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Set A update: grey alders (January 2015)

Grey alder No. 3 on the 5th of January 2015.

It’s now been just over a year since I last wrote an update on the Treeblog trees. That post reported on a visit my father and I made to the grey alders on the 28th of December 2013. The next time either of us saw the alders was a year later on the 5th of January 2015 (Set A Day 2,840) – nearly eight years since I planted them as seeds with my own hands. This post has the photos and measurements we took on that most recent visit, plus three tables and two graphs which gather together for the first time ever all of the height and stem circumference data we’ve recorded over the years.

The photo above shows grey alder No. 3 with my father for scale. No. 3 is currently the tallest of all the Treeblog trees, measuring approx. five metres from base to upper tip. Its stem circumference is 26 cm at the base and 15 cm at a height of 1.5 m, so it is also the girthiest of the Treeblog trees. It has great form and is clearly thriving out here in the wild. This winter it had male (but no female) catkins, unlike last winter when it had no catkins of any kind.

For comparison, this is the same tree a year ago on the 28th of December 2013. Perhaps it’s just the different angles the two photographs were taken from, but doesn’t there appear to have been a significant improvement in form over the last year?

It’s not all good news for No. 3, however. Just when all the old stem wounds had about sealed over, fresh damage has been dealt by those troublesome herbivores. Whether the culprit was a sheep, rabbit, or something else, I don’t ken.

A perfect branch-bark ridge and branch collar. I’ve grown some real trees!

Here’s grey alder No. 2 on the 5th of January, the second-tallest of the alders at approximately 4.6 metres. Like No. 3, which grows but a stone’s throw away, it too is thriving and has fine form. Its stem has a girth of 23 cm at the base, and a girth of 15 cm at 1.5 m.

And to compare – this is No. 2 on the 28th of December 2013 (sorry about the dark picture).

No. 2 currently sports a mixture of male and (both mature and immature) female catkins, just like it did the previous winter.

Unlike the rest of the grey alders, No. 2 had managed to avoid any stem damage… until now. This fresh wound near the base of the stem has ended its lucky streak, but it’s nothing serious.

Last and I’m afraid least, this terrible photo shows grey alder No. 1 on the 5th of January. The poor devil is easily the lowest quality alder these days. It is in quite a different location to its two old nursery-mates, and the elements appear to be giving it a far harder time of things. Not only is it the shortest alder at 3.8 metres tall (although the stem is longer than that if we disregard the tree’s pronounced lean), it also has a significantly thinner stem than the other two. I measured the stem circumference as 18 cm at its base and 10 cm at 1.5 m. This winter I only counted mature female catkins on No. 1, but last year it had both male and (mature and immature) female catkins.

For comparison, grey alder No. 1 on the 28th of December 2013 with my father for scale – a much brighter picture!

As evident in this photo, No. 1 has the most wounded lower stem. It is also much slower in ‘healing’ these wounds than the other two alders, simply because it is growing that much more slowly and not laying down as much new wood – its annual rings will be closer together.


Stat attack!

I have spent some time going back through a lot of old Treeblog updates to ferret out all of the measurement data ever collected from the grey alders. This is now presented altogether - for the first time ever! - in three tables: one for the heights, one for the basal stem girths, and another for the stem girths at a height of 1.5 m from the ground. There’s hardly a wealth of data to show for almost eight years of growth, but I’ve only got myself to blame for that. I’ve even made a couple of graphs, so that the changes in the sizes of the alders can be better visualised.

Long-time followers will perhaps remember that there used to be a fourth grey alder, which in the early days was an absolute stonker of a young tree. After transplantation into the wild in spring 2010 however, it was soon tragically destroyed by sheep. No. 1, the current third-placed alder, grows just a few metres from where No. 4 met its untimely end. With hindsight, this is clearly a bad location for tree planting. I can’t help but wonder what might have been had I planted these poor souls in the same spot as Nos. 2 & 3… But I digress.


Table 1. The heights (in metres) of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders.

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4
1st Oct. ‘07 0.04 0.02 0.03 0.01
2nd June ‘08 0.14 0.65 0.12 0.30
20th Apr. ‘09 0.75 0.55 0.65 0.91
27th Jun. ‘09 1.05 0.71 1.09 1.20
19th Aug. ‘09 1.96 1.50 1.70 1.86
28th Mar. ‘10 2.07 1.59 1.90 -
20th Jun. ‘10 2.40 1.80 2.25 1.80
25th Sep. ‘10 2.80 2.50 2.80 1.35
11th Feb. ‘11 - 2.45 2.75 X
13th Mar. ‘11 2.70 - - X
29th Sep. ‘11 2.50 3.05 2.75 X
19th Oct. ‘12 3.10 3.50 3.60 X
9th Jun. ‘13 3.30 3.60 3.60 X
5th Jan. ‘15 3.80 4.60 5.00 X


Graph 1. The heights of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders.

The graph illustrates that No. 1 was actually the tallest alder in early 2010, when I transplanted them all into the wild – its poor location has clearly had an adverse affect on its growth, allowing it to be overtaken by both Nos. 2 & 3. No. 3 itself actually suffered a major setback in April 2011 when it somehow had its top broken off, allowing No. 2 to reign briefly as the tallest alder. It didn’t take long for No. 3 to recover, but a kink half-way up its stem (noticeable in the first photo in this update) still marks this breakage today. Graph 1 also shows the sorry end of No. 4, which gradually shrinks as it is destroyed by sheep.



Table 2. The stem girths (in centimetres) of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders (measured at base height).

