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December 2007

Majesty, or the Fredville Oak (Kent, UK)

Majesty, or the Fredville Oak - an English or common oak (Quercus robur)

Source. ©

Behold the majesty of Majesty, a.k.a. the Fredville Oak, a common or English oak (Quercus robur) growing in Fredville Park, Kent. I stumbled across a photograph of this beast on the internet a few days ago, and was quite stunned. What a giant! A quick sweep of the internet supplied the following intel.

We do not know of another oak in Europe [aside from Germany's Ivenack Oak] with a volume of over 100 m3 (3531 cubic feet) except perhaps Majesty, the Fredville Oak in Kent, England (19 m /62 feet tall, CBH [circumference at breast height] 12,2 m/40 feet), the trunk of which alone contains over 80 m3 (2825 cubic feet).

Source. Text © of Eastern Native Tree Society.

In Kent, between Dover and Canterbury, the small village Nonington lies. Just to the south of the village the Estate Fredville Park can be found, home to several ancient trees. The mightiest tree of Fredville Park is Majesty, the Fredville Oak... There are six oaks in Britain wich have an even somewhat bigger girth, but these are all short-trunked pollards, whereas Majesty is a 'maiden tree' with a long trunk up to 9 m ( 30 feet) height. In total the tree is 18 m (60 feet) tall.


Till recently Majesty was quite anonymous: even in the village nearby many villagers did not know of its existence. Since Thomas Pakenham payed attention to it in his great book 'Meetings with remarkable trees' [*] it gets more visitors, even groups from Holland as well as Japan!

[* Meetings with Remarkable Trees, by Thomas Pakenham (first published 1996).]

Source - visit for some great photographs of the oak. Text © of Jeroen Philippona.

This tree is now on my 'list of champion trees I want to see in person'!

Posted in Notable trees

Marcescence (winter retention of dead leaves)

marcescent oak leaves in spring

This photo also appeared in a treeblog post from the 29th of March with the caption "These oak leaves have doggedly remained on the tree all winter, but for how much longer can they hang on? It seems that oak and beech are always the last to lose their leaves.".

I have known for many years through personal observation that beeches and oaks often retain their withered leaves beyond autumn and sometimes all through the winter, whereas other species lose all of their leaves in autumn. Since reading this post over at Arboreality, I have been able to give a name to this phenomenon: marcescence.

Deciduous trees shed their leaves in autumn by the process of abscission. The Oxford Dictionary of Biology (fifth edition) gives the following definition:

abscission The separation of a leaf, fruit, or other part from the body of a plant. It involves the formation of an abscission zone, at the base of the part, within which a layer of cells (abscission layer) breaks down. This process is suppressed so long as sufficient amounts of auxin, a plant growth substance, flow from the part through the abscission zone. However, if the auxin flow declines, for example due to injury or aging, abscission is activated and the part becomes separated.

The following extract from a paper written by E. E. Berkley in 1931 (Botanical Gazette, Vol. 92, No. 1, pp. 85-93) explains marcescence and mentions some marcescent species (notes in square brackets are my own):

TISON observed both marcescent and deciduous leaves in Carpinus betulus [hornbeam], Fagus sylvatica [European beech], Quercus hispanica [Spanish oak], and Q. pedunculata [now Quercus robur, the common or English oak]. In the deciduous leaves the abscission layer was formed in the autumn… In the petioles of the marcescent leaves, only partially formed abscission layers were found… The marcescent leaves were abscissed the following spring…


In some instances development of the abscission layer in the autumn is arrested before it is completed, and the leaf may remain on the branch for some time after the other leaves have fallen. Leaves remaining on the trees later than January usually reveal little if any morphological evidence of the formation of an abscission layer.

Marcescent leaves, even on the same plant, do not all fall at once, but once begun, abscission proceeds rapidly and the fall is much more uniform than is the case with leaves falling in autumn. [Berkley goes on to list the order of leaf-shedding in the following marcescent oaks: Quercus coccinea (scarlet oak); Quercus velutina (black oak); Quercus marilandica (blackjack oak); Quercus rubra (northern red oak); Quercus alba (white oak).] Cursory observations were made on a few species in other genera, including Fagus grandifolia [American beech], Ostrya virginiana [American hophornbeam], and Acer saccharurn var. nigrum [black sugar maple]. The behavior of these is similar to that of the species of Quercus. The marcescent leaves of F. grandifolia remain on the branches long after the buds begin to swell, and in some instances until the new leaves have expanded. A single specimen of Acer saccharum var. nigrum was observed to retain its leaves until many of the new ones were almost fully expanded.

