Set A grey alders update (Day 1277)

I went to check on the progress of the Set A grey alders yesterday with my father. Five months have passed since we planted them out in the wild and three and a half years have gone by since I planted them as seeds in my back garden in March 2007. How they have grown (time flies).

Here’s grey alder No. 1 looking grand yesterday. Compare this with how it looked three months ago in the photo below (taken from the last update).

Grey alder No. 1 on the 20th of June (Day 1180).

Since then No. 1 has grown taller and leafier. It was (very roughly) 2.4 m tall at the end of June but yesterday it measured approximately 2.8 m. In June its main stem had a basal circumference (C1) of 9 cm and a circumference at breast height (C2) of 4 cm; yesterday it measured 9.5 cm at C1 and 5 cm at C2.

Unfortunately the lower part of No. 1’s stem has been heavily damaged by browsing sheep. The damage is pretty nasty and the tree doesn’t seem to be making any headway in sealing the wounds.

On my last visit in June, No. 1’s main stem had started to fork near the top, so I pruned off one of the co-dominant stems to force the tree into staying as a single-stemmer. Here’s the tiny pruning wound and the nice, straight stem three months on. Success!

Here’s alder No. 2 yesterday…

…and on the 20th of June.

Quite a difference, eh? It had barely any leaves back in June and the tip of its leader had just died. Then it was only about 1.8 m tall; yesterday we measured it as approx. 2.5 m – quite an improvement. On the 20th of June it measured up as C1 = 9 cm, C2 = 2 cm; it now has C1 = 11 cm, C2 = 4.5 cm.

Grey alder No. 3 yesterday.

No. 3 on the 20th of June.

This one has also markedly improved. Three months ago No. 3 was a scraggly mess but today it is a fine specimen of a sapling. I’d say it is now the best of the bunch. In June it was roughly 2.1–2.4 m tall; yesterday it stood at approx. 2.8 m. June’s stem measurements were C1 = 9.5 cm, C2 = 4 cm; yesterday’s were C1 = 11.5 cm, C2 = 5.5 cm.

The horrible gnawing damage inflicted on the lower stem is ‘healing’ nicely, although it doesn’t look pretty. The growth of the fourth wall of CODIT* - the new growth that grows around the wounds and will eventually seal them – is quite pronounced, something worryingly absent from alder No. 1’s stem damage.

CODIT stands for Compartmentalisation of Decay in Trees, a theory developed by the late, great Alex Shigo to explain how trees react to injury by compartmentalising areas of infection. It’s a fascinating subject, but it’d be one hell of a digression!

Looking up at the top of No. 3.

Grey alder No. 4 yesterday: all that remains is a battered stick without even a single leaf. Once the greatest of all the treeblog trees, it has been eaten almost to nothing by sheep. What a fall from grace!

Even back in June it had taken a complete battering and was already leafless, as this photo attests. Thank-you, sheep. Then it was approx. 1.8 m tall, but today it has been cut down to just 1.35 m.

But even in this pathetic state, No. 4’s stem is still green. It is still alive. There may still be a chance. On my next visit - maybe a couple of months away? - I’m going to dig it up and move it somewhere, perhaps to a ledge on a cliff face away from the sheep. There may still be some hope. I hope.

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In other news, I repotted the two Set A Scots pines this afternoon.

Posted in The treeblog trees

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