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4
20th Jun. ‘10 9.0 9.0 9.5 9.0
25th Sep. ‘10 9.5 11.0 11.5 -
11th Feb. ‘11 - 10.5 12.0 X
13th Mar. ‘11 9.5 - - X
29th Sep. ‘11 11.5 13.0 14.0 X
19th Oct. ‘12 15.0 18.0 18.0 X
9th Jun. ‘13 14.0 18.0 19.0 X
28th Dec. ‘13 15.0 19.0 21.0 X
5th Jan. ‘15 18.0 23.0 26.0 X



Table 3. The stem girths (in centimetres) of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders (measured at 1.5 metres above the ground).

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4
20th Jun. ‘10 4.0 2.0 4.0 2.0
25th Sep. ‘10 5.0 4.5 5.5 -
11th Feb. ‘11 - 5.0 6.0 X
13th Mar. ‘11 5.0 - - X
29th Sep. ‘11 6.0 7.0 7.0 X
19th Oct. ‘12 7.0 9.0 9.0 X
9th Jun. ‘13 8.0 10.0 10.0 X
28th Dec. ‘13 8.0 11.0 12.0 X
5th Jan. ‘15 10.0 15.0 15.0 X


Graph 2. The girths of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders.

This graph shows two sets of data for each alder; the larger girths are the measurements taken at the base of the stem, and the smaller girths are the measurements taken at a height of 1.5 m from the ground (about breast height). The story is similar to the heights – Nos. 2 & 3 are performing well but No. 1 is lagging behind. No. 3 is pulling away from No. 2 in basal girth, but both are performing more or less equally in girth at 1.5 m.

Hopefully I’ll be able to make another visit to see the alders in June. It would be nice to see them in leaf again!


Posted in The treeblog trees





Set A update: grey alders (December 2013)

While I was back down in Yorkshire for Christmas my father and I went off to check up on the Treeblog Set A grey alders, which have now been fending for themselves in the wild since April 2010. I am pleased to report that on the day of our visit - the 28th of December (Set A Day 2467) - all three trees were alive and looking as healthy as they possibly could be for deciduous trees in the middle of winter. I last visited my alders in June with a couple of friends, when we filmed this video outlining their story so far…


So what has changed in the intervening six months?

Grey alder No. 1 on the 28th of December with my father for scale. Despite being solidly stuck into the ground, No. 1 leans significantly to the north. I think this lean has become more pronounced since my last visit, presumably because of the lack of shelter from wind funnelling down the wee valley No. 1 calls home.

I’m not particularly bothered by the lean. Who knows? Perhaps it will correct itself. The neighbouring rowans hardly seem to have been bothered too much by the wind.

Mature female catkins on grey alder No. 1.

On this visit I counted two clusters of mixed immature male and female catkins and five clusters of mature female catkins, or ‘cones’. I first noticed catkins on No. 1 in March 2012 – back then it was a single cluster of immature female catkins (with the attached remains of a solitary flowering male catkin). On a visit in October 2012 these female catkins had progressed to near-enough full size but were still green; I also noticed a couple of clusters of immature male catkins (preparing to flower in spring 2013). On my last visit, in June 2013, I saw a few clusters of immature female catkins – these are now matured into the woody cones I saw a couple of weeks ago.

The nasty grazing wounds inflicted on No. 1’s lower stem soon after planting out are continuing to close up as more woundwood is laid down. It looks like a rabbit has left droppings here too, although why it needed to leave them so close up against my tree is unclear.

You may or may not know this but alder No. 1 stands about 2 km away from Nos. 2 & 3. A fortnight after planting Nos. 2 & 3, my father and I planted Nos. 1 & 4* on the 14th of April 2010 and afterwards, for whatever reason, we left a record of our passing by on my preferred route between the two spots. We scrawled a message on a piece of papery downy birch bark and hid it in a nook beside an ancient stream crossing point. Rather surprisingly, that piece of bark remains in a remarkably well-preserved state in that very nook to this day! Here it is on the 28th of December…

* Grey alder No. 4 was sadly eaten to death by sheep within a year of being planted out.

…and here it is on the day we left it there, almost four years ago!

Grey alder No. 2 on the 28th of December. Still the best of the alders - it has the straightest stem, no stem damage from sheep, and by far the most catkins.

Silhouetted against the sky at twilight, three woody cones (2013’s female catkins) take centre stage while multiple clusters of immature male catkins hang in the background, biding their time until spring arrives.* Besides the three cones in this photo there was another one on its own, three clusters of female-only immature catkins, and 18 clusters of mixed male/female immature catkins. No. 2 had no catkins at all in 2012, but on my visit in June 2013 I counted at least six clusters of immature female catkins (no male catkins though).

* Interestingly, while walking around Drummond Hill up near Loch Tay on the 3rd of January I noticed an alder (probably common alder, Alnus glutinosa) and a couple of hazels (Corylus avellana) that were already unfurling their male catkins into spring mode! A bit early, surely? And yesterday, in Edinburgh, I noticed a couple of hazels by the Water of Leith that were doing exactly the same thing. Is this because of an unusually mild winter? Back in Sheffield I wouldn’t expect to see alder or hazel catkins flowering until February.

This bark on the stem of alder No. 2 caught my eye – there’s something snakeish about it.

Grey alder No. 3 – very tall and sturdy.

No. 3 had its top broken out in April 2011. I don’t know what happened to cause that, but it recovered quickly and all that remains to tell of that distant event is a slight kink in the stem, plus a fragment of the old broken leader. The kink is apparent in the full-tree photo above and shows that No. 3 has roughly doubled in height over the last two-and-a-half years.

I couldn’t find any cones or catkins on No. 3 on this visit, nor could I find any in June 2012. In October 2011 however, I spotted at least six clusters of immature male catkins.

As you can see by this shot of its base, No. 3 is now almost totally ‘recovered’ from the early sheep damage. Hopefully 2014 will see all of the stem wounds nicely sealed up.

