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June 2008

Set A super treeblog seedling update (Day 432): Part I

Hurrah! Let us review together a super treeblog seedling update! In Part I, admire a parade of all fifteen cider gums; they range from the mighty to the meek. Part II will cover those splendid Scots pines and admirable alders. This update is unique in that the height of each seedling has been measured, giving, for the first time, a picture of the growth of each seedling relative to its brethren. I took the photographs yesterday (Monday). Cider gum Number 1, take it away!

cider gum No. 1

Cider gum No. 1, weighing in at approx. 11 cm. Not very big, but it has a decent lateral branch there on the left.

cider gum No. 2

Cider gum No. 2 - approx. 13 cm.

cider gum No. 3

Cider gum No. 3 - "the Freak" - approx. 5 cm.

cider gum No. 4

Cider gum No. 4 - approx. 10.5 cm.

cider gum No. 5

Cider gum No. 5 - approx. 16 cm. The best of the gums still in the small pots.

cider gum No. 6

Cider gum No. 6 - approx. 4 cm. The smallest of the gums, but still hanging on in there.

cider gum No. 7

Cider gum No. 7 - approx. 25 cm. This makes No. 7 the tallest cider gum! I tied the big gums in the big pots to kebab skewers with loose loops of cotton to try and keep them upright, as many of them had gotten too top heavy to stand up straight.

cider gum No. 8

Cider gum No. 8 - approx. 17.5 cm.

cider gum No. 9

Cider gum No. 9 - approx. 16 cm.

cider gum No. 10

Cider gum No. 10 - approx. 19.5 cm.

cider gum No. 11

Cider gum No. 11 - approx. 10 cm (if stood up straight).

cider gum No. 12

Cider gum No. 12 - approx. 23 cm. The second-tallest gum.

cider gum No. 13

Cider gum No. 13 - the Uber-brancher - approx. 20.5 cm.

cider gum No. 14

Cider gum No. 14 - approx. 21.5 cm. The second-best brancher and the third-tallest.

cider gum No. 15

Cider gum No. 15 - approx. 6 cm.

Posted in The treeblog trees

Set A super treeblog seedling update (Day 432): Part II

The super treeblog seedling update continues... First up, photographs of the alders and Scots pines taken on Day 432 (Monday the 2nd of June). The ruler in all the super update pix was held in place by my sister - props go to her.

Alpha Scots pine

The Alpha Scots pine - approx. 14.5 cm. As you can see, this is another seedling supported by a kebab stick. The damn fool had gotten too tall to support itself.

Gamma Scots pine

The Gamma Scots pine - approx. 10 cm. A more sensible height means this one is still free-standing.

grey alder No. 1

Grey alder No. 1 - approx. 14 cm. From the first leaf on the right upwards - that's all new growth from this season. It's pretty much tripled in height!

grey alder No. 2

Grey alder No. 2 - approx. 6.5 cm. No. 2 is the smallest alder, but it's still healthy-looking.

grey alder No. 3

Grey alder No. 3 - approx. 12 cm.

grey alder No. 4

Grey alder No. 4 - the Beast - approx. 30 cm tall. No. 4 is the tallest and most impressive of all the treeblog trees. It's unbelievable how much bigger it is than it's fellow alders!

Well, now you've seen photos of all the Set A seedlings. I hope you've been impressed by how much growing they've done over the last couple of months.

Bonus update: On Wednesday I carried out some repotting. The Alpha Scots pine is in the same pot but it has been topped up with soil 'cos it was looking a little empty. Grey alders Nos. 1, 2 and 3 and cider gums Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5 and 11 had their small square pots upgraded to bigger round ones. Cider gums Nos. 3, 6 and 15 are now the only Set A seedlings left in the small square pots (because of their diminutive statures). From Set B, the downy birch and the two possible sweet chestnuts were moved out of their seed tray and into small square pots. Grey alder No. 4 really needs putting into a much bigger pot but that'll have to wait a few weeks as I'm now back in Edinburgh.

Final thought: I can't believe how badly Set B has failed, but the awesomeness of Set A is ample compensation.

