Set A grey alders update (Day 1180)

Grey alder No. 1 – by far the best of the alders these days. Diameter of main stem at base (øα) = 9 cm. Diameter at breast height (øβ) = 4 cm.

Ye be warned: herein there be bad news... I went on a mission to check up on the grey alders (Alnus incana) on Sunday (Set A, Day 1180). It was a pretty warm day but it wasn’t a patch on yesterday and today (27 °C in Sheffield this afternoon!).

Alder No. 1 looks pretty fantastic. When I planted these four bad boys in April, No. 1 was the tallest of the bunch; I’d say it also ended up getting planted in the best position. It has not been slack in building on these advantages; even though its lower branches have been browsed by sheep, its upper branches are nice and leafy and it has a lovely, straight stem. This straightness was threatened by the development of a fork right at the top of the main stem, but I intervened with a wee prune to ensure a single leader.

Here’s the resulting (neat and tiny) wound at the top of No. 1’s main stem. I removed the left stem at the fork (only about 20 cm long), so the right stem can continue as the main stem, keeping the tree a single-stemmer. I think that’s the first instance of a treeblog tree being pruned!

Grey alder No. 2 – it was the shortest of the alders when I planted them in the wild, being about as tall as I am. It’s still the same height, and it doesn’t really have a whole lot of leaves, but at least the sheep haven’t inflicted any new damage. As with No. 1, No. 2’s lower branches are damaged and leafless, but most of this damage was inflicted in the first couple of weeks after planting. Unfortunately, the tip of its leader has died, but No. 2 has previously had to put up with having its leader nibbled off. øα = 9 cm. øβ = 2 cm.

Grey alder No. 3 – currently the second-tallest of the four, but looking distinctly scraggly. øα = 9.5 cm. øβ = 4 cm. Like Nos. 2 and 4, it is having to compete with quite a bit of bracken (Pteridium aquilinum). It’s also taken quite a mauling from the marauding sheeps:

Here’s a selection of some of the damage inflicted to No. 3’s stem by our ovine friends. The end photos show bark-stripping damage to the lower stem, while the centre photo shows a wound on the upper stem where a branch has been ripped off.

This sorry specimen is grey alder No. 4. Not so very long ago this was miles ahead of its fellow alders and treeblog’s flagship tree. Now it’s just a green stick, stripped of its leaves and dignity by a band of woolly bastards. What a tragedy to befall such a promising young sapling! Its leader is dead too. I have serious doubts that No. 4 will be able to survive in this state for much longer. øα = 9 cm. øβ = 2 cm.

Here’s the very top of No. 4, showing the dead leader on the right and two small and unhealthy leaves (arrowed).

The photo on the left shows bark-stripping damage, along with a few wisps of black wool (evidence). The centre photo shows one of the handful of tiny leaves yet remaining on the tree; as soon as these appear, the sheep must be eating them away. The photo on the right shows a horrible slash on the main stem near its base – could a sheep have done this too?

And there you have it: grey alder No. 4 is totally screwed. Nos. 2 and 3 aren’t doing as well as I hoped. No. 1 is doing fine, but the sheep could strike at any time. Bloody nuisances. I went out of my way to plant these four trees in places where they wouldn’t be touched by the hand of man, but ironically they’re suffering instead at the teeth of sheep. What makes it more frustrating is that Nos. 2 and 3 are in a supposedly sheep-proof enclosure, but I saw three sheep in there! Three sheep that seem to prefer the taste of alder over the abundant and plentiful supply of rowan and birch that’s on offer.

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