19 posts tagged with

Alnus - the alders

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Treeblog Video #1. Set A update: grey alders (October 2012 & June 2013)

I have been very lax for a while now in keeping Treeblog updated with the development of the Treeblog trees. I intend to make amends in the coming weeks by posting updates on all the grey alders, Scots pines, downy birches, rowans and beeches in the Treeblog stable – starting now with the Set A grey alders, which last appeared on these pages over fifteen months ago in this update from March 2012. But before I go into an standard update, please take a couple of moments to watch Treeblog’s first ever video which provides a brief overview of the life of my grey alders so far!


So I’d just like to say, if it wasn’t obvious enough already, that this was my first time doing anything like this on film (and I apologise for my weird Yorkshire accent)! It would be great to get some feedback on the video as I am genuinely interested in what you thought, and Dave Clancy and Steve Young, who did all the filming and editing, would also really appreciate hearing your views. You can leave a comment at the end of the post or you can send an email to the address top right. If you enjoyed our little film then I politely encourage you to spread the Treeblog word by tweeting a link or something!

Right then, on to the update proper!

This is grey alder No. 1 on the 9th of June 2013 (Set A Day 2265), the same day as we filmed the video. The tree is alive and well; the sheep haven’t been back to finish it off.

This is grey alder No. 1 a few months earlier on the 19th of October 2012 (Set A Day 2032), back when I made a pre-winter tour of the alders with my father.

This is No. 1 on the 9th of June again, taken from a similar angle.

When I visited in October I noticed that alder No. 1 had a cluster of maturing female catkins…

…as well as a couple of clusters of immature male catkins, ready to open up and release pollen in spring.

I also visited the alders on the 30th of December 2012, minus my camera. My notes from that day record No. 1 having some mature female catkins and a few male catkins, No. 3 having many male catkins but no female catkins, and No. 2 having no catkins at all.

On my June visit, No. 1 again had two or three clusters of immature female catkins. I didn’t see any sign of last year’s catkins.

This is grey alder No. 2 in October with yours truly for scale...

…and here’s No. 2 again on the 9th of June. It is still the best of the three grey alders in my opinion.

No. 2 had no catkins at all last year, but on my June visit I counted at least six clusters of immature female catkins (but no male catkins).

Here’s grey alder No. 3 in October…

…and here it is again in June.

In October, No. 3 had at least six clusters of male catkins but I didn’t notice any catkins at all on my June visit.

Now for some tree stats. I made measurements of height, stem circumference at base, and stem circumference at breast height (approx. 1.5 m) on my October and June visits, but made no measurements in December. Previously I estimated height by hanging a tape measure off a stick held up to the height of the trees, but (as seen in the video!) in June I took my bespoke measuring stick, fashioned by my father in 2008 and originally used during my dissertation fieldwork! Heights are approximate to the nearest 0.1 m and circumferences are approximate to the nearest centimetre.

Grey alder Height (m)
Oct 2012
Height (m)
Jun 2013
Increase (m)
No. 1 3.1 3.3 0.2
No. 2 3.5 3.6 0.1
No. 3 3.6 3.6 0
Grey alder Stem circ. at base (cm)
Oct 2012
Stem circ. at base (cm)
Jun 2013
Increase (cm)
No. 1 15 14 -1*
No. 2 18 18 0
No. 3 18 19 1
Grey alder Stem circ. at 1.5 m (cm)
Oct 2012
Stem circ. at 1.5 m (cm)
Jun 2013
Increase (cm)
No. 1 7 8 1
No. 2 9 10 1
No. 3 9 10 1

* This only goes to show the potential errors hidden in these measurements!

And here is the base of alder No. 1. It has a much more slender stem than Nos. 2 and 3 and still shows severe wounding caused by grazing sheep. The tree seems to be struggling to compartmentalise this damage by growing ‘wound’ wood.

In stark contrast, the base of alder No. 2 is in pristine condition!

The base of No. 3 still shows sign of sheep damage but the wounds are rapidly being covered over with new wood and should hopefully be undetectable in a few years.


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Coming soon: behind the scenes on the Treeblog shoot!


Posted in The treeblog trees





Perfect Sunday walk around Dale Dike and Strines Reservoirs (Part 2)

This post continues from Part 1.

Razor strop (Piptoporus betulinus) on a dead birch.

Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) on the wing over Strines Reservoir.

Male catkins on a common alder (Alnus glutinosa).

Male catkins with immature female catkins, the purplish ‘match heads’ attached to the twig above the male catkins which will mature into woody cones that remain on the tree the year round.

Common toad (Bufo bufo) doing the breast stroke in a wee streamlet (in Pears House Clough* I think) that flows into Strines Reservoir from the south. [* Apparently Boot’s Folly was built from stone taken from the disused Bents Farm and Pear House Farm when they were demolished.]

Looking north-east from tussocky Broad Carr.

The view across Strines Reservoir to Boot’s Folly (post ice-&-a-slice-enhanced refreshment at the ancient Strines Inn). Sugworth Hall, the home of Charles Boot, is hidden by the eminence on which his folly stands.

A long-dead tree that improbably remains standing, propped up by a birch.

Continued in Part 3.


Posted in Gone for a walk





It’s never too cold to go looking at ancient alders

On Friday afternoon I took my father on a little walk to check out some ancient-looking alders I’d spotted last weekend, when I was unable to get close enough for a good look because the Little Don was in the way.

