When I posted this picture of the "blood stained" tree on Friday, I never dreamed it would generate this kind of response: Over 50,000 of our 14News Facebook fans clicked on it, and many shared the picture/story with others. At the time, I asked what you thought caused this strange formation inside a freshly-cut tree.
A little back story here: On Friday, Michael Meyer was cutting down brush and trees at his parents' home in Smith Mills, Kentucky. When he cut down this box elder tree growing over an old well, he was shocked to see the bright red swirls and splotches. For a moment, he thought he had cut his hand with the chainsaw and that the blood was spattered on the tree trunk. Fortunately, for Michael, his hand was fine. He took several pictures of the tree and sent them to me to see if I could tell him what caused the markings. The only theory Michael had was that the tree grew over an old well that had a lot of iron in the water.
I first posted the pictures on our community news site and also on Facebook. Within an hour, more than 10,000 had clicked on the picture, and dozens had commented on what caused the pattern. The comments ranged from soil contaminants to demons to religious signs…it was very interesting reading, by the way.
I sent the pictures over to my friend Larry Caplan, the Purdue Extension Agent and local arborist/horticulturist and master gardener. Here was his initial response:
"This appears to be some form of internal wood decay fungal organism. I've personally never seen one that bright red color, before...most of the common ones tend to be blue: http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/resources/health/field-guide/images/large/sds-f204-large.jpg . I'm pretty sure that a mundane fungus is more likely than religious sign. Note the crack through the center of the trunk, which could have been an entry point for the fungal organism."
Being a true scientist, Larry wanted another opinion, so he contacted Dr. Lindsey Purcell, the urban forestry specialist at Purdue who told him the following:
"Most likely it is due to the fungus and species interaction as well as soil type and ph. Combination of several factors which would be rare. Enzymatic activity can create some pretty colorful responses. It is pretty cool though... However I doubt it's prophetic implications."