All posts from

September 2009



More photos from the Highlands jaunt

3rd August ‘09. Looking down on Loch Tay from the Drummond Hill silver birch provenance trial. I collected data for my dissertation there in March 2008.

3rd August ’09. Me and my father were skimming pebbles on Loch Tay from a little jetty at Fearnan. This is one of his that hit the water at too steep an angle.

5th August ’09. A hoary old rowan in Glen Lyon with a massive, hollow trunk.

5th August ’09. A complete wreck of a rowan. The only sign of life was a handful of dying leaves out on that snapped limb. A tree crossing the very threshold of death.

5th August ’09. A characterfully windswept Scots pine below Loch an Daimh...

… and nearby, a bit of old Caledonian pinewood.

21st March ’08. Three logs near the silver birch provenance trial, taken on my phone during a snow shower when I was up there collecting dissertation data.

3rd August ’09. The same logs a year and a half later. See how they’re decomposing, and see how the surrounding vegetation has changed.


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The thirty-ninth Festival of the Trees, “Hidden Among The Trees”, is up at Arboreality. Go read!


Posted in Holidays and field trips





London planes by the riverside, York


Late summer; a summery resurgence. A hot day, a beautiful clear blue sky. A river: the Ouse in York. A riverside, an avenue of London planes. An icecream, a flake. The sun through the leaves, the sunlight plays on the water. Late summer perfection.

London plane (Platanus x acerifolia) leaves. No pom-poms.

London planes are a common sight in cities, being planted for their high tolerance of air pollution and soil compaction.

A goose on the Ouse. Photos taken yesterday.


Posted in Gone for a walk





A late summer's wander

Dyer’s mazegill (Phaeolus schweinitzii) at the base of a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris).

This post shall send prose to his room and welcome poetry into the drawing room for a brandy. Let me spin thee the tale of last Saturday:


A Late Summer’s Wander

Late summer’s wander Saturday
Into the Peak our path did lay
On Whitwell Moor ‘neath a rowan, halted
To fill a bag wi’ red berries wanted
Through t’ first wood and up we walked
There wa’ no acorns on t’ Lonely Oak

Cresting t’ hill we entered t’ Wood
Where Millstones lie; it were right good
To find at t’ foot of a Scots Pinus
A great and gnarly yellow fungus
Over t’ lane and out on Thorpe’s Brow
T’ sky seemed somehow bigger now

We strode past ruins of t’ last war
Tanks aimed at targets high up on t’ moor
Long out ahead rose Pike Lowe
A cairn for t’ dead, or so I trow
For much of t’ way rose hummocky grasses
Eek heather and bracken and bogs and mosses
It hurt to see the cairn ruined
A wanton act: a villain’s doing

Now heading south across the heath
Our destination: watersmeet
Ewden Force wa’ running low
As fine a sight as in full flow
Where rowans glow wi’ crimson berries
And for a while t’ walker tarries

In Stainery Clough we traced a road
An ancient trail the river fords
O’er Oaken Clough a giant sags
Of berries now two heaving bags
A rowan great but broke asunder
When it tore it must ha’ thundered

Heath and bracken for miles a’ more
Bare shanks soon are feeling sore
Past t’ shooting lodge and Broomhead Hall
The veteran chestnut of Wigtwizzle
Summer’s fading fast and autumn’s near
Here’s hoping t’ rowans grow next year


A holly (Ilex aquifolium): the last tree before Pike Lowe.

A stunning berry-laden rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) near Ewden Force.

And another. The rowans around here, while absolutely covered with berries, had more or less lost all of their leaves already. Rowan berries seem to be much more abundant and redder than usual this year. I’m loving it.

A shady pool in Oaken Clough. Danger! Midges!

Looking across the Ewden Valley to Thorpe’s Brow on our way home.


Posted in Gone for a walk + The treeblog trees





treeblog update (Set C, Day 192): the downy birches

Downy birch No. 1 – one of the best.