It was so cold that the Little Don had actually started to freeze over! At work in the morning one of the vans had given the outside temperature as -5 °C, but that was in the middle of Sheffield where it was almost certainly warmer. Proper face-numb-er!

I love these two Scots pines. I love this whole area! It’s brill!

These icicles highlighted the bedding planes in one of the little land-slips.

Looking down on one of the old alders (Alnus glutinosa)…

Here’s another. It’s certainly an old one – look at the girth around the bottom of the trunk. Still, I was hoping they would be a bit bigger. If my memory is correct, the one I found in the autumn a short way away up Mickleden Beck is much bigger and more ancient (in appearance at least).

As well as old alders, five or six yews (Taxus baccata) grow on this side of the river. All of them have thriving, healthy crowns, although none have any serious trunk girth. The smallest of the yews (not the one in the photo) is interesting in that almost the entire tree had died off in some catastrophe, but it has regenerated with a vengeance and the crown is so well-formed and hale that from a distance you wouldn’t believe what a disaster befell it. Up close, you can see the old dead stems and branches and see how only a small line of living bark runs up the back of the trunk, although this appears to be doing its best to encircle the rest of trunk. No wonder yews live forever if this is what they can do!

This, the alder seen from above a few photos back, is the biggest of the handful of alders here. They all look to be coppices – but whether they are naturally coppicing themselves as old stems die off and new ones grow, or whether they have been managed in the forgotten past, I couldn’t possibly know.

It’s a lovely old tree.

When I turned around this hawthorn was trying to limbo or something.

Downy brrrrrch.

This is my absolute favourite kind of light – the late afternoon, pre-sunset light you get on a cloudless day that bathes the landscape in a golden glow. It has the power to make a photograph feel warm even despite it having been taken in Baltic conditions!


Posted in Gone for a walk





Woodland restructuring at Langsett Reservoir

Four weeks ago I went for a walk to Mickleden Beck to see what kind of trees grew there; I’d heard a rumour of aspen. My route took me past Langsett Reservoir, where some pretty big changes have been taking place over the last year or two. Much of the conifer plantation on the south-west side of the reservoir has been clearfelled and subsequently replanted with native species.

According to an information board erected by the owners, Yorkshire Water, the woods are being restructured as part of the East Midlands Woodland Bird Project:

Planted in 1962, comprising approximately 25 hectares of coniferous woodland, the North America plantation including Delf Edge and Mauk Royd is being managed to help native woodland birds… We’re felling most of the coniferous trees whilst saving and protecting key native trees. The area will be re planted with oak and birch trees to develop new upland oak woodland, with woody shrubs like hazel, blackthorn, alder, willow and rowan.

I wrote a post here about the same time last year, while the conifers were still being felled.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the new woodland develops!

Larch. Whether European, Japanese or Dunkeld (hybrid), I wouldn’t like to say. I am not confident telling the three apart.

I failed to find any aspen at Mickleden Beck, but I didn’t search for long. What I did find was this incredible veteran alder (Alnus glutinosa) growing beside the stream. It is truly ancient, and is perhaps an old pollard. And keeping it company through the years is an ancient holly (Ilex aquifolium)! Both trees were in shade by the time I got to them, so I didn’t get any great photos – but I’ll be back!

On the return leg, Langsett Reservoir and the surrounding moors were lit by the late afternoon autumn sunlight.

That’s Hartcliff Hill in the distance there.

A peaceful pool on Midhope Moors. I hope those clouds lend some symmetry!

The reservoir was still illuminated as the day slid into twilight.

A lonely, half-dead birch that had once grown amongst the conifers has been left standing after all the felling. It’s in a bad way, but it is possible that next year it will produce seed and its offspring will be a part of the new wood. The three bracket fungi are Piptoporus betulinus – razor strop or birch polypore.

The birch has managed to outlive the conifers that suppressed it all its life, but for how much longer?

Langsett Reservoir at dusk.


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This month’s Festival of the Trees is hosted by Georgia at local ecologist. There are a ton of great links, as always – something is bound to pique your interest!


Posted in Gone for a walk + Notable trees





Around Broomhead Reservoir

A couple of weekends ago I was down at Broomhead Reservoir, taking advantage of the low water level (though it isn’t as low as the neighbouring More Hall Reservoir) to see if I could find any remains of Broomhead Mill. I couldn’t.

In the foreground is the old course of the Ewden Beck, the river that flows into the reservoir. Normally this section is submerged beneath the waters of Broomhead, but while the reservoir is low the old channel gets to remember what it was like to once have been a river.

This old stump and dry stone wall are also normally submerged in the reservoir. The wall runs along the edge of a tiny valley where Allas Lane Dike, a small stream, once ran down to join Ewden Beck.

At the reservoir’s high water mark, a bit of erosion has exposed the roots of two trees. On the left, a common alder (Alnus glutinosa); on the right, an oak (either pedunculate or sessile).

Looking across the reservoir to the northern shore. The water surface was very calm, but it wasn’t quite still enough to produce a perfect mirror image of the trees over there.

As I stood gazing admiringly across the water, I heard a splash and automatically went for the camera. A fish had surfaced and triggered a series of ever increasing circles.

In a bit of woodland next to the reservoir I spotted a couple of huge brackets on a dead birch stem just as the light was beginning to fail.

They were: Piptoporus betulinus - razor strop or birch polypore.

