Ecological characteristics and the pitiful state of the tree

Once upon a time; Cham Cypress (Part 2)

In this section, I will discuss some ecological features as well as the story of the unfortunate situation of this tree, and then later, I will give reasons.

While searching for sources about this tree and other trees in Yazd province, with the guidance of a friend, I came across a book called “Old Trees of Yazd, Memories of the Past Millennials.” It can be seen on the book cover it says “Printed in the winter of 1389 (2010), but on the birth certificate of this book the year of publication is 1390 (2011). On page 59 of this book, an explanation is also written in English, worth re-editing. However, on page 58 of this book, a half-page text can be seen, which is slightly completed or changed here:

The Cham cypress stands 5 km north of Taft, in the Cham village limits, near Mobarakeh at a longitude of 54 degrees, 13 degrees, 20 seconds [East], a latitude of 31 degrees, 45 minutes 7 seconds, and an altitude of 1,370 meters above sea level. The soil texture of the region is clay-sandy and pale brown. The height of the tree is 18 meters, the height of the crown formation area is 2 meters, the circumference of the tree collar is 5 meters, and the approximate diameter of the crown is 9 meters. The tree has a cultural heritage plaque. This tree is single-stemmed, and (at the time of visit) it is infected with mealybugs. It is difficult to determine the number of branches of a tree. The older adults of the place believe that about sixty years ago (20th or thirties), many of these branches were destroyed in the locust attack or dried up due to the strong wind about fifty years ago. The depth of underground water at the time of the visit was 32 meters, and despite its 18-meter height, the tree seems to be using surface water. The tree is placed in the courtyard of the Zoroastrian fire temple, and a place for lighting a candle has been built next to the tree trunk [during the visit].

According to description given in this book and previous writings, and the age of the tree itself, which is about 600 years old, it is important to know how such holy trees have survived against natural and human disasters. An example; In recent years, suspicious activities have been seen in the living range of this tree (known as tree sanctuary) which depends on the value and age of each tree. One of these activities I noticed around 2015 was that a well was being dug in a house near the Sarv Cham area, which was at the end of a dead-end alley with a short length (perhaps ten meters). This place was about 30 meters or less from Sarv Cham (as far as I remember). When I went towards the door of this old house, at the end of this dead-end alley, there was a wooden door, from the top of which I could easily see inside, and two well diggers were busy digging. Whatever I called, they did not pay attention! I returned to Yazd, after paying homage to the Cypress shrine, and forgot about the whole matter. After two or three months, I met an expert mountaineer and caver in Yazd, who told me that two or three people I asked him to go to Cham, where a well was being dug and they needed his guidance to dig a tunnel! After going to the well and then inside the well, he realized that a ten-meter tunnel had been dug towards the root of the cedar tree. Since there was a risk of falling, he came out of the well and told the Moghani that digging this tunnel was not correct and dangerous, and he asked why they were digging a tunnel, but they did not explain. The mountaineer left the place. Although the residents of Cham were most likely aware of such issues, the question arose for me whether the people in Cham knew about this questionable event and did not react.

The story is that, when I asked a few residents of Cham about this event in order to prepare my article, one of these residents explained: “For several years, this cedar tree has not had its usual freshness and it is getting drier day by day. Several years ago, unfortunately, some people had started digging a well several meters deep and making a tunnel under the tree to find the treasure.They tried from the north side, too! However, whether they found any treasure is till not certain. “In any case, after being informed, the owners of these houses came and made efforts to maintain these houses and maintain the security of the Sarv Cham area.”

Therefore, with what I saw years ago and the words of the mountaineer, and the story of the two inhabitants of the village, we realized that, unfortunately, for the sake of profiteering and as a result of poverty, looting and lawlessness, activities are going on to reach the root of the tree. Here, some questions come to one’s mind, as follows:

How far is the protection boundary or the area around the tree that should be guarded?

Who were these groups who tried to dig wells and tunnels towards the tree’s root, where did they come from, and for what purpose and to what extent did they reach their goal?

Have these excavations damaged the root area of the cypress tree, and if so, to what extent?

Has any foundation or security authority, such as the police forces, been informed about this by the people of Cham or the Zoroastrian Association of Taft and its affiliates, and if so, what was the result?

What is the disease and sickness of the holy tree and the old cedar tree?

At the end of this article, I wish to mention that if I live long enough, I will talk about the value and importance of such trees, especially the Cham cypress tree.

Acknowledgments: I thank my dear colleagues Bijan Rostami and Mahvash Shiroya for their compassionate guidance.

Dr. Dariush Mehrshahi

Retired member of the Geography Department of Yazd University

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June 14, 2024