It‘s been a long time coming, but it’s finally here: the treeblog Set C update that you’ve been missing! Take a gander at the surviving downy birches as they were yesterday, 192 days after I planted them as seeds. Actually, there is no photo of downy birch No. 29 – the tricot – because I no longer know which seedling is No. 29. I presume it’s still alive, but the seed tray where it yet resides is chock-a-block with wee birch seedlings and No. 29 is lost in the horde. That is a problem needing solving.

Going back in time, I decided that treeblog would only follow the first thirty birches to germinate, seeing how so bloody many did. The lucky few would be Nos. 1 to 30 with the exception of Nos. 8, 18, 19 and 20 (who were lost in the horde as far back as May). Downy birch No. 7 then died around the beginning of June, and since the last update on the 9th of July (Day 120) a further two have kicked the bucket: Nos. 6 and 17.

So twenty-three of the seedlings are still going (but No. 29 is lost for the moment). Nos. 9 and 11 appear to be on their way out: they are looking very sickly. Nos. 1, 2 and 25 are looking like the best of the bunch at the moment, and Nos. 3, 23, 27, 28 and 30 are looking fairly poor. In general, the downy birches have not grown very much at all over the last two and a half months.

Downy birches Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5. No. 2 is one of the better performers.

Downy birches Nos. 9, 10, 11 and 12. Nos. 9 and 11 appear to be in their death throes.

Downy birches Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 16.

Downy birches Nos. 21, 22, 23 and 24.

Downy birch No. 25 – another one of the top performers.

Downy birches Nos. 26, 27, 28 and 30.


* * * * *

A wee bit of bonus Set A news now. The last fortnight has been very dry, and while the treeblog trees have been kept supplied with water, grey alder No. 4 appears to have been sunburned. The new leaves on the leading shoots are either dead or with dead patches, and the leading shoot itself appears to have died – it feels stiffer than it ought to and is looking more brown than green. This would be the third alder to lose its leader this year; only No. 1 would be left with a perfect main stem.


Posted in The treeblog trees





One big Ganoderma bracket

Ganoderma sp. bracket at the base of a small cherry (Prunus sp.) tree, not a million miles from York. Seen yesterday - the 24th of September.

This Ganoderma sp. is a saprophytic fungus: it will only attack the “non-living” heartwood and won’t harm the “living” sapwood. Infected trees may appear normally healthy in external appearance, but inside they can be a soft and mushy mess liable to collapse or fall over at any time. In my new job as an apprentice arborist I’ve already seen a few examples of cherries with healthy canopies, but with Gandoderma fruiting bodies (the brackets) growing from the roots or base of the trunk. These roadside trees had to be felled in the interests of public safety, and I’ve seen from the stumps how rotten the infected heartwood becomes: far too soft to provide the tree with any kind of structural support.

Zounds! Some good egg has stuck his hand in the frame for scale!

One small cherry, one large bracket. If you can’t find it yourself, it’s at ground level right at the base of the tree trunk.


Posted in Pests and diseases





treeblog Set D: Fagus sylvatica & Fagus sylvatica ‘Aspleniifolia’ nuts planted

On the left: a tray full of cut-leaved beech nuts. On the right: a tray full of Wigtwizzle beech nuts. (Photo: today)

Good news treeblog fans! The first part of Set D was planted today – Wednesday the 30th of September, 2009 – in a twofold break with tradition. The last three sets were planted in the spring; this time it’s autumn. All the tree species in the last three sets were planted on the same day; this time, each species will be planted on a different day. Shocker. The three species that will make up Set D are European beech (Fagus sylvatica), sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa), and rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), plus a European beech cultivar: cut- or fern-leaved beech (F. sylvatica ‘Aspleniifolia’).

The cut-leaved beech nuts, just prior to planting this evening.

“Here we go again. Didn’t you already plant beechnuts, like, two years ago?”

Why, yes I did, Negative Voice. For treeblog Set B, on the 14th of March 2008 I planted a small number of beechnuts collected from the same tree that I collected the Set D beechnuts from, as well as a smaller number of nuts collected from a weeping beech (Fagus sylvatica f. pendula) in Edinburgh.

NV: “Right. And just exactly how many of those nuts germinated?”

