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February 2011

Festival of the Trees 56

Welcome to the Fifty-Sixth Edition of the Festival of the Trees! You’ve come here because we share a common interest in trees, you and I. Yet how we each think of trees – how we see them – is something unique to us as individuals.

In the main, I have an interest in the ecology of trees tempered with a deep appreciation of their aesthetics, be the trees stand-alone subjects or included within their context of habitats and ecosystems and landscapes. So I like reading facts and taking photographs. I know that some people are of a spiritual nature, and their interests in trees lie chiefly in this vein. Others are more artistic, and express their interest through drawings and paintings, or for the literary-minded, poems and stories. You get the idea. Everyone does trees differently, and each month when I browse through the Festival of the Trees I get to see trees as other people see them. That must be a good thing.

For this edition of the Festival I have organised every submission as best I could into five broad categories: poetry & stories; conservation & environmental science; enjoyment & learning; spirituality; and visual arts. I hoped it might bring some order to the presentation of twenty-odd quite disparate and wide-ranging submissions. This was obviously a subjective exercise, so I hope you won’t be upset if you disagree with how I have categorised your submission! Anyhoo, let the festivities begin!

Poetry & stories

There are two poems to Festival 56. In his poem Fall at Highbanks, Steve Meador evokes pleasant autumnal scenes. Conversely, the protagonist in Charlie Hughes’ poem Ash to Ash sees only death in the fall as all around his workshop trees are ravaged by the emerald ash borer.

Dorothee of virtualnotes responds to the question ‘What do trees do at midnight?’ with an image, Nightwood, coupled with a curiously-punctuated short story, H.owl. The protagonist of Stella Pierides’ short story, The bird’s eye view, who we witness clinging to a eucalyptus tree for dear life in a flood, finds relief from her ordeal in the form of a bird. Stella also shares a photograph of a recumbent tree trunk that dreams of a more aquatic existence.

Inspired by the art of Carianne Mack Garside, Susan of . Spinning . is writing a short story for every day of the year. No. 21 (scroll down for it) - Finding New Patterns - tells of patterns that emerge from the black-and-white world of snow-covered trees dancing at night.

Conservation & environmental science

Tracy McVeigh, writing in the The Observer, tells of a new and disturbing twist in the ongoing story of sudden oak death. When the disease arrived in the UK a decade ago, scientists feared devastation amongst our native oak population (a different strain has killed millions of oaks in California). Thankfully the outbreak never lived up to the hype, but last year the disease began to rapidly infect and kill larch trees – now the race is on to stop it.

Writing at Peaceful Societies, Bruce Bonta details how the local forest wildlife and the indigenous people, the Kadar, of the Anamalai Hills in India have been affected by major developments in the past year, including the establishment of two new tiger reserves in which the Kadar have become actively involved.

I strongly believe in the importance of having plenty of trees growing in urban areas, and I know that Jacqueline of Saving Our Trees shares this view. She contributes a comprehensive article on various computer modelling systems and how they can be used to ‘calculate the value of a single tree or the value of the trees across a whole city’ – where the value may be a cash figure or something like the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered – and how these software tools are leading to trees getting recognition from local government as being more valuable than they previously realised.

At My French Forest, Michael has produced an extensive article on the endangered old-growth forests of Canada’s Pacific Coast and the fight to save them. The Government of British Columbia argues that the forests aren’t endangered, but a century and a half of continuous logging has exacted a heavy toll.

In the second Wide World of Trees Video Podcast, Gene Basler of The Wide World of Trees speaks generally on the subjects of tree activism and tree ownership, around the example of a dam authority clearing a field of trees in a Los Angeles suburb to provide storage space for sludge.

Enjoyment & learning

Rebecca of A Year With the Trees tells how she patiently learnt to identify the black cherry in winter, starting with the beautiful flowers that blossom in the springtime. Meanwhile, Laura has been hunting the black poplar. She has written a fine article regarding the tree at Patiopatch that takes in a visit to a solitary specimen in London’s Russell Square. A native of Britain and Ireland, the black poplar is also one of our rarest trees and the remaining population is sadly threatened by interbreeding with imported poplar species.

