top.  Now the ivy has (mostly) been removed and the tree (or the public) is protected by a steel hoarding.

….

Ignore the trunk and the tree looks surprisingly healthy.  Maybe the ivy was removed just in time.  The robinia’s foliage is fresh green, just turning towards autumn gold.  There are signs of strong, new growth.  And best of all, there’s a thicket of healthy, young suckers shooting up around the roots.  Any one of those could take the place of the parent tree when it can’t stand up any longer.  It wouldn’t look like a venerable, significant tree but maybe that’s the point. Unlike human constructions, trees continually renew themselves, so long as we allow them the space and time to do so.