Something – a woodpecker, I presume – had drilled a hole in the rotten stem, and wee flakes of dead wood had rained down upon both brackets. Nature’s brilliant, eh?


Posted in Gone for a walk





Autumn colours and Ogden’s Folly at More Hall Reservoir

For whatever reason, the level of water in More Hall Reservoir is currently very low indeed. Lower, even, than it was in January.

I walked all the way around the reservoir in January, on land normally submerged beneath the waters, hunting for a mysterious sign labelled “Ogden’s Folly” which had been the subject of a letter to the local newspaper.

I didn’t manage to find it in January, and a few weeks later the reservoir had filled up again. This week a commenter reminded me of the sign and I went down to have another look on Friday afternoon.

This time I found it! Ogden’s Folly. I suppose the story must go that a chap named Ogden was fishing at this spot, which is on the edge of a sudden, steep drop. The level of the water must have been such that the drop-off was obscured, and Ogden mistakenly assumed that the ground continued to slope gently. When he took a step forward he plunged into the reservoir, and some joker subsequently erected this little sign to immortalise the incident. And by coincidence, an hour later I found a nearby bench looking out over the reservoir that is dedicated to the memory of a Harry Ogden, Founder Member of the Morehall Fly Fishing Club. That’s some nice closure to my hunt.

One of many old stumps usually hidden beneath the waters - ghosts of trees that once lived a happy life by a charming brook.

The receded water level has encouraged lots of new plant growth. This little alder (Alnus glutinosa) was in the company of many alder, birch and willow seedlings and saplings. Any idea what these daisy-like flowers are?

A willow, one a of a pair that grow in the edge of the reservoir.

This is the other. As you can tell by the tide mark on the trunk, these willows are submerged by two or three feet when the reservoir is at capacity.

Stumps and desolation. It’s hard to imagine that before the reservoir was built this section of the river would have been a rural beauty.

The vibrant autumn colours were striking. I wonder if the angler had any success?


Posted in Gone for a walk





The Cape Wrath Experience. Watery postcards from North-West Scotland.

A powerful waterfall above Bucktooth’s Meadow in Glen Golly. We were going to camp in the meadow on our third night, but nay sooner than we’d selected a passable pitch a swarm of midges materialised and we legged it sharpish.

Two weeks ago I was on a hike in the extreme North-West of Scotland with two friends from uni. This was Team Seatle’s fourth big walk together, having previously done Lake Windermere and Coniston Water in the Lake District in 2007, Blair Atholl to Aviemore through the Cairngorms in 2008, and the Skye Trail in 2010. This year, because of some spectacularly wet weather, we had to cut short our planned route. Yet despite our perpetually saturated boots (leading to some impressively sore feet on my part), we still managed to enjoy four days of walking and three nights of camping in an incredibly remote and beautiful part of the country.

I drove us up from Edinburgh on Saturday the 28th of May and we stayed the night in the Durness youth hostel. The bunkhouse was pretty basic, but as we discovered later in the week, the communal area in the second building was lovely and cosy. In the morning we caught the ferry across the Kyle of Durness - we were lucky the ferrymen decided it was safe to cross as the sour weather had prevented any crossings being made the previous day. On the other side of the water we walked through an incredible rainstorm to arrive soaking wet at Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point of mainland Britain; we camped just south of the Cape that night. A sunny Monday saw us walking south towards Sandwood Loch before turning east up a long glen where we made camp again. It bucketed it down during the night, but Tuesday (Day Three) gave us pleasant weather. This was a long day of walking up and down glens, past lochs and waterfalls, for miles and miles and miles. We camped not far from Glen Golly, and as we were eating our evening meal the rain started up again. It rained hard all night and we seriously thought the tent wouldn’t make it through to the morning, the wind was giving us that much of a hard time. (We should never have doubted the tent.; it was only forty pounds from Halfords but it has seen us through all four walks!) We were rained on all day Wednesday as we followed the road down Strathmore to Loch Hope. Here we turned onto the Moine Path, which was pegged as one of the trip highlights. Unfortunately, three weeks of unseasonally bad weather (and I suppose that’s saying something for this part of the world) had turned the path into a seriously unpleasant quagmire. After trudging uphill for an hour (my wet boots had been busy on my feet the past few days so I was limping quite badly), we came to the first of fourteen rivers marked on the map. The river before us was a raging torrent, though I suspect it is usually a quiet stream. Well, we were wet enough already without performing another river crossing, and we reasoned that we might struggle across seven rivers only to be well and truly blocked by the eighth, so we made the decision to retrace our steps back down the Moine Path.

I hitch-hiked back to Durness to collect the car, then I drove us to Tongue were we spent Wednesday night in considerable luxury at the youth hostel there (where we had planned to stay anyway), after a grand meal in the bar at the Tongue Hotel. The next day we were tourists, visiting places like the cleared township of Ceannabeinne, the ‘beach of the burn of the old woman’, and the awesome Smoo Cave. The night we spent back in Durness hostel, and we drove back to Edinburgh on Friday the 3rd of June. Quite an adventure!

I know that hasn’t got anything to do with trees, but it sets the scene for the handful of photos I took that actually have trees in them. There aren’t many trees up in that wild land.

We passed this rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) on Day One soon after crossing over the Kyle of Durness on the ferry (which was just a really small boat). It was just coming into flower.

The Kyle stretches out behind the rowan. In the distance we saw a group of seals chilling on a sand bank.