At yourfireant’s posterous Teresa shares a gallery of photos of trees in her town. Muddy Mark of Oxygen Grows On Trees revisits the first plantation he planted after joining Millson Forestry Service in 1999 to take a ‘cookie’.

Jarrett provides a study of Angophora costata (a close relative of Eucalyptus) at Creature of the Shade and captures the spectacle of their shedding of bark – ‘as though preparing [their] own pyre’. Half a world away, Rebecca of Rebecca in the Woods profiles the Hercules’ club or toothache tree and ponders the origin of its spines.

Reading about an old weeping beech got Elidad of Tree Care Tips thinking: ‘How often [do] we consider trees to have “history”? …how many of us have that special tree that we hold on to with fond nostalgia?’ JSK of Anybody Seen My Focus? shows us a well-established pond that she came across, held back behind an impressive beaver dam – one of the tallest she has seen.

At Into My Own, Kitty has had her camera out in the woods just after the rain – ‘the droplets drip off the branches like jewels.’ Silvia of Windywillow has a whole series of photos recording the heavy frosts that cloaked the trees around her home. A separate series is devoted to her flowering witch hazel and its expanding coat of jagged crystals – ‘such a happy tree in the middle of winter!’ Frosty days indeed.

Joy, who lives in The Little House in the Not-So-Big Woods, takes us up close and personal with a tree that looks suspiciously like it’s trying to get up and crawl away. It’ll struggle to move anywhere though with that massive taproot!


Only one! At Writings from Wild Soul, Wrensong tells how she has been thinking of the trees, ‘listening down into the roots, into the winter dreams of the Rooted Ones, remembering dreams of the Great Tree, the One Tree…’

Visual arts

Jasmine of Natures Whispers, inspired by contributions to the previous Festival of the Trees (hosted by Jasmine), has ‘wrapped’ some of the trees in her back garden – ‘It will be interesting to see how the passing seasons will decorate these cottons.’ In a separate post (which includes a link to some impressive ‘tree shaping’ art), Jasmine tells of how one submission regarding a collaborative project to construct a willow yurt has sent her imagination running wild!

Ester Wilson of Daily Drawings shares a sketch she made at the park of a bizarre scene unfolding beneath the trees. Over at Loose and Leafy, Lucy is reminded of an unorthodox portrait of the Prince of Wales by her photographs of silhouettes in the hedgerow – and describing the impression the painting made, she wonders if it has influenced her style of photography.

* * * * *

There we go. Thank-you for visiting – I hope you’ve found something of interest to you here. I’d also like to thank all who contributed to this edition of the Festival of the Trees, and I thank Dave, Pablo and Jade for allowing me to host the Festival for a third time.

The next edition of the Festival – No. 57, the March 2011 edition – will hosted by Rebecca of Rebecca in the Woods. Please send all your submissions to rebecca [dot] deatsman [at] gmail [dot] com. The theme is open; the deadline is the 27th of February.

It’s been emotional!

Posted in Miscellany

Velvet shank fungi (Flammulina velutipes) on a horse chestnut destroyed by bleeding canker

This post is all about the fungi growing on a horse chestnut tree (Aesculus hippocastanum) with bleeding canker in the Ewden valley. In a previous post all about different fungi growing on a horse chestnut tree with bleeding canker in the Ewden valley, I wrote “…a road running along the northern shore of More Hall Reservoir is lined predominantly by horse chestnut and cherry trees. Virtually every single horse chestnut on this mile-long stretch is in a … bad way, and I am quite sure that bleeding canker is the cause. I think I’ll have much to say on this in future posts!” Well, here’s a start.

First let me introduce you to the tree. It’s in catastrophically bad condition; it has a serious bleeding canker infection and, as apparent from this massive wound, half the tree has broken off sometime last year.