Now then, if you’re desperate for some stats I’m afraid I don’t have any up-to-date height measurements… but please feast your eyes on these stem girth measurements taken at both ground level and 1.5 metres from the ground:

Grey alder Stem circ. at base (cm)
Oct 2012
Stem circ. at base (cm)
Jun 2013
Stem circ. at base (cm)
Dec 2013
Oct ’12 – Dec ’13 Increase (cm)
No. 1 15 14 15 0
No. 2 18 18 19 1
No. 3 18 19 21 3
Grey alder Stem circ. at 1.5 m (cm)
Oct 2012
Stem circ. at 1.5 m (cm)
Jun 2013
Stem circ. at 1.5 m (cm)
Dec 2013
Oct ’12 – Dec ’13 Increase (cm)
No. 1 7 8 8 1
No. 2 9 10 11 2
No. 3 9 10 12 3

No. 3 is doing well for itself, isn’t it? I’ll be back to visit the alders again in the summer, when I’ll try to get some height measurements. Will we be seeing a five metre tall Treeblog tree in 2014?


Posted in The treeblog trees





Treeblog Video #1. Set A update: grey alders (October 2012 & June 2013)

I have been very lax for a while now in keeping Treeblog updated with the development of the Treeblog trees. I intend to make amends in the coming weeks by posting updates on all the grey alders, Scots pines, downy birches, rowans and beeches in the Treeblog stable – starting now with the Set A grey alders, which last appeared on these pages over fifteen months ago in this update from March 2012. But before I go into an standard update, please take a couple of moments to watch Treeblog’s first ever video which provides a brief overview of the life of my grey alders so far!


So I’d just like to say, if it wasn’t obvious enough already, that this was my first time doing anything like this on film (and I apologise for my weird Yorkshire accent)! It would be great to get some feedback on the video as I am genuinely interested in what you thought, and Dave Clancy and Steve Young, who did all the filming and editing, would also really appreciate hearing your views. You can leave a comment at the end of the post or you can send an email to the address top right. If you enjoyed our little film then I politely encourage you to spread the Treeblog word by tweeting a link or something!

Right then, on to the update proper!

This is grey alder No. 1 on the 9th of June 2013 (Set A Day 2265), the same day as we filmed the video. The tree is alive and well; the sheep haven’t been back to finish it off.

This is grey alder No. 1 a few months earlier on the 19th of October 2012 (Set A Day 2032), back when I made a pre-winter tour of the alders with my father.

This is No. 1 on the 9th of June again, taken from a similar angle.

When I visited in October I noticed that alder No. 1 had a cluster of maturing female catkins…

…as well as a couple of clusters of immature male catkins, ready to open up and release pollen in spring.

I also visited the alders on the 30th of December 2012, minus my camera. My notes from that day record No. 1 having some mature female catkins and a few male catkins, No. 3 having many male catkins but no female catkins, and No. 2 having no catkins at all.

On my June visit, No. 1 again had two or three clusters of immature female catkins. I didn’t see any sign of last year’s catkins.

This is grey alder No. 2 in October with yours truly for scale...

…and here’s No. 2 again on the 9th of June. It is still the best of the three grey alders in my opinion.

No. 2 had no catkins at all last year, but on my June visit I counted at least six clusters of immature female catkins (but no male catkins).

Here’s grey alder No. 3 in October…

…and here it is again in June.

In October, No. 3 had at least six clusters of male catkins but I didn’t notice any catkins at all on my June visit.

Now for some tree stats. I made measurements of height, stem circumference at base, and stem circumference at breast height (approx. 1.5 m) on my October and June visits, but made no measurements in December. Previously I estimated height by hanging a tape measure off a stick held up to the height of the trees, but (as seen in the video!) in June I took my bespoke measuring stick, fashioned by my father in 2008 and originally used during my dissertation fieldwork! Heights are approximate to the nearest 0.1 m and circumferences are approximate to the nearest centimetre.

Grey alder Height (m)
Oct 2012
Height (m)
Jun 2013
Increase (m)
No. 1 3.1 3.3 0.2
No. 2 3.5 3.6 0.1
No. 3 3.6 3.6 0
Grey alder Stem circ. at base (cm)
Oct 2012
Stem circ. at base (cm)
Jun 2013
Increase (cm)
No. 1 15 14 -1*
No. 2 18 18 0
No. 3 18 19 1
Grey alder Stem circ. at 1.5 m (cm)
Oct 2012
Stem circ. at 1.5 m (cm)
Jun 2013
Increase (cm)
No. 1 7 8 1
No. 2 9 10 1
No. 3 9 10 1

* This only goes to show the potential errors hidden in these measurements!

And here is the base of alder No. 1. It has a much more slender stem than Nos. 2 and 3 and still shows severe wounding caused by grazing sheep. The tree seems to be struggling to compartmentalise this damage by growing ‘wound’ wood.

In stark contrast, the base of alder No. 2 is in pristine condition!

The base of No. 3 still shows sign of sheep damage but the wounds are rapidly being covered over with new wood and should hopefully be undetectable in a few years.


* * * * *

Coming soon: behind the scenes on the Treeblog shoot!


Posted in The treeblog trees





PSAUS defoliated by lesser willow sawfly (Nematus pavidus) larvae

It’s only the middle of July but the PSAUS, a willow (Salix) has already lost most of its leaves…

Nope, autumn hasn’t come early. It has been munched to destruction by these hungry fellas: lesser willow sawfly (Nematus pavidus) larvae.

I recognised them straightaway as sawfly larvae, rather than caterpillars, after the Set A grey alders played host a similar species a few years ago.

This photograph shows a birch sawfly aka hazel sawfly (Croesus septentrionalis) larva on grey alder No. 3 in October 2009...

…and on the same day I took this photograph of an alder sawfly (Eriocampa ovata) larva on grey alder No. 2.

Little wonder the PSAUS has been almost entirely defoliated – there are dozens and dozens of larvae! I’ve decided to leave them to do what they do best, and wait and see whether or not the PSAUS can weather the storm.

