The origins of treeblog’s Set A alders

Come with me, back through the hazy mists of time, back to the 6th of February 2007. A grey Tuesday afternoon. I was on a field trip with one of my third year classes at university (Evolution and Ecology of Plants) to “study lichens ‘in the wild’ and to collect specimens for study in the lab”. Location? Gowkley Moss, a land reclamation site on a former coal bing not far from Edinburgh. I know the date and location of the field trip from my notes.

I can’t remember much else. Except that I collected a few alder cones. Looking back, I don’t remember collecting them with the intention of planting them as treeblog trees. But that must have been my purpose; treeblog would have been very much on my mind back then, what with the first ever post coming only a little over a week after the field trip. What I do know is that when I got back from the trip, I put the alder cones in a little home-made envelope. I must also have put in what looks to be a larch cone, to which the following photograph will attest, although of this I have no recollection.

Four empty alder cones – the bearers of treeblog seed - and what might be a larch cone.

Anyway, on the 28th of March 2007, the date of treeblog’s inaugural planting, I opened the little envelope and planted the seeds that had fallen from the cones. Along with a packet of Scots pine seeds and a packet of cider gum seeds, they formed treeblog’s Set A. I know for a fact that they are alders - I’m just ever so slightly unsure as to the species of alder. The common or black alder (Alnus glutinosa) is native to most of Britain. But according to my Collins Field Guide Trees of Britain and Northern Europe (Alan Mitchell, 1974) the grey alder (Alnus incana) is often planted on reclaimed tips – i.e. Gowkley Moss. And seeing as how my memory of that field trip is pretty rubbish, I’m not sure what species of alder I was collecting seed from. It was winter, the trees were leafless, I am no alder expert.

The seeds from the envelope that were planted as treeblog’s Set A alders.

As for the larch, none ever germinated, making it likely that I never planted any larch seeds in the first place.

Update (August 2008): they are grey alders!

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