On Day Three a landrover track we had been following ended abruptly at a loch. We followed deer tracks around the edge of the loch and had to cross over this boisterous stream which was at the foot of a very impressive waterfall… (The tree in this photo is another rowan. The vast majority of trees we saw were rowans or downy birches (Betula pubescens)).

…this waterfall. Seeing the waterfalls in full flow was definitely a worthy pay-off for suffering with incessantly-soaking boots. We filled our water bottles at this one. The water was good.

This is another ‘tree’ that we saw a lot of. It was common on the boggy moors and grew no taller than the grass and heather. I’m fairly sure that it’s some dwarfish species of alpine willow, but I can’t make a positive ID. Can anybody help me out with this one?

We walked past this broch in the rain on Day Four (the stone structure by the river). We passed it again driving back to Edinburgh so we stopped to take photos in better weather. According to the information board: ”When built about 2000 years ago, Dun Dornaigil (or Dornadilla, as it is also called) would have stood about twice as high. Its drystone walls formed a complete circle, pierced only by a single narrow entrance. The walls were hollow, and within their thickness a stone stair gave access to several narrow galleries, probably used for storage. The inner courtyard would have held a thatched wooden dwelling which housed the small farming community who had built the broch as a shelter against marauding raiders.” The Strath More river is calm in this photo, but when two days earlier it was flowing frighteningly fast.

We stopped for a bit at Glenmore near Aviemore on the way back to Edinburgh. This is the view across Loch Morlich to the Cairngorms; those leaves in the foreground are common alder (Alnus glutinosa). The weather was phenomenally nice, so it was a bit weird to be seeing snow on the tops. After resting by the loch-side for a while, we headed to the café adjoining the visitor centre for cake and a drink… which was exactly what we did as we passed through near the end of our big hike in 2008! I thought that was a nice touch.


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June’s video-laden edition of the Festival of the Trees - No. 60 - is hosted by Brenda of Rubies in Crystal. Go read / watch!


Posted in Holidays and field trips





An early spring wander (21st March 2010) (Part One)

A twin-stemmed beech (Fagus sylvatica).

A proliferation of small fungal brackets on a dead Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris). They look like turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) - or at least something in that genus - but my encyclopaedia of fungi says that T. versicolor is only found on broad-leaved species. Is that right? Can anyone set us straight in the comments?

The first wood on Whitwell Moor, home to the twin-stemmed beech and rotting Scots pine.

A weak sun shines through the peeling, papery bark of a young downy birch (Betula pubescens).

Goat willows (Salix caprea) are currently putting out their furry catkins. They are dioecious trees – individuals are either male or female – and both sexes produce catkins. At this early stage in their development, I’m not sure whether these catkins are ♀ or ♂.

Alder (Alnus glutinosa) catkins. The long ones in the centre of the photo are the males; these will extend and become golden in colour before they shed their pollen, at which point they will resemble male hazel catkins. The ruby-red, rugby ball-shaped immature female catkins (above the males in this photo) will develop into hard, woody, seed-bearing ‘cones’.

Here they are: the mature female catkins. The three in this photograph would have been at the same stage as those in the previous photo at this time last spring. The cones persist on the tree through winter, lending the leafless alder a distinctive silhouette.

A female hazel (Corylus avellana) flower peeking between two pairs of male catkins.

Just look at all those catkins! There’s even another female flower at the top of the photo! Hazels are amazing at this time of year.

How’s this for a spot of genius? An ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) seen above and below ground simultaneously!


Posted in Gone for a walk





BudWatch (21st March 2010)

I went out for a wander on Sunday and was slightly disappointed to see such little springly progress from the buds on the locally-growing deciduous trees.

Hazel (Corylus avellana) buds and catkins. The catkins – some folks know them as lambs’ tails – are made up of male flowers. A female flower is hiding in the upper-centre of this photo.

Birch (probably downy birch, Betula pubescens).

English oak (Quercus robur). I’ve noticed that the terminal buds are often flanked by a pair of smaller buds, although the terminal bud in this photo has lost one of its two buddies. (It’s the Lonely Oak!)

Larch (probably European larch, Larix decidua) pegs and a ‘bud’ of some sort – maybe a flower very early on in development? I was very disappointed to find that there were no larch roses on this tree at all; this time last year they were out in force!

Goat willow (Salix caprea). On some of the trees catkins were already forming! I noticed that the buds on the trees with catkins were a light green while the trees without catkins had reddish buds (as in the above photo). Is this a way to tell the male trees from the female trees?

Common alder (Alnus glutinosa). Distinctively purply-velvety buds.

Hawthorn (probably the common hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna).

Here’s a wee hawthorn story: I was at college today, being taught how to use Tirfor winches in the context of stump removal. It is an agricultural college, and someone in the equestrian section pointlessly wanted a small section of hawthorn hedge, about five metres long, removing from a little patch of grass next to the stables. It was the remnant of a hedgerow that was mostly destroyed when the stables were built – a hedgerow probably laid down hundreds of years ago. Our instructor, an arboricultural legend (who shares my view that it is a great shame to get rid of something planted so long ago), reckoned it probably dated from the mid-eighteenth century, perhaps from medieval times; possibly, if it was Midland hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata), it may have dated from as far back as the tenth century! The roots were certainly grand old things.

European beech (Fagus sylvatica). The buds are easily identified with their long and pointy ways. ‘Cigar-shaped’, some say.

Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa). Unassuming, eh?

And of the buds of other locally-growing tree species that I saw up close but are MIA from this post… Common ash (Fraxinus excelsior) buds showed no signs of opening yet, sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) buds were green and swelling, and elder (Sambucus nigra) – I saw a couple of elders with closed buds but one growing on a south-facing slope was covered in tiny green leaves, yippee!


Posted in Gone for a walk





Fairholmes – Derwent & Howden Reservoirs – Alport Castles – Fairholmes (13th February 2010)

The imposing Derwent Dam. When the reservoir is full, as it was on Saturday, water pours from between the two towers to cascade foamily down the mighty stone wall.

A spot of super weather was forecast for Saturday so in the morning I headed off to Fairholmes, the visitor hub for the Derwent Valley. The weather didn’t live up to my high expectations, but it wasn’t too bad. At least it’s spring now; winter seems to have been abruptly switched off on the 28th of Feb. From Fairholmes I headed north along the western shores of Derwent and Howden reservoirs, before turning west and climbing up onto the moors to reach the spectacular Alport Castles. Following the high ground south-east, I eventually ended up back at Fairholmes. (Have a go at sussing it out on Google Maps!)

Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) buds are amazingly sticky. This one has glued itself to a few stray conifer needles.

This brave young alder (Alnus glutinosa) was growing part-submerged in the reservoir.

The road running up the side of the reservoir is bordered for a few hundred metres by a hawthorn hedge. It has been recently savaged along most of its length, probably by rabbits. They have stripped the bark from most of the stems an inch or less in diameter; anything larger was left unharmed.

Illuminated fruticose lichens (and unilluminated foliose lichens) growing on sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) bark on the site of Tin Town. (For the fascinating history of Tin Town, or Birchinlee, see here and here.)

A fine beech (Fagus sylvatica) growing on the site of Tin Town – so it can’t be any older than a hundred years.

This is another beech, but instead of having the lovely, smooth, silver bark typical of its species, this tree was all over disfigured by cankers.

This is the tip of the westwards-pointing spur of Howden Reservoir where it is joined by the River Westend – and look! There is still ice on the surface in the middle of March!

Looking back at Howden, having attained the lofty heights of the moors. There were still plenty of snow pockets around up on the tops. It hasn’t snowed for weeks!

Almost back at Fairholmes – this is the view across the northern tip of Ladybower Reservoir.


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Next month’s edition of the Festival of the Trees will be hosted by Vanessa of Vannessa’s Trees and Shrubs Blog. Send in your submissions to treesandshrubs [dot] guide [at] about [dot] com. The deadline is the 29th of March. (The optional theme, in honour of April’s Fools Day, is humourous trees.)


Posted in Gone for a walk





First signs of spring: alder and hazel catkins. A brief update on the treeblog trees.

Male catkins on hazel (Corylus avellana).

Winter’s grip on the countryside is finally loosening! The weather may still be nasty, but the days are getting longer and the local alders and hazels have been blasting out their male catkins. The hazels in particular look rather spiffing, their pale yellow lambs’ tails creating welcome splashes of colour in an otherwise bleak treescape.

More male hazel catkins, or lambs’ tails. These photos were taken beside Broomhead Reservoir on Tuesday.

This year’s developing male catkins (cigar-shaped) and last year’s woody female catkins (egg-shaped) on an overhead alder (Alnus glutinosa) branch.


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And now for a brief update on the treeblog trees, neglected on this blog for far too long. Sad face.


Set A

The two Scots pines look fine. The four grey alders are covered in buds; the top of grey alder No. 4 is dead, as suspected in September. Most of the cider gums look alright, although a few of them have picked up a bit of a lean. Cider gums Nos. 1 and 15 look like they have suffered some serious frost damage. Will they survive? No. 15 took a lot of frost damage last year and survived… The post-Set A goat willow (the seedling formerly known as PSAUS) has some nice big buds.


Set C

Most of the downy birches have just started opening their tiny little buds. A few of them may have died, and some of them look to have had their roots exposed over the winter, so some replanting may be in order this weekend.

Set C’s downy birch No. 2 on Tuesday (16th February – 342 days after planting), standing a fine one-inch tall.


Set D

None of the sweet chestnuts or beechnuts, planted in the autumn, have sprouted yet. I’m aiming to plant my rowan seeds, the other component of Set D, in March. They are currently undergoing pretreatment.


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P.S. It was treeblog’s third anniversary on Sunday!


Posted in Gone for a walk + The treeblog trees





Photos from a brief walk (even more goat willow, larch and alder)

Friday was another of summer’s outriders – a beautiful blue sky and warm enough for shorts and t-shirts, even in the wind on top of a hill. I fitted in a little trip to those goat willows I have under observation (my third in a fortnight) before heading off for the first barbeque of the year, on a sixth floor balcony no less. I took plenty of photos of larch roses on the way, but there has already been plenty of those on treeblog recently. In comparison, the male flowers have been underrepresented on these pages, so let’s start off with some.

A line of male European larch (Larix decidua) flowers. They look like tiny little birds’ nests or baskets full of tiny little eggs to me.

And on the same tree, brand new needles are emerging from a particularly knobbly bit of branch.

The Lonely Oak. Seen from ‘behind’, it doesn’t appear anywhere near as iconic (or lonely) as it does in the classic view.