In this photo the second-right larva is caught in a classic pose while the furthest-right larva has an injury halfway along its body.


Posted in Pests and diseases + The treeblog trees





treeblog update: the Set A Scots pines, the PSAUS, & the Set D(b) beeches (May/June 2012)

Get set for the latest update on the development of the two Set A Scots pines, the post-Set A unknown seedling (PSAUS), and the two Set D(b) European beeches! In the intervening two-and-a-half months since the previous Set A update, Scots pine Alpha has produced 2012’s candles, Scots pine Gamma has been struck by pests, and the PSAUS has come fully into leaf. The last Set D(b) update was in October 2011; since then the two beeches have lost their last autumn leaves and regrown a whole new set.

I photographed the Scots pines and the PSAUS on Sunday (Day 1901, or just over five years and two months since I planted the Set A trees as seeds). I photographed the two beeches a fortnight earlier on the 29th of May (Day 972, or two years and eight months since I planted the Set D(b) beeches as nuts).

Behold ye fine Scots pine Alpha with this season’s growth so far strikingly manifested as candles sprouting from the tip of every branch. You may perhaps have noticed a skinny foxglove growing through the tree to the right of the stem; this is a self-set which I do not have the heart to pull up. (The tent in the background was there to dry out, having just got back from walking the Rob Roy Way!)

A close-up view from the candles at the very top of my pine. The candles will get even longer and then sprout needles, transforming into ordinary branches.

A close-up of a branch rosette on the sturdy main stem.

Scots pine Gamma, sadly looking nowhere near as perky as Alpha. The candles are barely grown! Why?

This is why – Gamma is under attack from a pest, perhaps some kind of aphid. The poor tree is infested with these tiny, dark grey insects and they are definitely having an adverse effect.

The PSAUS is looking slender but healthy.

PSAUS detail.

Beech Alpha looks great with its fresh, new leaves!

Beech Beta looks lovely too. I can’t wait to see how these two develop this year!


Posted in The treeblog trees





treeblog update: the Set C(r) rowans (May 2012)

I’ve left it a stupidly long time since the last one, but here’s the latest update on all thirteen Set C(r) rowans (excluding the tricots, which I haven’t shown on treeblog in an even looonger time, but which will make an appearance soon). I took the photos on Tuesday – Day 1113 – just over three years since I planted the rowans as seeds. The last update was in May of last year on Day 720.

There are four ‘U’s, which are the offspring of a tree that grew near Upper Midhope, and nine ‘W’s. which are the offpring of a tree that still grows on Whitwell Moor. On the whole, the Ws are doing far better, but the tallest Set C(r) rowan is a U.

U2 – Tiny. Along with U7, this seedling has the same mildew-type affliction that affected the majority of the Set C(r) rowans last year.

U5 – healthy but tiny.

U7 – tiny and suffering from the mildew-type disease.

U14 – the tallest tree in the set, measuring a whopping 67 cm tall.

W2 – another tall one.

W6 – kind of average.

W7 – I think the the two little branches sprouting from near the base have died.

W11 – another tall one, with a suppressed second stem.

W12 – a little smaller than average.

W15 – pleasing to look at.

W17 – has the leafiest stem.

W18 – kind of average.

W19 – doesn’t look very sturdy, and one tiny branch has a bit of that mildewy stuff, but otherwise looks healthy.


* * * * *

I also measured the heights of all thirteen rowans. They are ranked in descending order in the table below:

Tree Height (cm)
May 2012
U14 67
W2 61
W11 60
W17 53
W7 42
W15 42
W6 39
W18 37
W19 36
W12 33
U7 13
U2 11
U5 10

Posted in The treeblog trees





treeblog update: the Set C downy birches (May 2012)

Here’s a quick update on the progress of the Set C downy birches. I took the photographs this evening (Day 1160). All twelve trees are looking healthy and they’ve all come nicely into leaf.

No. 1.

No. 2.

No. 4.

No. 5.

No. 10.

No. 14.

No. 15.

No. 21.

No. 22.

No. 23.

No. 25.

No. 27.

I didn’t measure the trees this time around because they’ve not really started this year’s growth yet. To see how they looked in November, and to see a list of all their heights then, check out the last Set C downy birch update.


Posted in The treeblog trees





Set A update: grey alders & Scots pines (March 2012)

Grey alder No. 1 on Saturday.

Five years ago today, on the 28th of March 2007, I planted three kinds of seeds: grey alder (Alnus incana), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), and cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii) as treeblog’s Set A. Today, all of the cider gums are dead, but on the fifth anniversary of their planting, three grey alders and two Scots pines are alive and well. On Saturday (March 24th – Day 1823) I paid the surviving grey alders a visit.

Grey alder No. 1 looks rather spindly and the sheep damage at the base of the stem is still nasty. Ne’ertheless, it still lives and what’s more…

…there are catkins! Only one clump, but No. 1 actually has catkins and it’s only five years old! The yellowish part is the top of a male catkin (not sure where the rest is); the fuzzy, reddish (out-of-focus) parts are the female flowers, which will develop into woody seed-bearing ‘cones’. I do not know if grey alders are able to self-pollinate; if not then it is extremely unlikely to produce fertile seed.

Grey alder No. 2: the best of the bunch, despite being the worst performer for a long time. No. 2 and No. 3 grow close together, while No. 1 (and the dead No. 4) are at a different location.

No. 2 and the late afternoon sun.

Grey alder No. 3. While not quite as strong as No. 2, it is far sturdier than No. 1.

The stem could hardly be called spindly, and good progress is being made in sealing the old sheep grazing wounds.

No. 3 was the most advanced of the three in terms of bud-burst or flushing. Lots of the buds were already showing green, with tiny leaves just starting to unfurl from some.

No. 3 from a different angle.

