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Posted on March 1, 2007 by Ash
In early February I stumbled upon Trees for Life's I love pine page. They had a competition running where they asked for a short answer to the question 'Why do you love pine?', with a winner and two runners-up selected each day from the 1st to the 14th of February. I won on the 6th of February with this tongue-in-cheek entry:
Because of the evocative aroma of its resin which conjures up memories of the Black Wood of Rannoch. Because of how sublime and majestic a mature pine appears when silhouetted against the setting sun. Because of the mesmerising nature of its wonderfully patterned bark. Because the incomparable experience of sauntering over the needle-carpeted floor of a pristine pine wood is undeniably divine. I love pine for all these reasons and more.
Here’s my prize:
This beautiful watercolour painting of a Scots pine tree in Glen Affric is by Joan Fairhurst, who has generously donated it to Trees for Life. This large, portrait-format print measures 40.5 x 51 cm. (picture area is 24 x 32.5 cm) and when framed will grace any wall with the beauty of the Caledonian Forest.
Thank-you, Trees for Life!
Posted on March 2, 2007 by Ash
This fine figure of a beech is on the southern shore of Loch Tay in the central Highlands of Scotland. I spent the first week of September 2006 at the Firbush field centre there as part of my Ecological Science course with the University of Edinburgh. It was an awesome time, and we all had good fun. The titular beech was the focus of a project I worked on with three friends. Our field work was aimed at measuring and recording all offspring of the Mother Beech in the surrounding hectare. The diagram below shows the offspring around the parent, which is the centre point of the hectare. Solid dots represent offspring with a height below eye level; hollow dots represent offspring with a height above eye level (where eye level is defined as 160 cm). The upper bold dashed line represents the high-water level of Loch Tay, and the lower bold dashed line represents the northern boundary of a road and conifer plantation.
Posted on March 3, 2007 by Ash
The Capon Tree is situated on the bank of the River Jed about two miles south of the Scottish Border town Jedburgh. It is one of the last remnants of the ancient Jed Forest, most oaks of which were cut down during the Napoleonic Wars. Estimates of its age vary, although it must have reached a decent size by the mid-eighteenth century for in 1746 six of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s men were hung from its branches. Some time during the twentieth century its massive trunk split in two, and its branches are now supported by wooden struts. However, the Capon Tree is still alive and apparently doing well. I have visited it a few times, as it is on the way to Edinburgh from my home in Yorkshire.
The Capon Tree in December 2010.
Posted on March 6, 2007 by Ash
I took this photograph from the cosy confines of a rowing boat on the still waters of Loch Tay (less than 2 hours after this one was taken). See the Mother Beech in the centre, her crown raised above the other trees crowding the shoreline. Ain't she a beauty? 35 metres tall with a girth of 3.8 metres at breast height were her measurements. For the record, the trees dwarfed by the big beech are mainly silver birch, alder and some immature oak and ash.
Posted on March 7, 2007 by Ash
Yesterday I took a walk in the Hermitage of Braid, a small valley woodland area in Edinburgh. The trees are mainly broadleaved species, and there are quite a few big old specimens. Take the following, for example:
Unfortunately, I didn't pay too much attention to what flavour tree it was. From the photograph the branches look beechey but judging by the bark I'd say this is probably some kind of lime (Tilia) or maybe an oak.
Even with all the deciduous trees still devoid of leaves, this little sycamore seedling growing on a burn-side rock appeared like a symbol of the impending spring.
The beech buds in the next picture might remain closed for another month or so yet. Bring on the summer!
Posted on March 8, 2007 by Ash
Poor old El Grande. Australia’s largest tree, killed through the folly of man, has been blown over in strong winds. The Herald Sun reports:
Standing at 79m [259 feet], the massive Eucalyptus regans - known as El Grande - stood unharmed by man for almost four centuries until the Forestry Tasmania burn-off went out of control.
Following the fatal burning, an inspection of El Grande was undertaken in April 2003 by the Wilderness Society. Some of the observations are quite amazing:
- The lower butt of the tree had been exposed for approximately ½ - 1 metre by a bulldozer or a similar machine. Some roots had been exposed and damaged.
El Grande, although not the tallest tree in Australia, was the largest in terms of volume. According to gianttrees.com.au (managed by the Giant Trees Consultative Committee), El Grande had volume of 439 cubic metres and a diameter of 595 cm (234 inches). Alas, this champion Eucalyptus regnans, estimated to be 350 years old, is sadly no more.