The remainder of the tree is covered in extensive bark cracks symptomatic of bleeding canker. I can’t imagine it being long before the large branch heading out to the right in this photograph breaks off. The orange fungi you can just about make out in this photo – growing on the trunk, the branch, and in the union between the branch and the remaining upright stem – are the focus of the rest of this post.

This photo (taken a month ago on the 8th of January) shows a cluster of mushrooms that sprout from the trunk at about breast height. Here they are at a juvenile stage looking real slimy.

A fortnight later (on the 21st of January) and they’ve turned a darker shade of orange. I’ve identified them – with 99% confidence – as Flammulina velutipes - the velvet stem, velvet foot or winter mushroom (or, according to MushroomExpert.Com, the “At Least Something’s Out In January” mushroom!) It is one of only a few mushrooms around at this time of year, but F. velutipes is “only likely to fruit during warm spells, so if there is snow covering the ground you’re not likely to find it.” True enough, we’ve had no snow since Christmas.

This photo taken with the zoom shows a massive crack on the aforementioned branch and a cheeky little cluster of F. velutipes growing from the exposed dead wood.

The cluster yesterday.

Flammulina velutipes - things you should be knowing: It’s edible and tasty. It can be frozen solid and still produce spores after thawing out. It’s a common species, fruiting from October to March. It’s a saprotroph, growing on the dead wood of broadleaf species – mainly horse chestnut and elms (Ulmus).

This tree deserves your pity.

* * * * *

Next month’s FOTT will be hosted by Rebecca of Rebecca in the Woods. Once again the theme is open and the deadline this month is the 27th. You’ll find the call for the submissions at the Festival of the Trees co-ordinating blog.

Posted in Pests and diseases

Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) on a dead horse chestnut

Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) on a dead horse chestnut tree (Aesculus hippocastanum).

I’m sorry if you’re thinking “What? Another post about fungi on a horse chestnut?”, but that’s just how the dice are falling! This particular tree stands not too far from the horse chestnut in the last post, set back a little from the road that runs the length of More Hall Reservoir in the Ewden Valley. It is completely dead, and probably died a few years ago. I don’t think it was killed by bleeding canker, which probably didn’t reach these parts until after the tree had died anyway. Nowadays it’s a big chunk of standing deadwood happily rotting away under a host of hungry fungi, the most noticeable one being the oyster mushroom.

As you can see, the stem is home to a fair few clusters of them. I made a little post last year when I found some of the same on a knackered lime tree (Tilia sp.) on a street in Sheffield.

The oyster mushroom is common on dead trunks and branches of broadleaved species, also occurring rarely on conifers. It can be found throughout the year although it fruits mainly in summer and autumn. Young mushrooms are excellently edible.

This fungus was growing from the base of the tree. I think it’s Xylaria polymorpha, commonly known as dead man’s fingers.

This was also at the base of the tree, tucked between two buttresses. It looks to me like another fungus, but I’ve no idea what species it is. I’ll have to keep a look out for any developments!

Posted in Pests and diseases

Lambs’ tails & other signs of spring

Lambs’ tails - the all-male catkins of hazel (Corylus avellana). I took the photographs in this post today in the rural Ewden Valley, but I saw hazels with their catkins already fully unfurled in the middle of January in Sheffield.

This is a female flower, which will hopefully grow into a hazelnut one day. Both male and female parts are found on the same individual, i.e. hazel is a monoecious species.

This hazel growing at Carr House Meadows (a nature reserve in the care of the Sheffield Wildlife Trust) was absolutely covered with golden catkins!

I only found out about the flowers of hazel a couple of years ago, but I now know them as a most welcome sign of approaching spring. How could I ever have missed them?

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) buds are almost ready to open...

…and these beech (Fagus sylvatica) buds have certainly grown in size, tiny cigars no longer.

What a display!

Hazel catkins have been out in force for a few weeks now and many of them are now past their best, turning brown and dry.

More of the female flowers. Is it just me or do they bear a slight resemblance to tiny cuttlefish?

Posted in Gone for a walk

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