My last visit to the alders was in September. While they have now been in the wild since April 2010, the Scots pines remain in our garden for the time being. I took their picture yesterday (Day 1826):

Scots pine Alpha. It can’t be long now before its buds begin stretching out into candles.

Scots pine Gamma.

And finally, even though I didn’t plant it (it’s a self-set), here’s honorary Set A member PSAUS - some kind of willow, perhaps a goat willow (Salix caprea).


Posted in The treeblog trees





treeblog update: the Set C downy birches (November 2011)

Downy birch No. 1: too branchy!

This is the first update of the Set C downy birches (Betula pubescens) since May! There are now twelve Set C birches altogether: Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 14, 15, 21, 22, 23, 25 & 27; No. 13 has unluckily died since May. I took the photos this afternoon – 970 days or 2 years & 8 months since I planted them all as seeds.

Downy birch No. 2: lovely form and the tallest of the lot at 47 cm.

No. 4: almost-straight stem (apart from that one kink).

No. 5: the second shortest at 22 cm tall.

No. 10: super-straight stem.

No. 14: average.

No. 15: nice, straight stem and the second tallest at 43 cm.

No. 21: doesn’t want to let go of those leaves.

No. 22: nice, straight stem with a strangely disproportionate branch.

No. 23: decent stem above the kink.

No. 25: the runt of the litter; very poor form and by far the shortest at 6 cm tall.

No. 27 – good stem.


* * * * *

The table below displays the approximate heights of all twelve surviving downy birches ranked in descending order. The measurements were made last Sunday – the 30th of October.

Birch No. Height (cm)
Oct 30, 2011
2 47
15 43
4 41
10 38
21 32
22 32
1 27
14 24
27 24
23 23
5 22
25 6


* * * * *

The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees initiative

The Nature Conservancy is raising money to restore a million acres of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil by planting a billion trees by 2015. The initiative is very close to passing the 10 million mark. If you’d like to make a donation, one dollar will see one tree planted. To find out more and donate, visit plantabillion.org


Posted in The treeblog trees





treeblog update: the Set A Scots pines; PSAUS; the Set D beeches (October 2011)

Scots pine Alpha.

For the first time since April (!), here’s an update on the progress of the two Set A Scots pines; I took the photos yesterday, 1,677 days or 4 years & 7 months since I planted them as seeds.

Scots pine Gamma.

Well aren’t they both doing well? Absolutely spiffingly, even if I do say so myself.

A closer look at the centrepiece of S.p. Alpha’s highest branch whorl. All of this has grown this year. One whorl a year with Scots pine saplings!

Here’s something novel for you: a bird’s eye view of Scots pine Alpha…

…and Scots pine Gamma. The size difference is just as apparent from above.

The PSAUS. It doesn’t look very healthy here, but that’s because autumn has removed most of its leaves. Its actually doing rather well, but could do with a bigger pot as a matter of some urgency.

The two Set D(b) European beeches are also making their first appearance since April. I planted these as nuts 760 days or 2 years & 1 month ago.

Beech Alpha. This seedling is the offspring of a cut- or fern-leaved beech (Fagus sylvatica var. Aspleniifolia) but it appears not to have inherited the cut-leaf characteristic. Booo!

Beech Beta. This seedling is the offspring of a normal European beech – as you can see it is identical to its nurserymate. Its mother is a fine specimen of a beech – a ‘plus tree’ – so I have high hopes for this fella.


* * * * *

Now for some quantification... The following table shows the approximate heights in centimetres for all five trees, measured yesterday. The heights of the Scots pines and PSAUS as recorded on the 19th of August 2009 are also included, along with respective height growth in the intervening period (expressed as percentages).

Tree Height
Aug 2009
Height
Oct 2011
Height Increase
Scots pine Alpha 50 108 116%
Scots pine Gamma 30 73 143%
PSAUS 33 71 115%
European beech Alpha - 20 -
European beech Beta - 27 -

Posted in The treeblog trees





Set A grey alders update (April & September 2011)

Grey alder No. 1 last week.

On Thursday I visited the grey alders (Alnus incana) with my father (Day 1646 – 4 years, 6 months since I planted them as seeds). The weather was the epitome of perfection. This autumn heatwave / Indian summer we are having is incredible. All three surviving alders are doing well, and I’d say that Nos. 2 & 3 are actually thriving despite their past hardships.

No. 1 again from a different angle, showing how leant over it has become in its exposed location. Taking account of the lean it is now 2.5 metres tall but the full length of the tree from base to tip is 3.3 m. No new sheep damage, but the stem is an ugly, scaly mess to 85 cm from the ground thanks to past injuries.

Here’s No. 1 back on the 27th of April (Day 1491 – 4 years, 1 month since planting). Apparently I never put the photos from that visit on Treeblog and I’m not sure why. Back then it was just coming into leaf and retained a more upright posture.

Here’s a look at some of that sheep damage to the lower stem. Nasty.

This is grey alder No. 2 on Thursday, looking shorter than it really is because of the bracken. I reckon it’s the best of the three at the moment, which is quite a departure from the early days when No. 2 was always the smallest. (No. 4 was always the biggest, R.I.P.)

No new sheep damage; excellent condition.

No. 2 in April, before this year’s crop of bracken had grown up.

There had been a little bit of fresh sheep damage in April, but I don’t think there’s been any since.

Grey alder No. 3 last week. It sure has put on a lot of crown growth since my last visit, when it had just suffered a catastrophe – the top had broken out!

A new leader is now growing from 2 inches below the stump.

No. 3 in April. The top must have broken only just before my visit, but I have no idea how it could have happened. Surely wind wouldn’t have been able to snap the top of a supple little sapling, but a couple of pieces of bracken hanging from its branches maybe do point to a powerful wind. Bizarre.

What a shame.