Posted on March 9, 2007 by Ash
Hot on the heels of the fall of El Grande, more bad news from the tree world:
The famous chestnut tree mentioned in Anne Frank’s diary is to be cut down. Amsterdam council said on Thursday it has no option but to agree to the felling of the 27 tonne tree which is diseased and could be dangerous if it falls. The tree, which is officially listed, is situated in the enclosed courtyard between Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht.
The horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), popularly known as the ‘Anne Frank Tree’, featured in the famous diary. The tree was visible from the attic where she and her family hid from the Nazis during the Second World War. It is estimated to be between 150 and 170 years old, making it one of the oldest chestnuts in Amsterdam. For several years the tree has been attacked by the Artist’s Conk fungus (Ganoderma applanatum). Horse chestnut leaf miner moths (Cameraria ohridella) have also been a significant problem. A study in 2006 concluded that 42% of the tree was rotten. Many botanists believe that the tree is close to collapsing, and the owners applied for a permit to carry out a preemptive felling which has now been granted. After the felling, grafts will be planted on the same spot where the chestnut tree is standing and a new tree will grow. A few quotes from Anne Frank’s diary:
February 23, 1944
Posted on March 10, 2007 by Ash
More photos from my Wednesday wander in the Hermitage of Braid. Monochrome!
This next photo is a closeup of a nicely decomposing dead standing trunk. Check out the little holes made by woodworm or perhaps some kind of bark beetles.
This tall and skinny tree looked like a sycamore. I'm not totally certain it was though - I can't ever remember seeing one so gaunt. But with this being in the bottom of a narrow valley, it would have had to grow tall out of necessity.
Finally, I have a photograph of a fallen branch in the Braid Burn (a burn is the Scots word for a stream or small river).
Posted on March 11, 2007 by Ash
If you don’t have a clue what a mycorrhiza is, or if you have a vague idea but nothing substantial, then read on: I will do my best to edify you.
Posted on March 13, 2007 by Ash
Habitat fragmentation is a significant obstacle to the long-term conservation of biodiversity. Research and monitoring have revealed a continual decline in biodiversity, caused in part by decreasing habitat quality and increasing fragmentation. Models have predicted that fragmentation can increase the extinction threshold (the minimum population level needed to ensure survival) by up to 60–80%. As a result, greater amounts of habitat are required for population persistence in fragmented landscapes. Isolated woods often have a simplified structure with levels of biodiversity lower than would be expected if they formed part of a large, continuous forest.
Connectivity can be defined as physical or functional. Physically isolated woodland fragments may be functionally connected. The permeability of the surrounding ‘matrix’ has a significant impact of functional connectivity for many species; semi-natural habitats are considered to be more permeable than land used intensively. It is possible to have high functional connectivity in a fragmented area of low physical connectedness. Matrix use is considered to be a predictor of species sensitivity to fragmentation. This assumes that ‘functionally connective zones’ of varying quality exist around woodland fragments. An example of two matrix types of different permeability are ‘willow thicket’ and ‘coniferous forest’ to certain taxa of butterfly; a study* has shown that conifer was 3-12 times more resistant than willow.
Posted on March 21, 2007 by Ash
As the semester draws to a close, it is time to look to the very near future... to next week! To the planting of the first treeblog seeds. Scots pine and cider gum seeds, tiny seeds, planted, germinating, growing... It's getting down to the wire now. Expect good news early next week!
Posted on March 24, 2007 by Ash
Posted on March 28, 2007 by Ash
The long awaited day has finally arrived. treeblog has its first seeds in the soil! This initial set is comprised of 3 lots of seeds: a packet of Scots pine seeds, a packet of cider gum seeds, and a group of mystery seeds. Each species was planted in a special tree soil in individual trays. I tried to keep the pattern of seeds in each tray as uniform as possible, but only time will tell how that works out. The cider gum seeds were laid on top of the soil, as per the instructions on the packet. After plantage, I watered the trays and placed them in the garden. The cider gums get a clear plastic lid in a feeble attempt to bump up their humidity.
The Scots pine seeds prior to plantage.
The cider gum seeds.
treeblog Set A. From left to right: cider gum; Scots pine; mystery seeds.
The first person out there who correctly identifies the species to which the mystery seeds belong will get something special. Oh yes! [Update (August 2008): The 'mystery trees' or 'treeblog surprises' are actually grey alders (Alnus incana).]
Posted on March 29, 2007 by Ash
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.
This tree is alone amongst the heather and bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) on the hilltop, and thus is especially exposed to the elements. Hence its diminutive stature. Species? Probably a silver or downy birch. [Update (August 2007): This is actually an oak.]
This poor beech tree was saved from a certain flooring by its unfortunate neighbour. It looks like the ground become too waterlogged and unstable to support the weight of a full tree (happens a lot in this wood). However, I bet that the tree is still alive and well.
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