9 posts tagged with

silver birch (Betula pendula)

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Oaken Clough & Ewden Force (Part One)

I went for a wander with my father last week. Here he is, taking a photograph in Oaken Clough. You can tell it’s autumn now. [See this photo in black and white?]

Oaken Clough is a small valley surrounded by moorland. It’s a wonderful and pristine world of beauty.

The stream flowing down the valley is dotted with tiny cascades. [See this photo in black and white?]

This birch was growing out of an exposed rock-face at a brave angle.

Those leaves on the right are proof that Oaken Clough does actually have an oak tree in it! I’ve found two so far...

A fungal selection box. I think the top two belong to the same species, but are at different stages of development. The bottom right mushroom was a big ‘un!

A section of gnarly, lichen-encrusted rowan stem.

This spinning foam cake was freshly baked by the stream.


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The fifty-second Festival of the Trees is online at Kind of Curious. Go read!


Posted in Gone for a walk





Pests, diseases, disorders, competing growth and unfavourable conditions (a field trip): the diseases

Last Thursday my arboriculture class set out from college on a field trip to see a smörgåsbord of pests, diseases, disorders, competing growth and unfavourable conditions afflicting a variety of trees in the vicinity of York and Malton. Some of them were new to me, most I were already aware of, but it was a highly interesting way to spend a day and we got to see some cracking trees. Here’s a quick run-through of the diseases that we saw:

Supermassive sycamore (this photo falls a long way short of doing it justice) with decayed Dryad’s saddles. The one on the floor has fallen off the tree.

Dryad’s saddle (Polyporus squamosus) – A bracket fungi. Described in Jordan’s Fungi 1 as “Large, creamy-brown scaly cap with cream pore-bearing under-surface, annual; parasitic on broad-leaf trees, also on stumps, favouring beech, elm and sycamore.” We only saw old and decaying specimens, but the sycamores (Acer pseudoplatanus) they had grown on were jaw-droppingly colossal - easily the biggest I’ve seen! These ancient sycamores formed an avenue along a road near Birdsall House. I’ve got to go back and get some decent photos of them in the summer before they collapse or get felled for safety reasons.

These crazy patterns are galleries produced by elm bark beetles.

Dutch elm disease – The Big Baddie. The current epidemic is caused by the fungus Ophiostma novo-ulmi, spread by elm bark beetles of the genus Scolytus. It is the most catastrophically devastating tree disease ever recorded in British history. On the field trip we saw a dead elm (Ulmus) replete with bark beetle galleries in the wood beneath the bark.

Cankers on a sycamore.

Canker – There are various kinds of cankers and a variety of causes of cankers. Strouts and Winter 2 define a canker as a “clearly defined patch of dead and sunken or malformed bark”. We saw cankers on sycamore and red horse chestnut (Aesculus x carnea) - a hybrid amusingly described in the Collins Tree Guide 3 as a tree of “rather endearing ugliness”.

Huge ivy-covered canker on a red horse chestnut.

Razor strop on silver birch.

Birch polypore or razor strop (Piptoporus betulinus) – Another bracket-producing fungus, it is restricted to birch (Betula). We saw loads of razor strops on dead and drying silver birches (Betula pendula) in a small piece of woodland that has become waterlogged as a consequence of mining subsidence.

Ganoderma on a veteran English oak.

Ganoderma - A genus of bracket- (polypore) producing fungi that is parasitic on broad-leafed species. We saw a large, dead Ganoderma at the base of a huge and ancient English oak (Quercus robur), but we didn’t identify it to species level. The oak was extremely diseased and its days are sadly numbered.

Slime flux on the same oak.

Slime flux or bacterial wetwood – A bacterial infection causing the host to ooze infected sap from wounds or apparently healthy bark. According to Strouts and Winter 2, bacterial wetwood is “common yet rarely results in overt disease”.

Inonotus hispidus on an ivy-clad ash.