Now then you lot, I’ve prepared thee a treat of three tables containing height and girth measurements of the three alders collected on various visits. The trees were planted out at the beginning of April 2010, so the first height measurements were made when they were still in the back garden. These figures are not super-accurate, but we do our best!

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3
28/03/10 2.07 1.59 1.90
25/09/10 2.80 2.50 2.75
11/02/11 - 2.45 2.75
13/03/11 2.70 - -
29/09/11 2.50 3.05 2.75

Table 1. The approximate heights of grey alders Nos. 1, 2 & 3 in metres.

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3
20/06/10 4.0 2.0 4.0
25/09/10 5.0 4.5 5.5
11/02/11 - 5.0 6.0
13/03/11 5.0 - -
29/09/11 6.0 7.0 7.0

Table 2. The approximate girths at breast height of grey alders Nos. 1, 2 & 3 in centimetres.

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3
20/06/10 9.0 9.0 9.5
25/09/10 9.5 11.0 11.5
11/02/11 - 10.5 12.0
13/03/11 9.5 - -
29/09/11 11.5 13.0 14.0

Table 3. The approximate girths at ground level of grey alders Nos. 1, 2 & 3 in centimetres.


Posted in The treeblog trees





treeblog update: the Set C(r) rowans (Day 720)

’Upper Midhope’ rowans No. 2 (approx. 11 cm tall) & No. 5 (the shortest of the set at 7 cm).

It’s been a looong time since the Set C(r) rowans featured in a treeblog update. Since that time, the size of the set has been significantly reduced by the loss of identifying flags (read about it in the census). Here are the current lot, before I beef up the numbers by dipping into the reserves.

All of the rowans are suffering from some kind of disease – mildew? – to a varying extent, which has formed a white powder on their leaves. The two rowans in the photo above have it the worst (U2 & U5). W2 & W18 are also badly affected. So far it doesn’t appear to be having much of an impact on the overall health of the seedlings.

These photos were taken on the 2nd of May (Day 720); the height measurements were taken today (Day 738).

’Upper Midhope’ rowan No. 7 (12 cm).

’Upper Midhope’ rowan No. 14 (51 cm) & ‘Whitwell Moor’ rowan No. 2 (44 cm).

‘Whitwell Moor’ rowans No. 6 (33 cm) & No. 7 (36 cm).

‘Whitwell Moor’ rowans No. 11 (the tallest of the set at 52 cm) & No. 12 (26 cm – has had its top bitten off since this photo was taken).

‘Whitwell Moor’ rowans No. 15 (37 cm) & No. 17 (46 cm).

‘Whitwell Moor’ rowans No. 18 (34 cm) & No. 19 (22 cm).


* * * * *

Sometime last week downy birch No. 13 from Set C was uprooted, probably by one of the grey squirrels that frequent our garden. I’m pretty sure it’s a goner.


Posted in The treeblog trees





treeblog update: the Set C downy birches (Part Two)

Downy birch No. 21.

This post continues from Part One, which featured the other eight downy birches. All photos were taken on Monday (May 2nd) (Day 782).

Downy birch No. 22 – forking?

Downy birch No. 23 – very small.

Downy birch No. 25 – not looking good at all. Last August it had two main stems, but one has died and fallen off.

Downy birch No. 27.

The next two trees – Nos. 16 & 30 – are, I believe, dead. A couple of weeks ago when I carried out the treeblog census I hoped that they were just late flushing, as the buds looked to be OK – but I was mistaken. I don’t think they made it through the winter. Set C is down to thirteen downy birches.

Downy birch No. 16 – funnily enough, I thought this one had died last year (winter 2009/2010) but I turned out to be wrong. I hope I’m wrong for a second time!

Downy birch No. 30, deceased.


Posted in The treeblog trees





treeblog update: the Set C downy birches (Part One)

Downy birch No. 1 – looking grand!

Here we go with the first look at the Set C downy birches since mid-August 2010 (Day 522). In this two-part treeblog update you can see for yourself how well each of the wee fellas are getting on. Thirteen remain alive – and two are recently deceased. I took the photos on Monday (May 2nd), 782 days after I planted them all as seeds. As you can see, some are doing better than others…

Downy birch No. 2.

Downy birch No. 4.

Downy birch No. 5 – very small.

Downy birch No. 10.

Downy birch No. 13.

Downy birch No. 14.

Downy birch No. 15 – it’s put on a lot of new growth already this spring!


* * * * *

The rest of the downy birches will follow in Part Two (to be posted on Saturday.) This post and the next one are ‘pre-written’ and will ‘upload automatically’ because I’m off to France for a week – so I won’t be able to respond to emails or moderate comments until the 10th!


Posted in The treeblog trees





treeblog update: Set A Scots pines & cider gum; PSAUS; Set D(b) beeches

As a follow-up to Saturday’s treeblog census, here’s an update on the two Set A Scots pines, the sole remaining Set A cider gum, the PSAUS, and the two Set D(b) European beeches. I took the photos yesterday (Set A Day 1,483 / Set D(b) Day 566).

Scots pine Alpha, tied to a cane for straightening treatment. Last seen (along with SP Gamma, PSAUS & the beeches) on treeblog last June looking decidedly smaller. It’s now gearing up for this year’s growth spurt…

Behold! - new candles on the top of Alpha. They will develop into the third whorl of branches.

Scots pine Gamma. Only half the size of Alpha, but still looking good.

Cider gum No. 14 (last seen on treeblog in May, looking much better) – the only cider gum to survive the harsh winter of 2010/2011. It isn’t in good shape.

The top of No. 14 is the only part with any vitality. New growth has been put on here already this year.

The PSAUS a.ka. the post-Set A unknown seedling a.k.a. the post-Set A willow. I think it’s probably a goat willow.

