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Posted on March 2, 2009 by Ash
The Scots pines and grey alders got their update on Friday. Today it’s the turn of Set A’s cider gums (Eucalyptus gunnii) - all fifteen of them. Whilst an evergreen species, the cider gum doesn’t do much in the way of growth during the winter. The treeblog cider gums last made their appearance in an update way back on the fifteenth of November (Nos. 3 and 9 appeared covered in frost in a post on the second of January). Back then they looked radiant with health but these days… they aren’t looking so good. I attribute this change for the worse to two particular hardships that this winter has thrown up. One: the hoar frost we had on New Years Eve and New Years Day (same link as above) that covered everything, treeblog trees included, with icy spikes. Two: the heavy snowfall we received at the beginning of February which stayed for two weeks (three weeks on the hilltops). While the tall and sturdy alders were relatively unaffected, the Scots pines and cider gums were mostly snowed under. Actually, the five tallest cider gums (Nos. 2, 7, 12, 13 and 14) live in a more sheltered part of the garden, so wouldn’t have been too badly affected.
Cider gums Nos. 1 and 4. No. 1 has some possible minor leaf damage and No. 4 has damage to its tips (buds) and some of its leaves.
Cider gums Nos. 2 and 7. No. 2 has some damaged tips in its upper reaches and while No. 7’s upper tips look fine, those lower down are damaged.
Cider gums Nos. 5 and 8. Both have damaged tips, although the No. 8’s leading tip seems fine.
Cider gums Nos. 9 and 10. Both 9 and 10 have their lower leaves and one tip damaged; in No. 10’s case it is unfortunately the leading tip.
Cider gums Nos. 11 and 13. Poor old No. 11 has some serious damage to most of its tips, particularly the leader. No. 13 has a bunch of damaged tips.
Cider gums Nos. 12 and 14. No. 12 has some possibly damaged tips and No. 14 has damage to some lower tips.
Now we come to the runts…
Cider gum No. 3. The whole sorry seedling appears to be dying! I really hope it pulls through - in its first year No. 3 was one of treeblog’s biggest characters. The one, the only… the Freak.
Cider gum No. 6. Whilst suffering some damage to its leaves, the leading tip appears fine. It should be okay.
Cider gum No. 15. Serious damage all over! Looking even worse than No. 3, the poor soul is probably a goner.
There you go folks. Sad times. A raft of cider gum damage and the death of two treeblog trees close at hand? Sad times indeed. But in nature, if the weak haven’t got what it takes…
Posted on March 5, 2009 by Ash
There are a few tree diseases in the news at the moment. At least two of the newspapers yesterday ran the story that an avenue of 43 horse chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum) infected with the bleeding canker disease are to be cut down for safety reasons. The avenue at Barrington Court in Somerset, a National Trust property, is to be replanted with oaks.
Until recently, such Phytophthora bleeding cankers were considered to be uncommon and were only seen in the south of England. However, over the past four or five years, the number of reports of horse chestnut trees with 'bleeding cankers' has increased markedly... The increased incidence of stem bleeding on horse chestnut is not just limited to the UK; the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany are also experiencing a similar upsurge.
The other diseases in the news are also species of Phytophthora: P. ramorum and P. kernoviae. Both diseases attack and kill many species of tree and shrub - P. ramorum is the cause of the rather frightening sudden oak death, which was the subject of an early treeblog post two years ago. The two diseases are in the news because the British government has allocated £25 million towards their eradication. According to this BBC article, “Rhododendrons, a carrier of both diseases, are likely to be removed in woodland to combat the problem.” Good. Rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum) is bad news. It is highly invasive in the UK and takes over woodland through the development of a dense covering of nothing but evergreen rhododendron bushes that stifle and inhibit our native flora and fauna. I would like nothing more than to see rhododendron completely eradicated from Britain, but getting rid of it is easier said than done. It is one stubborn son of a bitch.
Uh-oh. Rhododendron at the edge of my beloved Whitwell Moor (23 May 2007).
P.S. Phytophthoras, sometimes referred to as fungal-like pathogens, are actually protists of the order Oomycetes (water moulds). They are more closely related to plants than fungi.
Posted on March 7, 2009 by Ash
Male hazel catkins.
Travelling through Sheffield and Hillsborough on the bus this afternoon, I noticed that
Wintery common alder male catkins.
But then – aha! Right by the beck, a young alder with a fair smattering of the yellow spring-form catkins. Not as tree-coveringly many as I saw in Hillsborough and Sheffield, but still plenty. Camera out, close-up shots ahoy. In the bag.
