The Forest of Numbers

Tree trunks harbour all manner of creatures from liverworts and lichens, trails of ants and tapping woodpeckers. Less often, they have painted numbers.


When trees are marked with paint, usually a fluorescent cross, it means they are destined for felling. Yet these numbers were obviously painted for another purpose. Nevertheless, the numbers had me worried. Each day I visited the forest I found myself no longer looking at the trees, but focusing on the numbers, to ensure they were all there.


I soon discovered that the numbered trees are part of a scientific study to look at exchanges between trees and soils. In the interim, almost every other tree more than a few years old in this part of the forest has been felled. The numbered trees were spared for their ‘research value’ and have since taken on a new significance, a perverse reminder that we can count in two digits, the last remaining trees.