Inonotus hispidus - Another polypore-producer that is parasitic on broad-leaves, particularly ash (Fraxinus excelsior). We saw several dead brackets on an ivy-covered ash growing by a stream.

Fomes fomentarius on silver birch.

Hoof fungus or tinder bracket (Fomes fomentarius) – Like you’d expect, the brackets of this fungus look like hooves. It favours birch – its modus operandi is similar to that of razor strop. We saw several of these brackets on the waterlogged birches.


1 Jordan, M. (2004). The Encyclopedia of Fungi of Britain and Europe. Frances Lincoln.
2 Strouts, R. G. and Winter, T. G. (2000). Diagnosis of ill-health in trees. The Stationary Office.
3 Johnson, O. and More, D. (2006). Collins Tree Guide. HarperCollins Publishers.


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Posted in Pests and diseases





New Year's Eve hoar frost

Happy New Year treeblog reader! 2008 went out in style – we had a beautiful hoar frost on New Year’s Eve that stayed for two days. I can’t ever remember there being one of these where I live before, but I saw one in Scotland a winter or two ago. Every twig, leaf, cobweb and blade of grass resplendent under a coating of spiky white frost!

The photos are from New Year’s Eve.

These silver birches (Betula pendula) looked even more silvery than usual.

Cider gum No. 9, like all the treeblog trees, was frosted up. This, in only their second winter, is their first real test of frost tolerance.

Cider gum No. 3, one of the smaller gums.

The very top of grey alder No. 4, the pride of treeblog. I hope those buds haven’t been damaged.

Just one of the many frosted cobwebs that were hung around the garden, all of which were so well highlighted by the frost that they really jumped out and caught the eye.

P.S. 2009's first edition of the Festival of the Trees is up at Rock Paper Lizard, so go enjoy! Next month's edition of the festival will be hosted here at treeblog - information for how to submit will be posted shortly!


Posted in The treeblog trees





Silver birch provenance trials: satellite photos

Why hello there. This post harnesses the power of Google Maps to bring you satellite photographs of the Thetford (posts here and here) and Drummond Hill (post here) silver birch provenance trials I collected data from for my dissertation. If the little Maps windows below don't work in your browser, perhaps you'll have better luck on Google's own Maps pages for Thetford and Drummond Hill. Two things. One, the satellite photos are a few years old. Obviously older than the Thetford trial, created in 2003, which is not yet in existance according to the satellite images. And two, as for the Drummond Hill photos... well, the resolution is so low that you can't make out where exactly the trial is anyway.


See that triangle-shaped patchy area in the centre? Well, go there today and you'll find Thetford's silver birch provenance trial. I guess the sat image shows the previous land use, which I reckon was a Scots pine plantation.


See that dark patch with white stipes in the centre? Well that is the wood at Drummond Hill in which the birch provenance trial can be found. The really big black / very dark blue patch is Loch Tay.


Posted in Holidays and field trips





Drummond Hill silver birch provenance trial

I spent the last week up in the Highlands by Loch Tay, collecting data from the Drummond Hill silver birch provenance trial at Boreland (Drummond 34). About three weeks previous to my Highlands trip, I'd been down in Thetford for a week at another silver birch provenance trial (see this post and this post). Whereas the Thetford site was a model provenance trial, all perfect neat rows and level ground, the Drummond Hill trial was a bit of a 'mare. Not as bad as the provenance trial in Ormsary (Kintyre 20) that I visited in September, but still a bit of trouble. The site was split in two by a forest road, and the lower portion was a right weird shape. The ground was all stoney and uneven, and holes made during mounding were often hidden by dead vegetation. It was a pain to traverse, and was real ankle-spraining country. Luckily no injuries were sustained, and I was accompanied at all times by my assisstant forester in case any such sprainage should have ocurred. The upper section of the site was less stoney, but was still full of stumps and holes. And the trees were planted all higgledy-piggledy! Some of this was understandable because of all the stumps and stones and whatnot, but some of it seemed a bit unnecessary. As a result, whilst in some parts of the trial clear rows of birches could be seen and we knew exactly where we were, in other parts we were a bit lost, especially when trees were missing, out of line, or just plain not planted in a nice five-by-five square!