The eastern Salter Hill, whose summit is home to the ruins of a WWII-era enemy plane spotting post. The branches hanging overhead belong to an ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior). I haven’t seen any ashes showing signs of flushing so far this spring, but they always are one of the later ones to come into leaf.

Three female goat willow (Salix caprea) catkins…

…and a pair of male goat willow catkins in different stages of flowering. At the moment, the male goat willows closer to Sheffield appear pale yellow from a distance because they are already covered with catkins at the same stage as the one on the left above. However, the males in this particular group, halfway up the Ewden valley, still have most of their catkins at the same stage as the one on the right above: this isn’t the right word, but they aren’t quite ripe yet. There are exceptions though, as evidenced by the above photograph. How far those stamens extend!

By the way, I tried the experiment I proposed in the previous post (If the bark is stripped from a two-year [grey willow] shoot, it reveals fine ridges absent in S. caprea). The result: no fine ridges. The conclusion: these really are goat willows and not grey willows.

Incidentally, I had a sniff of the debarked twigs and they smelled a lot like a freshly cut tomato does. I know that willows contain a lot of salicylic acid. Was this what I could smell? Does this mean that tomatoes contain a lot of salicylic acid too? A quick Google gave several faux health sites stating that they do.

Female common alder (Alnus glutinosa) flowers (and to the right, some of the male flowers). These will ripen into the little woody cones that are one of the alder’s distinguishing features: they are retained throughout the winter, and the old cones are very prominent on leafless alders.

A big ash. Backed up by old maps, I believe that a century or so ago this area would have been fields, probably rough grassland type. In time they were left to go wild, as you can see, with birch and goat willow and alder and bracken (among others) successionally muscling in. The 1894 map has tree symbols along the field boundaries. Are these supposed to symbolise hedgerows or individual large trees? This ash is one of the largest trees here today, but is it old enough to have been one of those large individuals a century ago? I digress. There is an old hawthorn standing right next to the ash (obscured in the above photo) that is split open and all charred inside. I reckon it must have been struck by a bolt of lightning that also damaged the ash, which has had much of the bark at its base removed. Both trees are still alive and new growth is starting to close over the wounds.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Summer's outrider: flowers & buds & catkins & trees

Male catkins swinging from a common alder (Alnus glutinosa) at Owler Carrs.

Yes, Friday and Saturday were real stunners. It seemed as though summer was already upon us, even though the trees were still bare. Signs of spring were all about. Catkins still dangled from alders in droves, although most hazel catkins are now past their best; and immature catkins – probably male - were protruding stiffly from the ends of birch twigs. Sycamores (Acer pseudoplatanus) are on the verge of flushing, and I saw evidence that rowans and birches are to soon follow suit. A single larch was already sprouting bright green needles; other larches, while not yet flushing, bristled with small but beautiful flowers.

The photographs in this post were all taken on Saturday in the Ewden Valley as I walked down one side and up the other – then later on back the same way.

Two pines at the bottom of a hill. I’ve seen old maps from 1893, 1903, and 1905 that show this patch was then within the bounds of a coniferous wood. A map from 1855 shows the wood not yet in existence, and a “revision of 1929 with additions in 1938 & 1948” map shows the wood to have been much reduced in size. The wood survives today in a further reduced state, mainly to the left of this shot…

...here: a very open wood consisting primarily of stunted pines and larches. I wonder if the wood was planted as a means of sheltering Whitwell Moor, lying to the north, which in those days was grouse shooting territory.

A cluster of willowy trees growing around a spring. Are they willows? Dunno. I currently have little confidence identifying willows, but I want to change that. For the present… are these developing goat willow (a.k.a. pussy willow a.k.a. sallow - Salix caprea) catkins? Any help in the comments would be greatly appreciated!

More male common alder catkins. On the twigs just above where the male catkins are attached, immature, dark purpley-brown female ‘cones’ (technically catkins) are developing. My apologies for their being out of focus in this photo.

An unfurling rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) leaf. It’ll be up and photosynthesising in no time at all, sir.

Here are a couple of past-their-best, dead-looking male hazel (Corylus avellana) catkins. It feels as if treeblog has gone a bit crazy on the alder and hazel catkins lately. That’s a good thing.

So, you’ve seen the male parts of a hazel. In the interests of balance, how about a peek at the female parts? I’ve noticed that there are barely any of these female flowers on each plant, and I’ve read that hazel’s fertility in many parts of Britain is already compromised by grey squirrels eating the hazelnuts that these flowers develop into. It’s a wonder there are any new hazels growing at all.

Aaaah, larch flowers (probably European larch, Larix decidua). The above photo shows a bird’s nest-like male flower (left) and a beautiful, rose-like female flower (right). On the subject of L. decidua flowers, Forestry Commission Booklet No. 15, Know Your Conifers, by Herbert L. Edlin (published by HMSO in 1970) has this to say:

The male flowers, borne in spring just as the delicate needles open, are clusters of golden anthers. The female flowers, often called “larch roses”, are pretty flower-like clusters of scales, and may be green, white, or deep pink in colour. They ripen within one year to rather cylindrical cones. These cones only slowly expand their scales, and when the forester wishes to extract larch seed he has to break them apart.

And back to where it all began. The two pines from this post’s second photo join the background of this late afternoon sun-bathed pine scene.

This post lives on in March 31st's Goat willow and larch roses: a reprise.