Posted in The treeblog trees

Photos from a camping trip in the Highlands

A few weeks ago a couple of buddies and myself set off on a camping trip. We caught a train from Edinburgh to Blair Atholl early on the morning of Monday the 19th of May. And after four days of walking and four nights of camping, we ended up in Aviemore early the following Friday. We didn't take a direct route; from Blair Atholl we headed over the Minigaig Pass before heading eastwards for a day. Then we turned north and eventually headed back west towards Aviemore through Glenmore Forest Park. This route took us in and out of the Cairngorms National Park a couple of times, and altogether we walked about 100 km. Much of the journey was devoid of trees as we traversed many a mile o' desolate moorland. We saw the odd bit of plantation forestry (spruce-larch-pine), the odd willow or birch nestled in a wee valley... but the real treet came in the form of seeing some Caledonian pinewood remnants, particularly in and around the Glenmore Forest Park.

big conifers in Blair Castle’s Diana’s Grove

Almost immediately after leaving Blair Atholl station, we found ourselves in Blair Castle's Diana's Grove, where huge conifers are all around.

Britain's tallest Japanese larch

Diana's Grove is home to Britain's tallest Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi). This giant is 44 metres (approx. 144 feet) tall!

Other giant trees in the Grove include Britain's tallest red fir (Abies magnifica) - 39 metres (approx. 128 feet) - and Britain's fifth-tallest Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), the tallest tree in the Grove at 59 metres (approx. 193½ feet). An information board at the entrance to the Grove reads:

This Grove or Wilderness, set out in 1737, takes its name from a statue of Diana the Roman goddess of hunting...

The grove is renowned for its exotic conifers, introduced from all over the world, particularly America, many now among the tallest examples of their kind in Britain.

Some of the first European Larch to grow in this country were planted here by the second Duke of Atholl in the 1730s, the seventh Duke continued the tradition by introducing the Japanese Larch in 1884...

forestry machine

After not seeing another soul for a whole day, we descended from the moors early on Tuesday afternoon to be greeted by a bit of forestry work. Some trees were being felled to soften up the edges of a plantation.

stack of timber

This is one of two stacks of timber resulting from said operation.

junipers in front of a scree slope

In the foreground are common junipers (Juniperus communis), one of Britain's three native conifers. Nice to see it thriving up here, as I hear it's declined in some parts of the country.

the River Dee

Looking up the River Dee from the bridge at the Linn of Dee, a short section of rapids. This link opens a page showing a cubic panorama (uses QuickTime) of the Linn of Dee (the Dee must have been running lower when we walked by, as the river was at the bottom of a ravine).

Scots pines on a ridge, silhouetted against the sky

Scots pines in their natural habitat.

Caledonian pine woodland

This photo was taken within the Glenmore Forest Park. Proper Scots pine country.

dead Scots pine silhouetted against the sky

A Scots pine skeleton.

Posted in Holidays and field trips + Notable trees

A walk in Millstones Wood (4th June 2008)

big blue sky and a wood in the distance

Walking up Long Lane to Millstones Wood you pass by two small woods on Whitwell Moor. This is the second.

leaves and the remains of flowers

These are parts of a tree I've seldom seen in Millstones Wood. I think it's a crab apple (Malus sylvestris), but I'm not certain. Can anybody ID this for me?

beech leaves overhead

Little sunlight penetrates the beech canopy. A typical characteristic of the average beechwood is a shady floor.

beech trees

Beeches. The many-branched beech to the left was probably grazed as a sapling which prevented it from growing with a single main stem.

strange carving in bark

Not sure what this is supposed to symbolise, or if it's just pure art, but I found it carved into one of the trees.

male pine inflorescence with whorl of needles

A male inflorescence and accompanying whorl of needles on a Scots pine.

close-up of female pine flower

The female flower of a Scots pine, only a few millimetres in height. In a couple of years this small red blob will have matured into a hard, woody pine cone. treeblog has already done a post on Scots pine reproductive organs (about this time last year).

stunted pines

Stunted pines on the top of the hill, just outside of the wood. Although I think only pines can be seen in this photo, there is at least one larch in the group.

Peak District landscape

From the vantage point beneath this pine, enjoy the view in the general direction of Sheffield and take in some of the Peak District landscape typical to my local area. In the foreground is a field of strangely neat gorse.

Posted in Gone for a walk

Plustech Oy Timberjack Walking Harvester

I first saw this a few months back. There are a fair few mentions of this thing across the internet, but most of them say roughly the same thing. The harvester is apparently a prototype developed by Plustech Oy, a Finnish subsidary of John Deere. However, I don't think Plustech Oy exists these days. They have no online presence at all, although I did find their (dead and gone) old site,, through the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. This is what they had to say about their harvester:

The walking forest machine is Plustech's best-known innovation. The goal of product development was a machine that caused minimum impact to the terrain.

The walking machine adapts automatically to the forest floor. Moving on six articulated legs, the harvester advances forward and backward, sideways and diagonally. It can also turn in place and step over obstacles. Depending on the irregularity of the terrain, the operator can adjust both the ground clearance of the machine and the height of each step.