Admire those tender, young, willowy leaves.

treeblog’s only cut- or fern-leaved beech* a.k.a. the Alpha beech [*may just be an ordinary old European beech]. Still bare, but beech is always one of the last trees into leaf along with ash and oak. Those buds surely can’t be far from bursting now.

The Beta beech a.k.a. the only beech that grew from the nuts I collected at Wigtwizzle in 2009. Definitely just an ordinary European beech, but it has one hell of a parent!

And look - its cotyledons are still attached!


Posted in The treeblog trees





treeblog census: April 2011

I’m afraid I have been rather lax of late in sticking to this blog’s original purpose of charting the development of the treeblog trees. There have been some pretty important developments over the winter, yet I’ve hardly mentioned a thing. I badly needed to turn over a new leaf, so I have carried out a full census of the trees to provide a snapshot overview of the treeblog population as it is today. It may send you to sleep. Here goes :

Set A
Set A was planted on the 28th of March 2007 (1,480 days ago)

The two Scots pines (Alpha & Gamma) are alive and well. They last appeared in an update in June. (Nearly a whole year ago?? Can that be right??)

Of the four grey alders, No. 4 is now dead but Nos. 1, 2 & 3 were alive the last time I saw them (I last visited Nos. 1 & 4 on the 12th of March and Nos. 2 & 3 on the 12th of February). They last appeared in an update last month.

In the last cider gum update (in May 2010!!), Nos. 1 & 15 were reported dead, but Nos. 2 – 14 were all alive. Alas, after the very harsh winter of 2010/2011, only one cider gum now remains alive: No. 14. Terrible news!

post-Set A willow

The PSAUS is alive and coming nicely into leaf.

Set C
Set C was planted on the 11th of March 2009 (766 days ago)

Fifteen of the downy birches are alive and coming into leaf: Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 25, 27 & 30. Since the last update in August, No. 28 has gone missing from its pot (possibly squirrel-related).

Set C(r)
Set C(r) was planted/replanted on the 12th of May 2009 (704 days ago)

I’ve cocked up big-time with the Set C(r) rowans. At the end of June I planted the nineteen ‘Whitwell Moor’ seedlings (Nos. W1 – W15 & W17 – W20) and twenty ‘Upper Midhope’ seedlings (Nos. U1 – U20) out in individual pots. Each seedling was identified with a little flag made out of sellotape and a cocktail stick. Disastrously, during the winter many of the cocktails sticks have rotted through and these flags have blown away. Which means I have a large number of seedlings that could have come from either the Whitwell Moor rowan or the Upper Midhope rowan. Which kind of defeats the object. I think these identity-less rowans will have to be released from under the treeblog umbrella. The remaining identifiable Set C(r) rowans are Nos. W2, W6, W7, W11, W12, W14, W15, W17, W18, W19, U2, U5, U7 & U14: ten Whitwell Moors and four Upper Midhopes. Doh! I think the Upper Midhope population will have to be topped up from the reserves still in the seed tray.

Also - the five Whitwell Moor tricot rowans (Nos. WT1 – WT5) are all alive, but they are still in the plug tray. They need putting in pots.

The Whitwell Moor rowans last appeared in an update in September; the Upper Midhope rowans appeared in a separate update at the same time. The tricots haven’t appeared in an update since May!

Set D(b)
Set D(b) was planted on the 30th of September 2009 (563 days ago)

Both the single normal beech and the single cut- or fern-leaved beech remain alive and well. They last appeared in an update in June.

Set D(r)
Set D(r) was planted/replanted on the 11th of April 2010 (371 days ago)

In the last update in May, there were nine Oaken Clough rowan seedlings (O1 – O9) and seven Whitwell Moor rowan seedlings (W1 – W7). Today all nine Oaken Clough seedlings are alive, but two of the Whitwell Moor seedlings have died (W3 & W4). There are plenty of reserves still in the seed trays, so these populations can be topped up.


* * * * *

OK… I think I’ve cleared all that up as best I can. Here’s a quick summary of what is currently alive and accounted for in the treeblog stables then: 3 grey alders (Alnus incana); 2 Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris); 1 cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii); 15 downy birches (Betula pubescens); 33 rowans (Sorbus aucuparia); & 2 European beeches (Fagus sylvatica)… which gives a grand total of 56 trees spread over 6 different species. [Plus the honorary treeblog tree, the PSAUS, which is a willow - possibly a goat willow (Salix caprea).]

This number will be bumped up when I draw on the rowan reserves, but as you may have noticed I haven’t planted a Set E this year. Maybe next year? Right now I’m going to try and photograph all of these trees and bring the series of updates bang up to date. It’s about time!


Posted in The treeblog trees





Set A grey alders update (Feb/March 2011)

I recently made a couple of trips with my father to the four grey alders (Alnus incana) in treeblog’s Set A. We visited Nos. 2 & 3 four weeks ago on the 12th of February (Day 1417) and Nos. 1 & 4 yesterday, the 12th of March (Day 1445). (I last visited them in September.)

Grey alder No. 1 on a gloomy, overcast Saturday afternoon.

It’s buds aren’t yet showing any signs of opening.

Here’s the base of No. 1’s trunk with its herbivore-inflicted wounds. I’m very worried by the absence of callus wood around these. The tree had most of last summer to start sealing these wounds – Nos. 2 & 3 have made good progress, so why hasn’t No. 1?

At a different time and location, here’s grey alder No. 2.

Here’s an old wound and the associated callus wood.

Again no sign of flushing, but this photo is a month old now.

Just a stone’s throw away stands grey alder No. 3: the best of the alders at present.

More callus wood growing around the sheep damage to its stem. This is what No. 1’s stem should be looking like.

And lastly, grey alder No. 4 (close to No. 1). I feared this would happen - grey alder No. 4 is dead.

As you can see, the bark is easily detached from the stem.

I’m really sad that No. 4 has died. For a few years this tree was much bigger than the other three alders. I fully expected it to grow into a superb tree and was looking forward to seeing it reach maturity. What a shame its life has come to a premature end.