Precisely zero, which is why I am trying again. And this time I will succeed.

NV: “Your track record isn’t exactly filling me with confidence.”

Aah, but y’see, I’ve learnt from my mistakes. Last time I did it all wrong. I collected the nuts in the summer and kept them in the house all winter before planting them in the spring… by which time they would’ve been well and truly desiccated. Non-viable. Dead. (And the fact that I collected them in the summer meant I was probably collecting the previous year’s nuts – recipe for disaster or what?) This time around I planted my beechnuts just a few days after collection, and in the time between collection and plantage I kept the nuts from dehydrating by storing them in a couple of small bags of moist compost in the garden. I’ve got numbers on my side this time round too; I must have planted at least ten times as many beechnuts for Set D than I planted for Set B. Foolproof!

The Wigtwizzle beech nuts, immediately before planting this evening.

NV: “What about the rowans and sweet chestnuts? Haven’t you planted those before and weren’t those fail---“

All in good time, sir! All in good time. I’ve got foolproof plans for my rowans and sweet chestnuts too, but they’re best saved for future posts. Dudes, Set D is going to be immense.

Branches of the cut-leaved beech. (Photo: Saturday)

I went for a sweet little walk in the sun on Saturday (the 26th) afternoon. Yew Trees Lane Wood was really good, and by a certain bridge in a certain valley I found what I sought: a local oddity, the cut-leaved beech tree. I couldn’t see any on the tree, but the ground below the canopy was littered with fresh beechnuts, some still attached to their open cupules. I collected a fair amount...

A pair of beechnuts sitting in their open cupule, resting on the leaf litter below the cut-leaved beech. (Photo: Saturday)

My next port of call was just up the road, but I just didn’t have the time on Saturday to pay a visit. I returned on Monday (the 28th), to Wigtwizzle! where there doth grow one very ancient and venerable veteran sweet chestnut, and adjacent, one ancient, towering beech. Nuts were collected from both trees in 2007 for Set B and from just the chestnut in 2008 for Set C; neither set managed to produce a single tree. This year will be different! On Monday the sweet chestnut still wasn’t quite ready to relinquish its spike-protected fruits, but the beech was in full flow. The ground beneath the two trees was covered with thousands of beechnuts, all easy, luscious and ripe for the picking...

The beech at Wigtwizzle. (Photo: Saturday 7th July 2007 – the day I collected the Set B beechnuts)

A cut-leaved beech leaf. Nothing like an ordinary European beech leaf, eh? (Photo: Saturday)

This cut-leaved beech then. What’s it all about? I think a future post may warrant a deeper delve into the mysteries of this unusual tree, but until then here’s what the trusty Collins Tree Guide (Johnson, 2004) has to say:

Fern-leaved Beech, ‘Aspleniifolia’ (‘Heterophylla’), is only locally frequent as a tree of great distinctiveness and beauty, to 28 m, generating interest and sometimes bewilderment. The depth of the [leaf] lobbing varies from clone to clone. In the commonest and most feathery form (seldom grafted), the shoot-tip leaves are narrower or even linear [a few of the leaves on my local tree are very linear, reminiscent of the white willow, Salix alba], and the crown is distinctively pale, matt and fluffy even when seen at a distance; it colours early in autumn. This tree is a ‘chimaera’, with inner tissues of typical Beech enveloped by cells of the sport, so that sprouts with normal leaves will often grow from the trunk and branches, especially after an injury; unlike ordinary reversions, these seldom or never take over the whole crown. In winter, the tree is typically broad with a skirt of fine branches almost sweeping the ground, and has very dense, fine, horizontal or slightly rising shoot-systems; the distinctive leaves are very slow to rot.

My local tree fits all of these characteristics. I suppose it must have been planted by human hand, probably when the bridge was built (early- to mid-1930s). But by who and for what reason?

Slow-rotting leaf litter beneath the cut-leaved beech. (Photo: Saturday)


* * * * *

…To be planted as soon as the nuts are ripe: the Set D sweet chestnuts! …To be planted after a few months of pretreatment: the Set D rowans!


Posted in The treeblog trees












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