The machine's nerve center is an intelligent computer system that controls all walking functions - including the direction of movement, the travelling speed, the step height and gait, and the ground clearance. The harvester head is controlled by the Timberjack 3000 measuring and control system. To further optimize machine operation, Timberjack's Total Machine Control system (TMC) regulates the functions of the machine's loader and engine. All control systems are designed for ease of use. The operator-friendly controls are incorporated in a single joystick.

P.S. treeblog Set A and Set B updates coming soon!

Posted in Miscellany

Squirrels in Britain: the red v. the grey

Grey squirrel in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (25th of June 2008).

As you most likely already know, the red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) is Britain's native squirrel. But over the last century or so it has been largely superceded by the grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), a native of North America. The greys outcompete the reds, which are then displaced from their territories. According to the Forestry Commission:

Greys can feed more efficiently [than reds] in broadleaved woodlands and can survive at densities of up to 8 per hectare. The density of reds is up to 1 per hectare in broadleaved woodland but can be as low as 0.1 per hectare in coniferous woodland.

The grey squirrel also hosts the ‘squirrel pox’ virus, by which it is rarely affected. But the disease can be passed on to reds to whom it is fatal. The range of red squirrels in Britain is therefore much smaller today than in the good old days before the greys were introduced.

From the point of view of British ecologists and conservationists the reds are the goodies and the greys are the baddies. Of course, individual grey squirrels don't know that they are invasive aliens causing the extinction of a fellow species. They are just doing what comes naturally. But the undesirability of the grey squirrel isn’t limited to its interactions with the reds; greys are predators of bird nests and strip the bark from trees, leading to poorer trees and poorer woodland owners.

Red squirrel at Cluny House Gardens, Aberfeldy (18th of November 2011).

So what is to be done? Land managers with a vested interest in reducing grey squirrel numbers (whether for the benefit of red squirrels, trees, or other wildlife) have a few options. Greys can be trapped, poisoned or shot. The Forestry Commission uses poisoned bait, but doesn’t advocate large-scale culls:

Eradication is not a feasible or desirable option given current methods. Worldwide, the record on eradicating small successful introduced mammals is very poor with research showing that low-level widespread culling has no impact on either grey squirrel numbers or upon damage to trees and priority species. As such it is ineffective and a waste of resources.

Even with new methods and unlimited resources, a successful eradication policy would require the total support of the public. Evidence suggests that a substantial proportion of the public would not support a grey squirrel eradication policy. This policy aims to create a balanced approach to wildlife conservation: controlling grey squirrel populations at a level which does not threaten our native woodlands and priority species.

So, member of the public… would you support a grey squirrel eradication policy? I would. The benefits are greater than one might first suspect: see these stories from the Guardian (quoted) and the BBC!

At Ridley's Fish and Game shop in Corbridge, Northumberland, the owner David Ridley says he has sold 1,000 [grey squirrels] - at £3.50 a squirrel - since he tested the market at the beginning of the year.


Simpson likens the taste to wild boar. Ridley thinks it is more a cross between duck and lamb. 'It's moist and sweet because, basically, its diet has been berries and nuts,' he said.

Both believe its new-found popularity is partly due to its green credentials. 'People like the fact it is wild meat, low in fat and local - so no food miles,' says Simpson. Ridley reckons that patriotism also plays a part: 'Eat a grey and save a red. That's the message.'


'A large squirrel would be enough for one-and-a-half people. The public really are being drawn to it. I think that it's because it is being perceived as a healthy meat. Southern fried squirrel is good. And tandoori style works. It is especially tasty fricasséed with Cornish cream and walnuts. But the one everyone seems to like is the Cornish squirrel pasty.'

Grey squirrel in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (25th of June 2008).

Posted in Invasive species + Pests and diseases

Sweet chestnut No. 1... not a sweet chestnut

sweet chestnut No. 1 – actually just a nettle

Well there you go. Feast your eyes on what I thought was a sweet chestnut. But I was wrong. That isn't a sweet chestnut: it's just a nettle (Urtica dioica)! The sneaky snake must have grown from a chance seed settling in the tray. And, although I haven’t got this confirmed, I guess that ‘sweet chestnut No. 2’ must also be a nettle. Crap.

 sweet chestnut No. 1 – actually just a nettle

The photographs, both of what I thought to be sweet chestnut No. 1, were taken by my father last night: Set B’s Day 106. Details and photos of the rest of Set B and Set A will be coming within the next few days. I apologise for the long wait, but it has been out of my hands. Blame the recent rainy weather. But now thou must ready thy sen for some treeblog action!

Posted in The treeblog trees

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