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January 2011



treeblog to host next month’s Festival of the Trees: your submissions please!

The upcoming fifty-sixth edition of the premier tree-flavoured blog carnival The Festival of the Trees will be published here at treeblog on the 1st of February. To make this edition a success I am relying on all you fine folks to submit for inclusion within the Festival almost anything appertaining to trees and their associated environments and ecosystems including but not limited to your writings, musings and jottings (factual or fictitious, scientific or spiritual), bark rubbings, photography, artwork, poetry, news pieces, songs, videos and bark rubbings. As well as your own work, feel free to send in the work of others if you’ve taken a shine to it.

Please aim your submissions at mail [at] treeblog [dot] co [dot] uk, making sure that Festival of the Trees or FOTT is contained within the header field and that the link you send is a ‘permanent’ one. The deadline is the 30th of January, so that gives you all a good three-and-a-half weeks to have those submissions flying in. There’s no theme for this edition, so don’t hold back!


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This month’s edition of the Festival is now online at Natures Whispers - go enjoy!


Posted in Miscellany





The Major Oak of Sherwood Forest

The Major Oak, Sherwood Forest. I paid a short visit on Sunday.

Although not the largest of our ancient oaks, the Major Oak is probably the most famous tree in Britain. Its fame stems from its association with the myriad legends of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. As the romantics would have it, the outlaw from Loxley variously hid from the Sheriff of Nottingham’s men inside the Major Oak’s hollow trunk or he kept his larder of venison within the tree along with his takings from the rich.

The Major Oak – an English or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) - is thought to be around eight hundred years old, but no one can be sure. Recent measurements hold the girth at ten metres (thirty-three feet), with the tree’s branches spreading over twenty-eight metres (ninety-two feet). It is a monstrously impressive tree when seen in the flesh, much larger than the massive Capon Tree that I visited just before Christmas. (And like the Capon Tree, the Major Oak was designated as one of ‘fifty Great British trees’ in celebration of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002.)

The tree’s current name is a slight alteration from “the Major’s Oak”, as it was known after being described by Major Hayman Rooke in his book on Sherwood oaks published in 1790. Before that it was known as the Cockpen Tree.

Over the last century there has been much management of the tree with a view to keeping it healthy and whole. In 1908 metal chains were installed in the crown to brace the tree. In the late 1970s large wooden poles were put in place to support the large, spreading branches; these have been replaced with thin, metal poles within the last decade. The Major Oak was fenced off from the public in 1975 to prevent the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors from compacting the soil and damaging the root system.

If a comprehensive gallery of Major Oak photographs and illustrations stretching back over a century is your thing, you could do worse than check out this page at eyemead.com.

A half-dead dotard.

There are a lot of ancient oaks around the Major, although most of them are dead or half-dead: extreme dotards. I need to go back in the summer and pay a proper visit, hopefully on a day that isn’t as overcast as Sunday was. All I could manage photo-wise was drab and colourless.


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I will be hosting next month’s edition of the Festival of the Trees. Please send your submissions to mail [at] treeblog [dot] co [dot] uk before the 30th of January, ensuring that you include Festival of the Trees or FOTT within the header. Thanks!


Posted in Notable trees





Trees from the past beneath More Hall Reservoir (Part One)

In the Ewden Valley at the turn of the twentieth century.

Once upon a time there was a pristine, wooded valley in the middle of England. Over time ancient humans cleared away most of the trees to create fields for their animals and crops. At the end of the 19th century the lower reaches of this Ewden Valley were covered with fields and not trees but it was still a beautiful and lovely place, from the top of the hills to the river flowing down in the bottom. Nearby was the city of Sheffield, growing rapidly as a consequence of the Industrial Revolution. The industries and populace of Sheffield were thirsty for water, so the Corporation embarked upon an ambitious programme of dam-building in the valleys to the north. Two reservoirs were constructed in Ewden: Broomhead and More Hall. Work started on More Hall Reservoir in 1913, but the First World War caused delays. It was officially opened in 1929.

More Hall Reservoir, winter 2010/2011.
The middle of the reservoir is covered in a thick layer of ice.

The water level in More Hall Reservoir is very low at present, and has been since at least the autumn. I walked around the reservoir on Sunday on land that would normally be completely submerged. There wasn’t a lot to see: lots of mud, a few remnants of old dry stone walls, and a few dozen old tree stumps - trees that were felled almost one hundred years ago, before the reservoir was filled. These stumps have spent the best part of a century underwater and are fairly well preserved. In many places the stumps sit alongside the old stone walls or on the now-desolate banks of the old river, where the water still flows when the reservoir is low. It was quite a sad and eerie walk alone in the drizzle, slipping on the miserable mud and stones that normally lie well below the surface of the reservoir. I tried to imagine the trees that used to grow where today only ghostly stumps remain. I tried to imagine a beautiful alder leaning out over a babbling brook that wound its way merrily through grassy fields. But all I could see was a charred-looking stump jutting from the stony earth beside a dead river.




I didn’t mistake this stump for a lobstrosity, no sir.


This tree’s root still occupies the gap it drove between these two stones (part of a kerb? part of a wall?) over a century ago.


