Arborglyphs, dendroglyphs, silvaglyphs or modified cultural trees is the carving of shapes and symbols into the bark of living trees. Smooth-barked tree species, such as beeches, birches, and aspens, are most frequently carved. Some of the carvings are historicly or culturally significant — examined by historians, archeologists, and landscape ecologists.
Carving names and initials into trees is a common practise among lovers; the carvings can last for decades, as a symbol of the permanence of the couple’s love. This practise would appear to date back up to the Classical era, with Callimachus writing in his Aetia, “But graven on your bark may ye bear such writing as shall declare “Cydippe beautiful”.” (fragment 73) It also appears in the Eclogues of Virgil: “Resolved am I in the woods, rather, with wild beasts to couch, and bear my doom, and character my love upon the tender tree-trunks: they will grow, and you, my love, grow with them.” This carving was also practised in Renaissance England, as evidenced by the writings of William Shakespeare (in As You Like It, 1599) and John Evelyn (in Sylva, 1664).
Carving in the bark may damage the tree, by allowing insects or fungi to enter the tree interior, or by damaging the phloem (sugar transport tubes) under the bark.