Tree Blood

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Vineyards and cherry orchards that are a part of the college’s property surround the painting studios in Maison Basse.  In the orchards I found an unexpected treasure. I learned that what first appears to be gold and white nuggets crowning the dark, twisty trunks is resin or sap that has bled out into beautiful and sculptural forms. Unfortunately, these are indicators of illness or infestation likely caused by borers or gummosis (a bacterial or fungal infection). Sap is the blood of a tree and when a tree is injured or sick, it oozes a luminous white sap that matures into a golden amber hue that later becomes a dark tree scab, very similar to how we bleed then scab so that our injured skin heals.

The sap serves as a nutrient transport system inside the tree; a tree would die if sap didn’t circulate inside it. Sap is also a nutritious food eaten by many forest creatures such as squirrels. Cherry trees grow in many parts of the United States. Historians believe that Native Americans taught early settlers of the United States to use the residue of cherry tree sap as chewing gum. Because the sap is clear and tasteless and dries to a chewy consistency, it makes an easy, plentiful and sugar-free chewing gum. Another thing the Native Americans used the sap of the cherry tree for was a form of glue. The sap, when heated and blended with ash from animal fat, produced a very strong, water-soluble glue. It was useful for attaching arrowheads to shafts and blades to knife handles; however, it usually had to be covered with pine resin to waterproof the glue and prevent the loss of blades and arrowheads due to blood. Similarly, cherry sap mixed with cereal crops to make a thick paste could be spread on tree branches to capture small birds. On occasions Native Americans would carve perfectly rounded bulges in the trees so that when the sap bled out it would form a special bowl that could be harvested and given to spiritual leaders or shamans. In today’s uses, the tree sap is extracted and used to make maple syrup, latex, resins, hair removal and other products. Tree sap is sometimes added to natural soaps and bath care products due to its nutrient contents like antioxidants, sugars, minerals, and hormones. When fossilized, resin from tree sap becomes amber. Scientists have also found mosquitoes and other small insects inside fossilized tree sap.

Finding these “unexpected glowing natural abstractions” (Professor Sandra Reed), I really found myself pouring over the fact that nature creates art in a way that is useful to all who discover it. Sujay Shah, senior painting student from Nairobi, Kenya, said, “The (hardened) sap looks like an Indian dessert.” I simply cherish these discoveries and like a gift the sap will be kept with memory for future explorations and or creative innovations.

Aaron Edwards B.F.A. Painting

Photo Credits: Aaron Edwards

Read more: How to Get Cherry Tree Sap |


2 thoughts on “Tree Blood

  1. Pingback: Seriously Interesting | LACOSTE 84480

  2. Pingback: Kayla Cloonan: Stitch & Stain | LACOSTE 84480

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