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In a world where magic energy and life-force are compatible if not equivalent forces, woodcutting can be a problem in regions with high magic potential.

If a woodcutter fells a tree and leaves it, it will grow new roots in about a day. But only if there is some life left in the tree.

Trees are still trees like we know them, with the one difference, that they are able to tap magic as an additional source of energy. It still has to use its own available matter.

When can the tree (or its wood) still be considered alive and when is it actually and finally dead? What can the woodcutter do, to kill the wood and therefore make it usable?

The state of technology is roughly comparable with technology in medieval times. Use of magic is forbidden.

The trees have to be cut to make room to build other stuff. For many of the buildings and constructions, fresh wood could be used, if it weren't for the high magic potential of the area. So the wood can be transported to a less magical place and older, dead wood imported as building material, but on-site solutions are preferred.

[edit for clarification and additional information:] With "dead" I mean unable to grow anymore. It is common with plants, that you can cut of a part and put it into water or directly into the soil. It will then grow new roots and new leaves after a while. The magic mainly speeds this process up by offering an abundance of energy.

There is no (known) way to shield of magic. It is forbidden to use magic as well as research it. So only little is known about the way magic works.

The area is somewhat hostile, due to beings that aim to protect the trees and do use the available magic. So long-term solutions are unfortunately not optimal. Something that takes less than a few days without removing the trees from the area would be preferable to one that takes longer.

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    $\begingroup$ Kill it with fire? $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Jun 4 '18 at 13:12
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    $\begingroup$ Like @Mołot, I think this question can only be answered once you define what "dead" means to you. In the medical industry, there's a fascinating issue where the definition of "dead" is moving because we are developing better and better ways of saving people. Classes of people who were dead as a doornail a few decades ago are now recovering and living their lives. There's a reason that in code situations, we have a trained medical professional call the time of death. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jun 4 '18 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ Nuke it from orbit , it's the only way to be sure! $\endgroup$ – Drag and Drop Jun 4 '18 at 14:31
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    $\begingroup$ In the real world lumber is typically seasoned (i.e., dried) before use as timber or firewood. Either by stacking it up and leaving it for more than a year, or by drying it in a kiln. Your "seasoning" process in your fantasy world might work a little differently, but the rhythm of the lumber industry would be about the same as in our world. $\endgroup$ – workerjoe Jun 4 '18 at 17:13
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    $\begingroup$ I've edited the question; one edit invalidated an existing answer, which is frowned upon. I've tried to make it clear that you'd prefer short-term solutions, without completely ruling out long-term ones. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jun 4 '18 at 23:56

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I had to look this up, but I think your people could justify covering the logs with ash and iron-rich sediment then heating it in dug pits with charcoal. This process would petrify the wood. Petrifaction replaces the organic parts of an formally living object with minerals, essentially turning from wood to stone.

This would probably be overkill to kill a magically charged tree, but you could say the properties on the magic wood make petrifaction much easier (cause the plants actively try to absorb the minerals while they are regenerating maybe? You mentioned that they still need to use available matter). The bright side to this method is that it would increase the value of wood in these magically rich regions.

Imagine being able to carve a log into furniture, a statue, or a simple tool, then using petrifaction to harden and preserve it. As a material, this wood would be more malleable and beautiful than marble, yet be far more resistant to damage and weathering. Now your trees aren't just a obstacle that needs to be cleared out, but a valuable resource to be sold.

So yeah. Have the lumber camps petrify the wood on-site, then use that to build their homes and sell the excess for a substantial profit. The being that live in the forest would probably be horrified to see the trees transformed like this, but I think that could be a fun addition to your narrative regardless.

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    $\begingroup$ Can you tell me, how long this process would take? $\endgroup$ – Till Jun 5 '18 at 8:07
  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, I can't find a solid answer on that front. Artificial pertification is a recent technological development, and the source I found didn't list a cooking time. Like I said, I was hoping that the properties of the wood would speed this up process to a day of baking the wood. If you wanted to take longer for the sake of realism, you could have the lumberjacks just leave the wood cooking in ditches and come back in a week to dig it up again. Sorry I can't give you a exact answer. $\endgroup$ – Pinion Minion Jun 5 '18 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ It takes days, but note they are only using wood a few centimeters thick, a stump would take exponentially longer. $\endgroup$ – John Jun 6 '18 at 20:25
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I know this is a slightly short answer, but it applies to most European trees (not all I admit) at least: if you hammer a copper stake into the tree low down, close to the roots, it will poison the tree and it will die. This does take a few months, but it is possible. However in real life this only works on a living tree, cutting it down kills them, but in your world they are still alive so...