Nevertheless, these difficulties were overcome and I now have all the data I require for my dissertation!

the provenance trial from afar

The provenance trial from afar (viewed from the other side of Loch Tay).

Drummond Hill silver birch provenance trial

Drummond Hill silver birch provenance trial from a much closer perspective. The birches are behind the deer fence, and in the background you can see a spruce plantation.

view over Loch Tay from the trial

A typical view over Loch Tay from the trial (only typical when the Sun was shining!) - isn't it beautiful?

an old shieling within the trial

I think this is part of a ruined old shieling. There were a few ruins in the lower portion of the trial site, and I think they were all once shielings. The OS map for the Loch Tay area shows an abundance of old shielings all over the place, but the ones in the provenance trial aren't marked on. I wonder whether or not these ruins are known to archaeologists? This page at 'Comunn Eachdraidh Nis' has a good description of what shielings were.

Loch Tay at sunset

Loch Tay. This pleasant scene was seen as we were leaving the trial site at half six on the second day, Tuesday the 18th of March.

fallen ash

When all the hard work was done, it was time for a little sight-seeing. The map showed an incised cross very close to the provenance trial, so I went to look at that. A plaque on the back identified it as the Fernan (or Fearnan) Fair or Market Cross. Right next to the cross a huge ash tree had fallen over, its upper branches reaching over the cross.

wooded isle

In Killin, on an island in the middle of the River Dochart just below the impressive Falls of Dochart, is the Clan Macnab Burial Ground. There was a nice spot of woodland on the island.

farm with snowy mountain in distance

And finally, a view of the farm complex on the Kinnell Estate where I stayed for the duration of my visit.

One last thing. We also made a visit to the nearby Fortingall Yew, the oldest tree in Europe, which is estimated to be between two and five thousand years old! The Wikipedia page gives a basic description.


Posted in Holidays and field trips + Notable trees





Thetford silver birch provenance trial (Part 2)

A follow-up post to this one all about my time at the Thetford Forest silver birch provenance trial, replete with photos of trees and bark and twigs and stuff like that.

common or pearl-studded puffballs

The trial was rife with these little horrors: common or pearl-studded puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum), well past their prime. These little bags are full of spores, so mind you don't step on them. The spores are spikey and will irritate the lungs if enough are inhaled, causing lycoperdonosis.

red bryophyte

A normally-green-but-for-some-reason-red bryophyte. Isn't it pretty?

silver birch seed catkins

A pair of female silver birch catkins. These will be packed with tiny winged seeds!

twisting twig

This is very strange. A twig coming in from the right has made contact with a twig from a different tree and has coiled around it like a vine tendril. Why has it done this? Is it some freakish genetic mutation? Can we cultivate vine birches???

sweet chestnut

A sweet chestnut. There were a couple of big sweet chestnuts and a few big oaks around the edge of the provenance trial. These probably grew up when the land was in its previous use as a pine plantation and were retained when the pines were felled. There were loads of chestnuts covering the ground beneath this tree. I hereby conclude that this part of the forest has a squirrel shortage, and that rabbits don't like chestnuts (there were a lot of signs of rabbit activity).

bark on a Scots pine stump

Looking down at bark on a pine stump. A few of these stumps were scattered about the trial, remnants of the old plantation. Most of the stumps had been removed and were piled outside the trial. I guess the ground was then rotovated to level it off again.

young pines

These young pines, probably Scots pines, were growing right next to the birch trial. One day they might look like...

mature Scots pine

... this. A mature Scots pine plantation, just a couple of hundred metres from the birch trial. These can't be far from being harvested now.

And today I am fresh back from another silver birch provenance trial, this one overlooking Loch Tay up in the Highlands. I shall tell you all about it in the next post!


