Trees that are more than just Trees!
Outside the town of Derby, in Western Australia, is another tree that has been put to use by mankind. The Boab Prison Tree is named so because its stout trunk, 14m in circumference, has been cut in two forming a small cell used as a prison. Police who were walking their prisoners into town would use the tree as a temporary holding cell overnight before carrying on to their final destination. The Boab is approximately 1500 years old, and visitors are asked to view it from behind a fence to stop it from being damaged, however few resist the temptation to go inside.
Root bridges are a specialized form of arboriculture practiced in the forests of northern India. The rubber trees of the Cherrapunji have been exploited for centuries by the Khasis people to grow their own bridges over streams and rivers. To grow your own bridge you need to hollow out a log, lay the log over the gap you wish to cross, and direct the roots of the tree to grow into the log. The roots will grow until they find solid earth to attach to, anchoring the bridge. Once the roots have formed a bridge, soil and stones, or other wood, are laid over them to protect them from damage as people cross.
Le Chêne Chapelle (The Oak Chapel) in Allouville-Bellefosse is an oak which has been carved out to house two chapels within its enormous trunk. The oak itself is approximately 800 years old, and the chapels were added in the 1600s. A lightning strike burned the core of the tree but the tree survived and remained standing, allowing the local priests to build their chapel within it. Today the tree is beginning to show signs of its age and the pressures of housing a religious site, and so requires supporting struts. Despite this, the chapel remains in use and a mass is celebrated twice a year at the site. To reach the upper of the two chapels there is a staircase which winds around the trunk.