Fast-forward several hours, and here I am uploading the day’s photos onto the computer. Before writing a post around the catkins, I thought it would be good form to see if I could find out what those red spikes were all about. A flower? A gall? A few googles couldn’t shed any light on the matter, but then I had an brainflash. What if that weird bud wasn’t on an alder, but was on a hazel. They both have long yellow catkins in spring…
A cluster of male hazel catkins.
A closer look at the top of the catkins, revealing the golden, pollen-carrying anthers.
What a waffly post! The quick version: man sees catkin-laden (Italian) alders in town; goes on walk to get photos of (common) alders; thinks yellow-catkined trees are young alders; transpires they were actually hazels. Thank the Man-Jesus for those little red spikes. New tree knowledge: what alder and hazel buds look like, and what female hazel flowers look like. Other signs of spring seen: elders (Sambucus nigra) have begun flushing.
Posted on March 11, 2009 by Ash
Day 0 (Set C).
One hundred and one weeks since the planting of Set A and fifty-one weeks since the planting of failed Set B, I planted treeblog’s Set C today in a private garden ceremony. This latest set is represented by three species: rowan (Sorbus aucuparia L.), sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.), and birch (either silver (Betula pendula Roth) or downy (Betula pubescens Ehrh.)). Whereas a single tree provided me with all my chestnuts, and another with all my birch seeds, my rowan berries were collected from two different trees.
Another (more aesthetically pleasing) view of those chestnuts.
The planting process was straightforward. I half-filled four seed trays with compost. Into one tray went all the birch seeds, into another went the Whitwell Moor rowan berries, into the third went half of the sweet chestnuts, and into the fourth went the rest of the chestnuts and the Upper Midhope rowan berries. All nicely spaced out likes. Then a light covering of more compost and a good watering.
Posted on March 17, 2009 by Ash
Common alder (Alnus glutinosa) male catkins, perhaps slightly past their best which may be why they are more red than yellow.
Yesterday was a lovely warm day, perhaps even lovelier and warmer than the day before yesterday which, certain newspapers yesterday reported, was the warmest day of the year so far. To make the most of it, I went on an adventure down Ewden. As luck would have it, I was successful in my ongoing quest for photos of alder catkins. Hooray!
A closer look at a pair of alder catkins. Now hold that image, because I want you to compare them with the hazel catkins below…
Hazel (Corylus avellana) male catkins. Much prettier than the alder catkins, if you don’t mind my saying so.
More hazel catkins, but these ones aren’t fully ripe. The bottoms of the catkins haven’t opened up yet.
These unfurling hazel leaves were down in the valley bottom next to Broomhead Reservoir. It must be milder down there than higher up the hillside, where hazel leaf-unfurlage hasn’t yet begun.
Two kinds of alder, going head-to-head in a bud-off. On the left… the top of treeblog’s very own grey alder No. 4 from Set A; on the right… the end of a common alder (A. glutinosa) twig of Ewden provenance. Common alder, with its glamorous purple buds, is a British native. The grey alder (Alnus incana) is not.
Oh-ho! While the buds at the top of grey alder No. 4 aren’t showing any signs of bursting just yet, buds lower down are opening to reveal their infant leaves! (The twig below the bud may look sticky in this photo but it’s only water – I’d just given the trees a soaking with the watering can.)
And this is the post-Set A unknown seedling. It too is getting in on the spring action. See how it mobilizes that upper bud!
Other signs of spring sighted include hawthorns flushing, lambs, frogs, and bulbs sprouting up from the woodland floor.
Posted on March 19, 2009 by Ash
This ewe and her lamb stared at me from across Ewden Beck. Then they jumped over Park Brook, the little stream to their right, which tumbles into the river as a small waterfall.
Something new to me: a few rosettes of marcescent larch needles. Normally all of a larch’s needles will have fallen by the onset of winter, leaving bare pegs like the one just left of centre in this photo.
Reflections of trees - probably willows - on Broomhead Reservoir.
The photos were taken on the 16th of March.
Posted on March 23, 2009 by Ash
Friday and Saturday were incredible days, real shorts-and-t-shirts weather; beautiful blue skies, and temperatures March will be proud of. On Saturday I went on a walk that took me down Ewden and along the edge of Broomhead Moor to the furthest point I’ve ever been up the Ewden Valley: the shooting lodge at SK 222 956 (check it out, Google Maps-style). It wasn’t challenging to get there – a Landrover track leads to the lodge – but it was pleasingly remote for a shortish walk. On Friday I didn’t stray so far, walking to Wind Hill Wood and the craggy outcropping of millstone grit I know by the name Devil’s Cave. I was annoyed to see that some morons had been littering, but don’t let that negative image tarnish the goodtime spring vibes I hope the following photos (taken Friday) are emitting.