* * * * *

Set C update – Day 14 (today): No sign of germination yet.


Posted in Gone for a walk





More signs of spring: alder and hazel buds and catkins

Common alder (Alnus glutinosa) male catkins, perhaps slightly past their best which may be why they are more red than yellow.

Yesterday was a lovely warm day, perhaps even lovelier and warmer than the day before yesterday which, certain newspapers yesterday reported, was the warmest day of the year so far. To make the most of it, I went on an adventure down Ewden. As luck would have it, I was successful in my ongoing quest for photos of alder catkins. Hooray!

A closer look at a pair of alder catkins. Now hold that image, because I want you to compare them with the hazel catkins below…

Hazel (Corylus avellana) male catkins. Much prettier than the alder catkins, if you don’t mind my saying so.

More hazel catkins, but these ones aren’t fully ripe. The bottoms of the catkins haven’t opened up yet.

These unfurling hazel leaves were down in the valley bottom next to Broomhead Reservoir. It must be milder down there than higher up the hillside, where hazel leaf-unfurlage hasn’t yet begun.

Two kinds of alder, going head-to-head in a bud-off. On the left… the top of treeblog’s very own grey alder No. 4 from Set A; on the right… the end of a common alder (A. glutinosa) twig of Ewden provenance. Common alder, with its glamorous purple buds, is a British native. The grey alder (Alnus incana) is not.

Oh-ho! While the buds at the top of grey alder No. 4 aren’t showing any signs of bursting just yet, buds lower down are opening to reveal their infant leaves! (The twig below the bud may look sticky in this photo but it’s only water – I’d just given the trees a soaking with the watering can.)

And this is the post-Set A unknown seedling. It too is getting in on the spring action. See how it mobilizes that upper bud!

Other signs of spring sighted include hawthorns flushing, lambs, frogs, and bulbs sprouting up from the woodland floor.



Set C update – Day 5 (yesterday): No sign of germination yet.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Signs of spring: hazel and alder catkins

Male hazel catkins.

Travelling through Sheffield and Hillsborough on the bus this afternoon, I noticed that common alders (probably Italian alder, Alnus cordata) have deployed their bright yellow male catkins. Each tree was covered in thousands of these long yellow pollen-dispersers, and they looked super. Determined to capture the glory on film (XD card), I took a walk down Ewden with my pa, aiming for the alder carr around Salt Spring Beck, Owler Carrs. Upon arrival, I was disappointed to see that these common alders (Alnus glutinosa) were lagging behind their urban heat island chums in the city, phenologically speaking. The male catkins were still in their compact, red wine-coloured winter forms – photograph please:

Wintery common alder male catkins.

But then – aha! Right by the beck, a young alder with a fair smattering of the yellow spring-form catkins. Not as tree-coveringly many as I saw in Hillsborough and Sheffield, but still plenty. Camera out, close-up shots ahoy. In the bag.

Later on, walking down the steep part of Mortimer Road towards Ewden Bridge, we spied another young alder with long yellow male catkins. Stopping to admire these early signs of spring, we noticed an unusual bud – the only one of its kind on the tree, as far as we could tell. It looked just like all the other buds, except for little red spikes poking a few millimetres out of its end. Puzzling.

The mystery.

Fast-forward several hours, and here I am uploading the day’s photos onto the computer. Before writing a post around the catkins, I thought it would be good form to see if I could find out what those red spikes were all about. A flower? A gall? A few googles couldn’t shed any light on the matter, but then I had an brainflash. What if that weird bud wasn’t on an alder, but was on a hazel. They both have long yellow catkins in spring…

Lolz. It turns out I’d been fooled. The Mortimer Road alder wasn’t an alder after all, but a hazel (Corylus avellana). Duh! The bud with red spikes? A female flower! Which, all things permitting, will develop into a hazelnut in the summer. (My Collins Field Guide Trees of Britain & Northern Europe, by Alan Mitchell, describes the female flowers as “brown ovoids 3-5 mm with bright deep red styles exserted 2mm a few days after pollen of same tree is shed.” And my Collins Tree Guide, by Owen Johnson, correctly likens them to “crimson sea-anemones”.)

Then the thought hit me that if I was wrong about this alder-hazel, could I also be wrong about the one at Salt Spring Beck. Yes I could. It’s all in the buds you see. Once I’d IDed the Mortimer Road tree as a hazel, I saw that its buds were green and scaly. Just like the ones in the background of the photograph of male hazel catkins at the beginning of the post. Alder buds are smooth and purple – you can see a couple in the photo of the red wine-coloured catkins, which actually are alder catkins. In a week or so they’ll open up, getting longer and exposing their bright yellow insides – just what has already happened on the alders I saw on the bus, which were definitely alders and not hazels because of their giveaway single-stem mode of growth and distinctly alderish shape.

A cluster of male hazel catkins.

A closer look at the top of the catkins, revealing the golden, pollen-carrying anthers.