This was No. 4 in better days, back in August 2009.

I planted all four of these alders as seeds on the 28th of March 2007 (the seeds I collected myself a few weeks earlier). I planted Nos. 2 & 3 out in the wild on the 2nd of April 2010; Nos. 1 & 4 were planted out a fortnight later on the 14th. The fourth and first anniversaries respectively of these dates are approaching but grey alder No. 4 won’t be around to witness them, and that’s a real shame.


Posted in The treeblog trees





Set A grey alders update (Day 1277)

I went to check on the progress of the Set A grey alders yesterday with my father. Five months have passed since we planted them out in the wild and three and a half years have gone by since I planted them as seeds in my back garden in March 2007. How they have grown (time flies).

Here’s grey alder No. 1 looking grand yesterday. Compare this with how it looked three months ago in the photo below (taken from the last update).

Grey alder No. 1 on the 20th of June (Day 1180).

Since then No. 1 has grown taller and leafier. It was (very roughly) 2.4 m tall at the end of June but yesterday it measured approximately 2.8 m. In June its main stem had a basal circumference (C1) of 9 cm and a circumference at breast height (C2) of 4 cm; yesterday it measured 9.5 cm at C1 and 5 cm at C2.

Unfortunately the lower part of No. 1’s stem has been heavily damaged by browsing sheep. The damage is pretty nasty and the tree doesn’t seem to be making any headway in sealing the wounds.

On my last visit in June, No. 1’s main stem had started to fork near the top, so I pruned off one of the co-dominant stems to force the tree into staying as a single-stemmer. Here’s the tiny pruning wound and the nice, straight stem three months on. Success!

Here’s alder No. 2 yesterday…

…and on the 20th of June.

Quite a difference, eh? It had barely any leaves back in June and the tip of its leader had just died. Then it was only about 1.8 m tall; yesterday we measured it as approx. 2.5 m – quite an improvement. On the 20th of June it measured up as C1 = 9 cm, C2 = 2 cm; it now has C1 = 11 cm, C2 = 4.5 cm.

Grey alder No. 3 yesterday.

No. 3 on the 20th of June.

This one has also markedly improved. Three months ago No. 3 was a scraggly mess but today it is a fine specimen of a sapling. I’d say it is now the best of the bunch. In June it was roughly 2.1–2.4 m tall; yesterday it stood at approx. 2.8 m. June’s stem measurements were C1 = 9.5 cm, C2 = 4 cm; yesterday’s were C1 = 11.5 cm, C2 = 5.5 cm.

The horrible gnawing damage inflicted on the lower stem is ‘healing’ nicely, although it doesn’t look pretty. The growth of the fourth wall of CODIT* - the new growth that grows around the wounds and will eventually seal them – is quite pronounced, something worryingly absent from alder No. 1’s stem damage.

CODIT stands for Compartmentalisation of Decay in Trees, a theory developed by the late, great Alex Shigo to explain how trees react to injury by compartmentalising areas of infection. It’s a fascinating subject, but it’d be one hell of a digression!

Looking up at the top of No. 3.

Grey alder No. 4 yesterday: all that remains is a battered stick without even a single leaf. Once the greatest of all the treeblog trees, it has been eaten almost to nothing by sheep. What a fall from grace!

Even back in June it had taken a complete battering and was already leafless, as this photo attests. Thank-you, sheep. Then it was approx. 1.8 m tall, but today it has been cut down to just 1.35 m.

But even in this pathetic state, No. 4’s stem is still green. It is still alive. There may still be a chance. On my next visit - maybe a couple of months away? - I’m going to dig it up and move it somewhere, perhaps to a ledge on a cliff face away from the sheep. There may still be some hope. I hope.


* * * * *

In other news, I repotted the two Set A Scots pines this afternoon.


Posted in The treeblog trees





treeblog update (Set C(r), Day 479): the Upper Midhope rowans

’Upper Midhope’ rowans Nos. 1 to 4.

As I said in the last post, I planted the Set C(r) Whitwell Moor rowans in individual pots at the end of June. Unfortunately I never got around to planting their peers, the Set C(r) Upper Midhope rowans, until the 30th of August – two months later. This means that the Whitwell Moor (W) rowans have a massive advantage over their Upper Midhope (U) buddies. I mean, there’s a big difference in size. But while this sucks for the U rowans, it’ll be interesting to see how quickly they catch up to the W rowans.

Photos taken on the 3rd of September – Day 479. The last treeblog update for the Set C(r) rowans was back in mid-May: Day 369.

U rowans Nos. 5 to 8.

U rowans Nos. 9 to 12.

U rowans Nos. 13 to 16.

U rowans Nos. 17 to 20.


Posted in The treeblog trees





treeblog update (Set C(r), Day 479): the Whitwell Moor rowans

’Whitwell Moor’ rowan No. 1.

I’m afraid it’s been almost four months since the Set C(r) rowans were last seen on treeblog, which is too long an absence for these fantastic seedlings. The speed with which the Whitwell Moor (W) rowans have grown since I planted them out in individual pots on the 26th of June is really quite amazing.

I took the majority of these photos a couple of Fridays ago on the 3rd of September – Day 479 – but three of the photos turned out blurry so I retook them yesterday – Day 486. Rowan No. 16 unfortunately disappeared within a few weeks of being planted out, so only nineteen WM rowans now remain in Set C(r).

W rowans Nos. 2 and 3.

W rowans Nos. 4 and 5.

W rowans Nos. 6 and 7.

W rowans Nos. 8 and 9.

W rowans Nos. 10 and 11.

W rowans Nos. 12 and 13.

W rowans Nos. 14 and 15.

W rowans Nos. 17 and 18.

W rowans Nos. 19 and 20.


Posted in The treeblog trees





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