Posted in Miscellany

Marcescent oak leaves in Holyrood Park

I had a wee wander in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, yesterday. And guess what I saw? Some marcescent leaves, of course.

marcescent oak leaves

Marcescent oak leaves.

dead oak leaves still on the tree

These dead leaves will probably spend the whole winter attached to the tree. I'll see if I can remember to go back and check in a month or two.

completely bare oak tree

But wait! Just a stone's throw away, this oak stands completely devoid of any leaves. Why?

the two oaks - not far between them

See how close the two oaks are? Only about ten metres. The marcescent oak is ringed to help distinguish it from all that gorse. Hunter's Bog can be seen in the centre of the picture.

Posted in Miscellany

Super treeblog seedling update (Day 264): Part I

I returned home to Sheffield at the weekend and have been reunited with my babies. Yesterday (Day 264) I spent a bit of time photographing every single treeblog seedling. That was a lot of photos, so this update is split into two parts. Part I is pure cider gum goodness. So without further ado, prepare yourself for an onslaught of cider gum photographs!

cider gum Number 1

Cider gum Number 1. Showing signs of lateral branching!

cider gum Number 2

Cider gum Number 2. A fairly boring individual.

cider gum Number 3

Cider gum Number 3. It may be a freak, but it sure is an interesting freak.

cider gum Number 4

Cider gum Number 4. Lost a lot of lower leaves, this one.

cider gum Number 5

Cider gum Number 5. Another one without its lower leaves.

cider gum Number 6

Cider gum Number 6. A runt, but lacking the charm of Number 3.

cider gum Number 7

Cider gum Number 7. Now we're talking! Number 7 is one of the top cider gum performers.

cider gum Number 8

Cider gum Number 8. Distinctly average.

cider gum Number 9

Cider gum Number 9. The Top Gum.

cider gum Number 10

Cider gum Number 10. Another gum in the top range.

cider gum Number 11

Cider gum Number 11. A bit weird looking, this one.

cider gum Number 12

Cider gum Number 12. Some fine growth by this guy, but has some serious wonkiness going on.

cider gum Number 13

Cider gum Number 13. Not doing bad at all.

cider gum Number 14

Cider gum Number 14. Another one with wonkiness issues.

cider gum Number 15

Cider gum Number 15. Still small, but considering how tiny it was at the transplant stage, its grown quite well.

So there you have it. A barrage of cider gum photographs. Coming up in Part II of this super seedling update: Scots pine and common alder progress... plus two new treeblog surprises?

By the way, check out treeblog's fine new feature: photo-timelines! You can see all the photographs for each species or individual seedling in chronological order without anything else getting in the way. Enjoy!

Posted in The treeblog trees

Super treeblog seedling update (Day 264): Part II

The update continues... and so does the barrage of photos (all taken on Day 264 - Monday the 17th of December). Feast your eyes on the grey alders and Scots pines:

Alpha Scots pine

The Alpha Scots pine. C'est magnifique! Not any drastic progress, but I'm sure it's still getting bigger and better.

Gamma Scots pine

The Gamma Scots pine. Again, no noticeable growth since the last update, but still a fine specimen of a pine.

grey alder Number 1

Grey alder Number 1. The alders are the only deciduous treeblog trees, and they look pretty miserable without their leaves compared with the evergreen cider gums and Scots pines. Bring on the spring!

grey alder Number 2

Alder Number 2, the smallest of its ilk.

grey alder Number 3

Alder Number 3. Similar in size to Number 1, it has managed to retain one still-green leaf. What audacity!

grey alder Number 4

The once-magnificent alder Number 4, stripped of all its verdant splendour by cruel Autumn.

And so ends this lengthy seedling update. The Scots pines look about the same. Some of the cider gums are doing really well, and some not so much. The grey alders are mostly leafless and ready to pass the winter in stick form. Will the treeblog seedlings survive the winter? I sure hope so, but the frosts may inflict some fatalities, particularly upon the cider gums, a species not known for its frost tolerance (it being native to a much warmer clime, Australia).

One more thing. When I arrived back home after spending three and a half months in Edinburgh, I super-optimistically checked the seed trays for any seriously late newcomers to the treeblog party. And to my surprise, there are what I think could well be two new alders! It's hard to tell for sure, what with them being so small, and having only one tiny leaf between them... but fingers crossed the photo below shows alders Numbers 6 and 7!

possible new alders? - Numbers 6 & 7

Alders Numbers 6 and 7? Its certainly possible! [Update (August 2008): These aren't alders. I don't know what they are yet, so I'm calling them 'post-Set A unknown seedlings'.] Both stems can clearly be seen in the inset photo - strange how close together they are.

Posted in The treeblog trees

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