What a waffly post! The quick version: man sees catkin-laden (Italian) alders in town; goes on walk to get photos of (common) alders; thinks yellow-catkined trees are young alders; transpires they were actually hazels. Thank the Man-Jesus for those little red spikes. New tree knowledge: what alder and hazel buds look like, and what female hazel flowers look like. Other signs of spring seen: elders (Sambucus nigra) have begun flushing.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Photos from Aira Force & Center Parcs

In the last post I showed you the money tree at Aira Force in the Lake District. Well, the fun didn't stop there! Besides Aira Force itself, there were further items of interest to be seen further up the trail.

lush countryside view

View over Ullswater from the footpath leading to Aira Force.

sunny oak woodland

Typical view of the oak woodland around Aira Force.

stony woodland river

Aira Beck upstream of Aira Force. The river looked to be a little low in its flow. Old alders were plentiful - a sort of naturally copiced alder is in the middle of the river in this photograph.

large bracket fungus

This large bracket fungus was growing on a poorly-looking alder growing above Aira Beck.

gigantic birch

Check out this behemoth of a birch! It was so big it was barely recognisable! There were a few similar birches reaching the kind of size most birches never even come close to.

massive spruce

And if the giant birches weren't enough, there was this gigantic Sitka spruce, the like of which I ain't ever seen before! This photo does not do it justice, because in the flesh this tree is a jaw-dropping spectacle. That massive branch alone is as big as your standard ready-for-harvesting forestry Sitka!

tall pines against a blue sky

This is the view from just outside our chalet back at Center Parcs, 69 Seven Pines: some lovely pine. Not bad, eh?

weird spruce root growing over another spruce

And finally, this slice of weirdness was just around the corner from our chalet. The Sitka spruce once growing on the right had grown roots over the left Sitka, and the two trees' roots had merged together a bit. Freakish.


Posted in Holidays and field trips + Notable trees





Marcescent oak leaves in Holyrood Park revisited

Back on the 14th of December I had a wee wander in Holyrood Park and bumped into a couple of young oaks. One was standing naked, but the other was covered in marcescent leaves. I wrote in this post "These dead leaves will probably spend the whole winter attached to the tree. I'll see if I can remember to go back and check in a month or two." Well, I did remember. And the leaves are still there.

marcescent oak on 14th December 2007

The marcescent oak as it stood on the 14th of December 2007.

the same oak on the 18th of February 2008

The same oak today, the 18th of February 2008. Most of its leaves still remain.

oak with no leaves

Its buddy is still starkers, obviously. The orangey blur in the centre of the photo is the marcescent oak in the background.

close-up of a marcescent oak leaf

Detail of one of the marcescent leaves.

gorse flowers

A bit of gorse. Gorse can flower at any time of the year!

pine needles and cones

There is a little bit of a pine wood growing right in the middle of Holyrood Park. I'm guessing it's all Scots pine.

alder silhouetted above Arthur's Seat

There were a few juvenile alder trees knocking about near the pines. At least one was old enough to reproduce - notice the seed cones and pollen catkins dangling from this branch silhouetted above Arthur's Seat.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Autumn photos from the Innocent Railway

I went for a little stroll down by the Innocent Railway in Edinburgh this afternoon. Next to Holyrood Park, nowadays the railway is just a footpath / cycle path. But it’s still a nice wee place for a wander.

Yellow beech (Fagus sylvatica) leaves. Most of the rest of the leaves on this tree were still green.

A yellowing wych elm (Ulmus glabra) leaf.

A silver birch (Betula pendula). This one had lost about half of its leaves, with the remainder mostly yellow. Other silver birches in the area were almost completely bare.

Flowering ivy (Hedera helix) with part of Arthur's Seat in the background.

The ivy was abuzz with honey bees, flies and wasps. They must have been loving all the flowers.

Crack willow (Salix fragilis) leaves.

I don’t know what kind of tree these red leaves belong to, but they were very nice from a distance.

Fraxinus excelsior) is staying nice and green. Perhaps this is a consequence of the weird weather we had this year: a red hot spring and a soaking wet summer.

This alder also seems determined to remain green a while longer!


Posted in Gone for a walk





Derwent Dam tree photographs

alder in front of Derwent Dam

Alders (Alnus glutinosa) in front of Derwent Dam.

Derwent Reservoir, in the center of the Peak District, has quite an unusual style of dam wall. Instead of the grassy embankments used to dam most reservoirs in the vicinity of the Peak District, the dam wall at Derwent (and neighbouring Howden Reservoir) is much steeper and faced with huge stone blocks. Large gothic towers loom at either end of the dam wall, and in wet weather, water overflows between the towers and cascades down the great stone wall in a magnificant spectacle.

elder inflorescence in front of Derwent Dam

Elder (Sambucus nigra) inflorescence in front of Derwent Dam.

During World War II, Derwent Reservoir was used for bombing practice by the RAFs 'Dambusters' (617 Squadron). The dam at Derwent was used as it was of a similar design to those in Germany's Ruhr Valley, which were to be the target of RAF bombing raids; with the dams destroyed and the reservoirs empty, it was hoped that German industry would be seriously impeded and thus their war effort hampered.

rowan (mountain ash) in front of Derwent Dam

Rowan a.k.a. mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia) in front of Derwent Dam.

The barrel-shaped 'bouncing bombs' used by the Dambusters were designed by Barnes Wallis. The bombs were dropped spinning rapidly backwards at a low altitude in order for them to bounce over the reservoir surface to reach the dam wall. They would then spin downwards to the base of the wall before detonating.

Scots pine in front of Derwent Dam

Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in front of Derwent Dam.

I visited Derwent Dam this afternoon and took these photographs. Thanks to the recent very wet weather, the water rushing down the dam wall made for a very impressive sight.

hawthorn above Derwent Dam

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) above Derwent Dam.


Posted in Gone for a walk





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