The view NNW over Wind Hill Wood towards Midhope. The woods in the distance are coniferous forestry plantations around Midhope Reservoir
A rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) bud: big and softly, silvery furry. I’ve noticed that rowan twigs tend to be rather thicker than those of our other tree species.
A strikingly wind-swept beech (Fagus sylvatica) near Devil’s Cave… and from below:
One of the bigger blocks of grit making up the Devil’s Cave formation, dappled with lichens, mosses, bilberries, birches, and the shadows of trees.
One of the many tiny birches growing from cracks in the rocks. Their persistent roots pry open the cracks and split apart these vast boulders.
I chanced upon this rusty horseshoe hanging in a young rowan and was concerned that it wouldn’t catch much luck this way up. The beech on the right in the background is interesting in that on it’s other side a huge old wound stretches from the ground to the first branches; the tree is doing a good job of closing the wound with new wood and bark, but it still has a few inches to grow before the two edges meet.
On the return leg of the journey, I made a little detour to see a special birch.
Posted on March 25, 2009 by Ash
Male catkins swinging from a common alder (Alnus glutinosa) at Owler Carrs.
Yes, Friday and Saturday were real stunners. It seemed as though summer was already upon us, even though the trees were still bare. Signs of spring were all about. Catkins still dangled from alders in droves, although most hazel catkins are now past their best; and immature catkins – probably male - were protruding stiffly from the ends of birch twigs. Sycamores (Acer pseudoplatanus) are on the verge of flushing, and I saw evidence that rowans and birches are to soon follow suit. A single larch was already sprouting bright green needles; other larches, while not yet flushing, bristled with small but beautiful flowers.
Two pines at the bottom of a hill. I’ve seen old maps from 1893, 1903, and 1905 that show this patch was then within the bounds of a coniferous wood. A map from 1855 shows the wood not yet in existence, and a “revision of 1929 with additions in 1938 & 1948” map shows the wood to have been much reduced in size. The wood survives today in a further reduced state, mainly to the left of this shot…
...here: a very open wood consisting primarily of stunted pines and larches. I wonder if the wood was planted as a means of sheltering Whitwell Moor, lying to the north, which in those days was grouse shooting territory.
A cluster of willowy trees growing around a spring. Are they willows? Dunno. I currently have little confidence identifying willows, but I want to change that. For the present… are these developing goat willow (a.k.a. pussy willow a.k.a. sallow - Salix caprea) catkins? Any help in the comments would be greatly appreciated!
More male common alder catkins. On the twigs just above where the male catkins are attached, immature, dark purpley-brown female ‘cones’ (technically catkins) are developing. My apologies for their being out of focus in this photo.
An unfurling rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) leaf. It’ll be up and photosynthesising in no time at all, sir.
Here are a couple of past-their-best, dead-looking male hazel (Corylus avellana) catkins. It feels as if treeblog has gone a bit crazy on the alder and hazel catkins lately. That’s a good thing.
So, you’ve seen the male parts of a hazel. In the interests of balance, how about a peek at the female parts? I’ve noticed that there are barely any of these female flowers on each plant, and I’ve read that hazel’s fertility in many parts of Britain is already compromised by grey squirrels eating the hazelnuts that these flowers develop into. It’s a wonder there are any new hazels growing at all.
Aaaah, larch flowers (probably European larch, Larix decidua). The above photo shows a bird’s nest-like male flower (left) and a beautiful, rose-like female flower (right). On the subject of L. decidua flowers, Forestry Commission Booklet No. 15, Know Your Conifers, by Herbert L. Edlin (published by HMSO in 1970) has this to say:
The male flowers, borne in spring just as the delicate needles open, are clusters of golden anthers. The female flowers, often called “larch roses”, are pretty flower-like clusters of scales, and may be green, white, or deep pink in colour. They ripen within one year to rather cylindrical cones. These cones only slowly expand their scales, and when the forester wishes to extract larch seed he has to break them apart.
And back to where it all began. The two pines from this post’s second photo join the background of this late afternoon sun-bathed pine scene.
This post lives on in March 31st's Goat willow and larch roses: a reprise.
Set C update – Day 14 (today): No sign of germination yet.
Posted on March 27, 2009 by Ash
Nevertheless, ere long, the warm, warbling persuasiveness of the pleasant, holiday weather we came to, seemed gradually to charm him from his mood. For, as when the red-cheeked, dancing girls, April and May, trip home to the wintry, misanthropic woods; even the barest, ruggedest, most thunder-cloven old oak will at least send forth some few green sprouts, to welcome such glad-hearted visitants; so Ahab did, in the end, a little respond to the playful allurings of that girlish air. More than once did he put forth the faint blossom of a look, which, in any other man, would have soon flowered out in a smile.
From Moby Dick, by Herman Melville.