If they know they need to clear an area of land eventually, then cut down the tree, and then copper stake the wood, as it dries it would die off completely. In theory this would work the way you want it to.

It would also give your story some form of greenpeace trying to stop you from poisoning the trees.

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    $\begingroup$ That's a potentially interesting take on things: "Wooden stakes kill vampires; silver stakes kill werewolves; copper stakes kill trees." $\endgroup$ – R.M. Jun 4 '18 at 14:17
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    $\begingroup$ @R.M. So logically, a stake made out of vampire bone would kill copper? $\endgroup$ – corsiKa Jun 4 '18 at 17:50
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    $\begingroup$ @corsiKa, I thought vampire steaks kill copper... $\endgroup$ – ChP Jun 4 '18 at 19:30
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    $\begingroup$ @ChP: No, with the right polish those stains on your dishwear come right off. $\endgroup$ – Peter Cordes Jun 5 '18 at 0:53
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    $\begingroup$ I just imagined some random guy whipping a piece of meat on copper hoping to kill it. $\endgroup$ – Hawker65 Jun 5 '18 at 8:07
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To kill it keep it off the ground and dry, in the case of cut timber if you keep the logs off the ground, under shelter, any roots that they might otherwise grow will encounter air rather than soil or water and wither rather than grow. De-barking the logs immediately will also work since it is the inner bark, a layer called the cambium, rather than the core wood that does the growing, this can cause issues with the way the timber seasons depending on the species and warp the wood grain though. Under the circumstances described I would define the wood as "properly dead" when the bark dries and/or is pealed from the log.

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  • $\begingroup$ Combining this with Blade Wraith's answer seems logical. Maybe freshly cut and stripped logs could be stored on tables/frames with copper plating between the log and the dead wood of the table/frame. $\endgroup$ – Pinion Minion Jun 4 '18 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ @PinionMinion Yeah although if you can strip them without compromising seasoning they're dead after that anyway so the copper is redundant, for live, barked trunks, you may need some separation material though. $\endgroup$ – Ash Jun 4 '18 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ Now that you mention it, both does sounds like overkill. I do think that separation would be a necessity, cause otherwise stacks of logs would fuse together pretty quick, what with interlocking roots and all that. $\endgroup$ – Pinion Minion Jun 4 '18 at 17:38
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    $\begingroup$ Bark is actually the solid waste of trees - tree poop, if you will. It also serves as protection for the phloem, which carries sugars produced in the leaves down to the roots, and the cambium, the actual growing part of the trunk, which is just under the phloem. Leaves, of course, are up on the branches, turning sunlight, water, and minerals into sugars which are used to feed the roots, which pump water and minerals up through the sapwood so that more sugar can be produced. The heart-wood of the tree is actually dead, but serves as the support for the rest of the tree. $\endgroup$ – Bob Jarvis Jun 5 '18 at 4:08
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    $\begingroup$ @PinionMinion, both is not overkill, you need to kill both the log and the stump. Even in the real world if you don't kill a tree stump you get a coppicing effect and the tree comes back. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jun 5 '18 at 11:18
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It doesn't seem that much of a problem to me.

Even growing roots within a day isn't going to make it very hard to just cut the wood to what you need and use it. The wood would need to cannibalize itself, but most of the tree is "dead" wood to begin with so only the living layers need to be separated from the dead parts and you are good to go...

Assuming you don't want perfectly strong living houses that is.

It would be so awesomely good to have a home that lives, provides its own shade, its own anti-pests mechanisms (especially with the magic...), won't rot away easily, can be guided to grow certain ways, possibly provide some food and when it finally dies it functions like the dead wooden logs we have today.

