That is, when the trees are centuries-old and are being harvested to rebuild the spire of Notre Dame.
They come from a former royal forest, and the process is beginning with a 230-year-old Sessile oak tree, Quercus petraea, with 1,000 more trees to be collected by the end of March, before the sap rises and the wood contains too much moisture. They’ll be air dried for 12-18 months before being cut into shape. This lumber will replace other lumber that was centuries old.
Most are perfectly straight and large enough to support the weight of the spire, the result of careful work in a forest that originally supplied timber to the French navy.
Oak trees have been central to French culture forever. There was a custom traditionally in French villages called affouage — residents could cut an allocation of firewood from communal land every year. The trees would be marked accordingly. Even now, though they look natural, the oaks in French forests were planted deliberately. They are regularly culled so that the straightest, fastest-growing and healthiest remain.
If you’ll remember, the cathedral’s original roof contained so many oak beams it was called “la foret.”