Grey alder No. 4 grievously harmed. A moral dilemma.

Grey alder No. 4 earlier today.

Admire its rain-spattered leaves…

…and the base of its trunk, as thick as a strong thumb.

A sunny interval after days of near-incessant rain saw me out in the garden this afternoon looking to take enough photos for a treeblog update. Unfortunately yet predictably the sun didn’t stay out long enough for that, but I did get some photos of grey alder No. 4. Then I noticed that the treeblog flagship has once more come under attack. Last year it was caterpillars; this year it’s much more serious. Those caterpillars were only interested in leaves, and leaves are easy come, easy go. But whatever is attacking the Beast this year is taking big chunks out of stems. And not just any stems, but specifically new ones at the top of the tree. The very leader is amongst those stems damaged.

Damage to one of grey alder No. 4’s upper stems.

Damage to the actual leader, just a few centimetres below the very top of the tree. Outrageous!

More damage.

Even more damage: a near-severed section of stem.

Who is causing the damage? Almost certainly some form of insect. But what? Aphids? There are a few on the tree, but surely greenfly can’t devour stems in this manner. Wasps? My father suggested that they could be to blame. I’ve read that they can chew through succulent stems, apparently to access water.

So far the other three alders don’t appear to have been damaged, but I am worried that the harm done to the leading shoot may cause grey alder No. 4 to fork, stopping it from becoming a great standard tree. I don’t want to see further damage inflicted, but I’m faced with a moral dilemma:

To use pesticide or not to use pesticide, that is the question.

I don’t agree with the use of pesticides. They are generally harmful to the environment; they are inherently unnatural; they are cheating. But. My alder means a lot to me. I have put a lot of effort into raising and documenting it; I have grown very fond of it; I want to prevent further harm from befalling it. Ten, twenty, fifty years down the line, I want grey alder No. 4 to be a great tree.

Dear reader, what stance would you take on this dilemma?

* * * * *

Set C news - Day 67 (today)
A further five seedlings (Nos. 5 to 9) found in sweet chestnut territory, but I have serious doubts over their authenticity.

Set C(r) news - Day 5 (today)
A seedling is discovered in the newly replanted rowan tray (‘Whitwell Moor’ zone). Again, I am suspicious over its authenticity - would a rowan have sprouted in so short a time, and without any pretreatment? Still, I’ve flagged it as Whitwell Moor rowan No. 2 (WM2). WM1 was found on the 8th of May (Set C Day 58) pre-replanting.

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