This stump had the remains of a couple of old mushrooms beneath it. A stump spends decades submerged, but no sooner is it left high and dry then the fungi move in!

To be fair, when it’s full up More Hall Reservoir is a nice place on a sunny day. And higher up the Ewden Valley the country gets as wild as one could wish for so close to Sheffield. I love it.

This post is continued in Part Two.


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I will be hosting next month’s edition of the Festival of the Trees. Please send your submissions to mail [at] treeblog [dot] co [dot] uk before the 30th of January, ensuring that you include Festival of the Trees or FOTT within the header. Thanks!


Posted in Gone for a walk





Trees from the past beneath More Hall Reservoir (Part Two)

This post continues from Part One.








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*** I will be hosting next month’s edition of the Festival of the Trees. Please send your submissions to mail [at] treeblog [dot] co [dot] uk before the 30th of January, ensuring that you include Festival of the Trees or FOTT within the header. Thanks! ***


Posted in Gone for a walk





Bracket fungi on a horse chestnut: Daedaleopsis confragosa?

I was driving alongside Broomhead Reservoir on the third day of the new year when I spied from the corner of my little eye something beginning with B: brackets, and lots of them. I jumped out of the car and moved in for a closer look.

The tree? A horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) that clearly isn’t in rude health. It has recently shed a branch (both the scar and the detached limb are visible in the previous photograph). This may well be a consequence of the fungal infection afflicting the unfortunate tree, the visible symptoms of which consist of an impressive array of bracket fungi poking from the lower stem.

The fungi? Well I’m not certain, but I think the brackets may be the thin walled maze polypore a.k.a. the blushing bracket: Daedaleopsis confragosa. Am I right or am I wrong? If you can settle this matter for me please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or blast off an email!

Apparently D. confragosa is especially fond of willows - and these brackets look remarkably like the ones I saw on a willow at Worsbrough Reservoir at the beginning of September. Although at the time I came to a different conclusion…

”Small to medium-sized, kidney-shaped bracket, reddish brown with dirty pinkish white pores on the under-surface, annual; arranged singly or in tiers, on dead wood of broad-leaf trees, favouring willow, birch and beech.” – Jordan, M. (2004). The Encyclopedia of Fungi of Britain and Europe. Frances Lincoln.

Occurs “throughout the year, but sporulating late summer to autumn; frequent.” – Jordan’s Fungi.

Beneath the diseased horse chestnut (as well as a few D. confragosa brackets that had dropped off), I spotted a few decomposing examples of a different type of fungus. Whether these grew around the base of the trunk or were fallen brackets I know not, nor whether they were goodies or baddies from the tree’s point of view. Maybe I’ll come back to this tree later in the year and see if more have grown.


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***** I will be hosting next month’s edition of the Festival of the Trees. Please send your submissions to mail [at] treeblog [dot] co [dot] uk before the 30th of January, ensuring that you include Festival of the Trees or FOTT within the header. ONLY TEN DAYS UNTIL THE DEADLINE! *****


Posted in Pests and diseases





Daedaleopsis confragosa brackets revisited; the host tree probably has bleeding canker

In the last post I included several photos of bracket fungi on a horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), which I tentatively IDed as Daedaleopsis confragosa, the thin walled maze polypore or blushing bracket. I am now sure that this is the correct species following a second visit to the tree on Friday afternoon.

My photographs in the last post showed only the upper surface of the brackets, an omission I am making up for with these pictures of the undersides with their maze-like pores.

I found an interesting snippet on a forum earlier: that D. confragosa’s elongated pores (and the random arrangement thereof) are something of an intermediary between circular pores and linear gills. Furthermore: “two years ago we found a collection, where immediately under the older fruitbodies young fruitbodies [had] emerged, so close that they [were] connected. The older fruitbodies had pores, the younger ones gills…”!

I paid more attention to the tree itself on this visit. It’s not in a good way. It has lost at least a couple of its main branches, and at least a couple more are dead or mostly so. Much of the bark is cracked and stained with oozes, symptoms of the nasty bleeding canker disease that may end up doing to British horse chestnuts what Dutch elm disease did to our elms in the 1970s. Regarding the subjects of my photos, D. confragosa grows on dead wood - in this case wood likely killed by bleeding canker.

Higher up the stem, about ten feet from the ground, a different species of fungus is growing on the bark around where two of the tree’s branches have broken off. The tree here is almost certainly dead, and more branches look liable to drop soon. So in summary: much of the tree has been killed by bleeding canker; secondary infections have taken hold in the dead wood; and the tree is starting to fall apart. Crikey.

This particular horse chestnut grows in very narrow strip of woodland on the southern shore of Broomhead Reservoir, separated by a lane from woodland to the south (mainly conifer plantation). A mile to the east, 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 similarly 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!


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I will be hosting next month’s edition of the Festival of the Trees. Please send your submissions to mail [at] treeblog [dot] co [dot] uk before the 30th of January, ensuring that you include Festival of the Trees or FOTT within the header. ONLY ONE WEEK REMAINS BEFORE THE DEADLINE!


Posted in Pests and diseases












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