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    $\begingroup$ Working with the environment is almost always easier than working against it. If living trees make better homes while alive, then they should be used in this way. shaping wood for homes in our world is hard to do while alive, hence our use of dead wood. Forcing it to grow into an actual solid roof could be hard though. $\endgroup$ – Baldrickk Jun 4 '18 at 15:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Baldrickk I think its a win-win situation. Cut it to what you need, provide it with a way into the ground to survive (magic could replace sunlight perhaps). If it dies you still have a good roof. If it survives you have a super-b roof. If that roof is also your floor on the story above you'll need to shave off new growth once in a while though. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Jun 4 '18 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Baldrickk In our world, willow has remarkable properties for re-growth. Pretty much any part of a willow tree can re-grow if it has a water supply, even a piece of "long-dead" bare trunk. In fact people do create living "structures" from willow that can be used for outdoor living (at least in summer). It would be perfectly possible to grow a single-storey house with a roof, in a few years. $\endgroup$ – alephzero Jun 6 '18 at 9:26
  • $\begingroup$ @alephzero wouldnt it be even better? You cut it to the logs you need, then place logs from the same tree together. Because they are the same DNA and against eachother they are likely to regrow and form a single entity again. This would make Willow absolutely awesome for your house. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Jun 6 '18 at 9:35
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You kill trees the same way you kill them today: by cutting away the bark around the tree, or girdling.

Girdling will cut the tree's phloem, which transport sugar and hormones. Since phloem are very close to the surface of the bark (being part of a dicot's vascular meristem growth, forming rings), this prevents sugar from flowing from the leaves to the roots. Eventually, the roots die and stop sending nutrients and water to the leaves, resulting in the rest of the tree dying. Since these trees will continue to grow using up nutrients that are already stored, it might be necessary to monitor and regularly cut back the bark before it actually dies, making sure the tree can't repair the damaged bark or send up shoots of green underneath the stripped bark (which could provide an emergency supply of sugar to the roots).

As for time frame, this process can take from months to years depending on the size of the tree, however you could simply say that the ambient magic makes the tree use up its resources quickly, causing it to die within a few days.

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Store them somewhere without access to the magical energy

A classical approach to defeating anything that taps into the magical reservoir around them is to simply cut them off from their source of power. You can do the same to your wood. Define something that blocks the magical energy, such as lead, and then create a box or depending on your mechanisms a warehouse out of it. Store your wares in the magic-proof room for some time until it's dead

This allows your people to go wherever they want and it doesn't matter whether the region is full of energy or starved of it. Your people can simply put everything that relies on easy access to magical energy in your warehouse. As such it can also be useful as an impromptu jail for rogue mages running berserk (if you can get them in there without them destroying everything; trees in your scenario seem to be easier and not defend themselves too much, so a simple structure should be enough).

"How long" depends on the rate that magic is consumed. Maybe your trees can only store enough magic for something like three days until they run out of energy, but that depends on what makes sense for your story. They are not really dead by simply putting them into the lead-warehouse, but they will soon "die". This could also be used as a great plot point with different trees being able to store magical energy for different times.

If you want an analogy of the life being something like a metaphorical "liquid" you could simply cut long trails into the bark to "bleed" out the energy faster, similar to natural rubber.

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Magic could be considered the same as oxygen. With it you live. Without it, you slowly suffocate and die. Once dead, no matter how much oxygen you pump into a body, you can't bring life back. So in this case, restrict access to the magical forces of your world for <.insert required time period here.>. Once the tree is starved of magic and dead, no matter how much new magic the wood comes into contact, it won't start growing again.

Once the plants and trees access to oxygenated magic is restricted, the plant and tree can die.

What can a woodcutter do?

If the magic is limited to grounded magic, not air or water based magic, prevent the ability to reroot.

  • If the cut tree reroots through the cut end of the tree; cap, char or mutilate the edge.
    • traditional magic does not work with iron, so you could wrap a iron or other metal band around the end of the fallen tree (similar to a barrel hoop) for a few days, while the magic dies.
    • drive several metal spikes up the cut end of the tree (although this might cause splitting).
  • If the fallen tree reroots through the surface area in contact with the earth; elevate it on dead wood slats preferably stone. Can also use hardened clay or bricks. Anything to get it off the ground.
    • You could probably hang the tree trunk like a dead and butchered animal carcass, to the same effect. This could help with the draining/bleeding of any magic substances in the wood. Which might fetch a nice price at the market!
  • If the cut tree can only reroot while the original root system is intact; uproot and destroy the tree stump.
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While I love the answer about building houses from living wood, the classic real-world technique of drying wood in a kiln can easily be deemed to kill the magic in the wood as it dries out.