The other day a friend told me about the blog Bedgebury Dan in Chile - Forestry Commission England’s first. Not a long-running blog, I think, but more of a trip journal, it’s nevertheless well worth a read through. Be warned, however, that it may induce feelings of jealousy. Written by Dan Luscombe, Assistant Curator, Propagator, and Plant Hunter at Bedgebury National Pinetum, the blog details his mission “To strengthen the Chilean temperate collections on public display at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Bedgebury Pinetum and Westonbirt Arboretum and to conserve seed in local, national and Millennium Seed Banks for future generations. The seed collected for the Pinetum will ultimately become the core of the South American section of Bedgebury’s Conifer Conservation Project.” What a job!
Posted on March 28, 2009 by Ash
Aye, today is the Second Anniversary of the planting of treeblog’s Set A. Those two years have gone by in a flash, but, paradoxically, it seems at the same time as if an age has passed since I put those seeds under the soil. To commemorate that occasion, I have laboured to put together a photographic summary for each of Set A’s constituent species: Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), grey alder (Alnus incana), and cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii). These summaries consist of twelve sequential photos of a representative from each species; the first photos show seeds on the day of planting, the final photos show the trees today, and the other ten show intermediate stages. I’m quite proud of how much the Set A trees have grown over the course of just two years, particularly the alders.
Representing Alnus incana, here’s grey alder No. 4:
Representing Eucalyptus gunnii, here’s cider gum No. 7 (getting by with a little help from its friends):
Pretty nifty, eh? And just think: a year from now you could be looking back on three years of Set A!
* * * * *
Set C update – Day 17 (today): No sign of germination yet.
Posted on March 31, 2009 by Ash
Sunday was an incredible day. The sky was an amazing blue, a shade darker than the hazier skies of Friday and Saturday the weekend before. The air was cooler, but summer lies ever closer. Another treeblog photographs-from-a-walk post begins.
In the saddle of Salter Hills – westwards along Heads Lane from the village of Bolsterstone - two Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris). From the Bolsterstone Extension Draft Conservation Area Appraisal 1:
Bolsterstone lies close to the main salt route between Cheshire and Yorkshire, and names such as Salter Hills, Salt Springs Farm and Salt Springs Cottage at the western end of Heads Lane… suggest that the lane may have been on a southern branch of the main saltway (Hey, 2001 2).
Clothing the southern flank of the western Salter hill, remnants of a wood planted between 1855 and 1893. Today it consists of nowt but Scots pine and European larch, tree-wise.
A week previous I wasn’t so sure. Now I am almost certain: these catkins belong to goat willow (Salix caprea) a.k.a. pussy willow a.k.a. sallow. In a week or so, these male catkins will have extended their stamens to become big, yellow pollen-deployers. [Update: Ahem. They would have if they were male, but I now think they are female catkins.] Notice the densely shrubby form in the background.
I have just learned that all willow species are dioecious – trees are either male or female, not both. The catkins of this particular goat willow are not quite flowering yet.
This catkin is slightly more advanced that its brethren. The yellow pollen-containing anthers are clearly visible.
Caveat lector! - From my Collins Field Guide Trees of Britain & Northern Europe by Alan Mitchell (1978):
The native sallows are a complex group, and several species, subspecies and hybrids occur, most of which pass as Pussy Willow when in flower. All except [grey willow (Salix cinerea) ] are strictly shrubs… S. caprea is distinct from the other tree willows in its rather thick, often short and knobbly shoots and upright shrubby growth. In the Highlands of Scotland many are [20 metres tall with a girth at five feet of 2 metres].
From the same book, an experiment that may be worth a try: “If the bark is stripped from a two-year [grey willow] shoot, it reveals fine ridges absent in S. caprea”. Leaves should help too.
A lovely female larch flower...
…and another two…
…and another. Guess what? I really like these. I hesitated before to say with certainty that these are European larch (Larix decidua) flowers, but I’ll hesitate no more: these are European larch flowers! I’m not afraid that these trees are Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi); I’ve seen cones and their scales don’t curl sharply outwards! And I’ve realised that if the bit of wood these larches belong to was planted no later than 1893 (for having walked circularly we have returned to that bit aforementioned), it is extremely unlikely that these larches are Dunkeld larches (Larix x eurolepis) for that hybrid wasn’t first selected until 1904!
Déjà vu then? This post is a cheeky reprise of last Wednesday’s Summer’s outrider: flowers & buds & catkins & trees. Another clear blue sky; those same two pines and that same bit of woodland; goat willow catkins; larch flowers… Obviously much of this walk shared the same route as much of the other. I wanted to see those willows again, wanted to see if they really were goat willows, inspired by some goat willows in full yellow-catkinned bloom I’d spied through a bus window two days earlier. And I wanted to take more photographs of larch flowers.
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