Posted in Holidays and field trips





Thetford silver birch provenance trial (Part 1)

For my Honours dissertation, I am assessing variation within and between two silver birch provenance trials; one in Thetford, Nofolk, England, and the other at Drummond Hill near Loch Tay, Scotland. For an excellent explanation of what these trials are all about, see this page by BIHIP (British and Irish Hardwoods Improvement Programme), the people who set up the trials. Provenance is essentially the area of seed origin, so for example birches of provenance 'Eastern Moors, Sheffield' are from seed collected from Eastern Moors, Sheffield. Different provenances vary in attributes such as growth rate. Essentially, the provenance trials aim to determine which provenances are most suitable for timber production.

For my dissertation I am collecting data on 32 different silver birch provenances from England, Scotland, Wales, Denmark and Norway (plus 8 from France) at two trials, Thetford 312 and Drummond 34. I will then assess variation between provenances within each trial and within each provenance between the two trials. Each trial contains three 'blocks', and each block contains square plots of 25 trees for every provenance; thus each provenance is represented by 75 trees at each trial. This replication helps ensure a fair trial. My data collection involves assessing the following attributes: height; girth at breast height; number of main stems; and number of bends in main stems. I am sampling the middle 9 trees of each plot of the 32 provenances I am interested in, which means I will be sampling a total of (9 x 3 x 32) 864 trees (plus some French ones that I am doing separate because they were planted later).

Trees best suited for timber production will be fast growing (tall and large girthed) with a single straight stem. You can't get a good, long piece of wood out of a tree that is bending all over the place!

Anyway, I have now collected all the data I need from the Thetford trial, with my father acting as my assistant. It took us three and a half days, starting on Wednesday the 27th of Feburary and finishing on Saturday the 1st of March. Now I just need to get up to the Highlands and do it all again at Drummond Hill!

thetford silver birch provenance trial

A typical view of Thetford 312 silver birch provenance trial. Look how neat and perfect it all is! I did some smaller scale data collection at the Scottish Kintyre 20 silver birch provenance trial in September 2007 and it was an overgrown pain in the ass, the complete opposite of the Thetford trial.

estimating height with a measuring stick

My paternal assistant with our homemade, 5.6 metre long measuring stick. Each coloured band is 20 centimetres. He would stand with the stick next to the sample tree, and I would stand back to make a good estimate of height to the nearest 10 centimetres. The sample tree in this photo is the champion for height - just over 8 metres tall I believe.

a fighter jet over the trial

The trial is very close to Feltwell Royal Air Force Base so we got fighter jets roaring through the sky all day. At five o'clock they would play music though loudspeakers and on Wednesday it was Reveille.

identification tag

Wooden poles with an identification tag are found at one corner of each plot. Not sure what 'EDC 19' means. I believe 'B 101' is a typo - it should read 'BI 01' which stands for birch, seed collected in 2001. In 'RPN 404', the RP stands for 'region of provenance' and the N probably stands for 'native seed-zone'. This awesome map on the BIHIP site shows regions of provenance and native seed-zones. The tag in my photo is for provenance 'Rushmore Estate, Tollard Royal', just in case you were wondering!

measuring girth

Girth at breast height (about 1.6 metres) was measured to the nearest 5 millimetres with a tape measure. This data will be converted into diameter at breast height (DBH). The tree in this photo doesn't really have a girth in the 40s - the tape measure was cut to begin at 30 centimetres because the first day of intense girth-measuring had worn all the lower numbers off!

the edge of the trial

The edge of the trial. The trial was surrounded on all sides by Scots pine plantations of various age. In this photo one such plantation is on the far left, then moving right there is a forest road, a fence to keep out grazers (which had failed to keep out rabbits), young Scots pine invaders from seed blown in, and furthest right a buffer strip two silver birches wide before the actual trial trees begin.

Now read Thetford silver birch provenance trial (Part 2) !


Posted in Holidays and field trips





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





Gnarly birch

Downy birch (Betula pubescens) on Whitwell Moor.
Taken 3rd April 2006.


Posted in Gone for a walk





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