Note that kiln drying is unlikely to be practical until the wood is split.

Only Biologically living cells can channel magic.

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I think most of the other answers have missed an important point: "The trees have to be cut to make room to build other stuff." So it's not really the cut timber that's the big problem, it's regrowth from the stumps.

Now this is something that actually happens with many kinds of trees - cottonwood, locust, apple (just to mention ones on my property), and many others. In extreme cases, such as aspens, the underground part may live for millenia, regularly sending up new trunks: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pando_(tree)

In the present world, this is dealt with by various chemical products, like "Brush be Gone", "Sucker Stopper", &c. So your culture needs something, either magical or chemical, that kills the root system.

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  • $\begingroup$ The OP says that the civilisation is at a medieval level of technology; had effective herbicides been developed by the end of the Middle Ages? $\endgroup$ – Sean Jun 5 '18 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Sean: I don't know what techniques they used, but it seems evident that they had something, as land was cleared. They also made use of the re-sprouting from stumps, with e.g. coppicing: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coppicing $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 5 '18 at 18:23
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There are a lot of real-world trees that are just about this persistent. Cut them down, and the stump sprouts new branches. Stick a "dead" branch in the ground, and as long as it's right-way-up it'll grow (sometimes even if it's been "dead" for quite a while as long as the bark is intact.)

So in your world, you can probably use most all of the same methods we use for dealing with such trees when we want them gone:

  1. Poison: Disrupt their metabolism so it no longer functions. Availability of energy doesn't matter at this point, it's going to die.
  2. Cut it with extreme prejudice: If the trees didn't need the energy gathered by their leaves to survive long-term, they probably wouldn't grow them. When it starts growing new roots/sprouts, cut them off again. Repeat regularly until it gives up and dies.
  3. Tear it out by the roots: Cut it down and dig out the stump. Put the remains someplace where it doesn't matter if they grow again or not.
  4. Deprive it of water: This may not kill it permanently, or may take a very long time to do so, but it should at least keep it dormant for as long as you care.

There are probably additional methods that would work which may or may not be practical. Cutting off the flow of magic to the area would work if that were possible, as would somehow tainting it. In a world with magic, the trees may be capable of moving if you ask them nicely.

This addition to the setting will likely make land-clearing more difficult, but it will make growing timber for various uses much easier and potentially make the use of living wood constructions more common.

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It looks like the same problem as we have with weeds, eg kudzu. We cut it down, it regrows.

The answer is as usual: keep cutting it down, over and over again, until it had exhausted all available resources. Your magical lifeforce also has to be (locally and temporarily) depletable. Otherwise all plants (and other life) would switch to that infinite source of energy and you'd have trees so huge than no human could even think of bringing it down.

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In the Northern countries the wood is being cut only in winter, when the juices are still. If you cut a tree in summer, it is still alive, magic or not magic. And while it tries to live, the quality of the wood decreases.

So, the problem is well-known, same as the solution. You don't need to kill the wood, but to stop processes in it. Freeze it. And dry it frozen. For better speed, by lowering the pressure. (Here you can use magic, but not necessarily) But with still liquids the wood does not change even if you do no acceleration of drying.

If you can lower the pressure seriously, you can dry the wood sooner than unwanted processes start. Maybe. I don't know the speed of your magical processes in the wood.


In Russia, in 18 cent, Peter The Great had set a law, according to which, cutting wood not in winter was a criminal act.

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One of the things i think you need to consider for this is how people would try to use this rather than stop it. It is fairly common for people to manipulate the way a tree grows during its life so if we knew it was going to have a growth spurt at death we would find a way to use that.

For example build a wooden paliside then let it regrow for a week joining together even stronger. Then kill it using above methods.

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This will be surprisingly simple.

Get rid of the bark. the wood itself is not alive it can not regrow, it is the bark that makes new roots and grows.

Then burn the branches that you don't want to strip and the bark or just don't allow it to touch the ground. Pile up the branches and bark in one place and then burn it at the end of the day.

Meanwhile you can extract the phloem for various purposes (ropes, shoes, baskets)

Then there is the option that the people use some minerals as herbicide, to kill the trees before cutting them. Or just burning the whole forest down.

(But I think that they would want to make fields or orchards in the area, since the plants grow so quick and would be more resistant to diseases with this regeneration ability)

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