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downy birch (Betula pubescens)
Posted on February 5, 2012 by Ash
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.
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 on January 31, 2012 by Ash
Upstream of Brook House Bridge, the Porter or Little Don meanders beneath a landslip of its own making.
On Saturday I went for a walk with a couple of friends, fellow natives of the area who were both back for the weekend. We received a light fall of snow on Friday evening, and there was still a dusting up on the moors in the morning. I drove us to Langsett, and we set off walking anti-clockwise around the reservoir until we reached Brook House Bridge. From there we followed the Little Don upstream, keeping on the left, squelching through bogs and making scrambley diversions around little landslips. At the confluence with Mickleden Beck – where I spied several yews and what looked like three or four ancient alders on the opposite bank, which I’ll be back to take account of soon - we followed this tributary of the Little Don for a bit before clambering up the heathery valley side to meet with the Cut Gate path. At sign No. 50 we took the “path to the right” and walked back to Langsett via North America and the dam wall, arriving in time to eat a little dinner at the Wagon and Horses.
A look back after descending to the flood plain from negotiating one of the landslips.
Downy birch laden with witches’ brooms.
Looking down on Mickleden Beck and another wee landslip. This is only a young stream, not so very far from its source.
By the time we reached the Cut Gate path the sun was out and warming us nicely.
Looking across Mickleden. Just below the centre of the picture are the ancient holly and alder I discovered in October, which was the last time I was here.
One half of a pair of MTBers out for a razz.
Mickleden Beck flows away to meet the Little Don where the first trees are… There are actually sixteen wind turbines in this photo, but you’ll need to view it full-size to find them all. They were clearly visible from where I was standing – me just within the Peak District, they just outside – but were they ruining the view? In my opinion, not a bit. They aren’t really much more unnatural than the rest of the landscape
Langsett Reservoir – filled right up, despite having really quite a low amount of water as recently as my last visit in October. The other local reservoirs I pass regularly (Broomhead and Moor Hall) have also filled surprisingly rapidly over the last month – I thought they’d remain low for a long time. At Langsett this means my ‘beach’ where I sat and read a couple of times in late summer is now completely submerged.
A familiar peaceful pool - recorded by the Ordnance Survey but not given a name. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it was created by the Luftwaffe during WWII. There are a few craters in the area from the bombing of Sheffield, but that’s another story.
A happily brimmed Langsett Reservoir, serene and tranquil, peaceful and calm. But is that plantation living on borrowed time...?
Posted on January 23, 2012 by Ash
Scots pine – probably my favourite photo of the trip.
Another fine pine, but you may have noticed that the lower trunk is dead and barkless on the left-hand side. The crown still looks healthy though.
Orangey Scots pine bark caught in the late afternoon sun must be one of the nicest colours a tree can possibly be, don’t you think?
A hydra-like downy birch (Betula pubescens).
Downy birks and a pointy holly (Ilex aquifolium). Down in the bottom, the Ryvoan Pass runs gently uphill from Glenmore, which is off to the right / south-west. You can get across to Nethy Bridge if you follow the Pass, but I looped back to my base at the youth hostel in Glenmore.
The lower slopes of Cairn Gorm occupy the distance. I climbed to the top a couple of days later, it becoming my sixth Munro bagged to date. Only another 277 to go then.
The junipers sure looked lovely illuminated by the setting sun.
This pine was an absolute monster! The stump and wound at the bottom of the tree coupled with the lack of any branches on this side of the trunk show that this monster was, until recently, a twin-stemmed monster – i.e. it was twice as big as it is now!!
Here it is from a distance: look at the crazy spread of those lower branches! It’s three trees in one, arranged like the ace of clubs! And to say half of the tree is missing… Wow.
Posted on January 16, 2012 by Ash
Juniper (Juniperus communis).
After a wee intermission I’m back with more photos from November’s Scottish excursion. Part Two continues where Part One left off, and I’m sure there’ll be a Part Three along soon - and afterwards a little post about my visits to some of Britain’s tallest trees. Did you know that it’ll be treeblog’s fifth anniversary next month?
Looking down the barrel of a big, old Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris).
A typical Caledonian pinewood scene. Heather, bilberry (blaeberry) and juniper form the shrub storey while Scots pine forms a rather open canopy, with a few downy birches for company. Other trees I saw in the Ryvoan Pass, but in miniscule numbers, were willow, rowan, holly and alder.
This downy birch (Betula pubescens), a silvery island in the sea of juniper, has a sort of ethereal feel about it, glowing as it does in the sunlight. Imagine coming across it glowing like this in the moonlight.
The Caledonian pinewood is a thing of such beauty!
The exposed roots in these photos all belong to pines growing out of a banking beside the shore of the Green Lochan – An Lochan Uaine – a small tarn whose waters have a strange turquoise hue.
An Lochan Uaine – not looking green at all in this picture, unfortunately. I didn’t see any leeches either, but I didn’t know to look!
Posted on December 16, 2011 by Ash
Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in the Ryvoan Pass, near Glenmore.
At Glenmore, near Aviemore, there is a remnant of the ancient Caledonian Forest. Today, only 180 km² of the Caledonian Forest remain – a pathetic 1% of its estimated maximum extent. As is usually the way, Homo sapiens is to blame for the loss. If you’d like to find out more about the Caledonian Forest, let me point you in the direction of Trees For Life, an inspirational organisation ambitiously dedicated to restoring a 2,300 km² area of the Forest. This description of the Caledonian Forest is taken from their website:
The Caledonian Forest originally covered much of the Highlands of Scotland… the native pinewoods, which formed the westernmost outpost of the boreal forest in Europe, are estimated, at their maximum extent, to have covered 1.5 million hectares as a vast primeval wilderness of Scots pines, birch, rowan, aspen, juniper and other trees. On the west coast, oak and birch trees predominated in a temperate rainforest ecosystem rich in ferns, mosses and lichens. Many species of wildlife flourished in the forest, including the European beaver, wild boar, lynx, moose, brown bear and the wolf, as well as several notable species of birds - the capercaillie, the crested tit, and the endemic Scottish crossbill, which occurs nowhere else in the world apart from the pinewoods.
A large witch’s broom on a large downy birch (Betula pubescens) – a common abnormal growth caused by the fungus Taphrina betulina.
After staying at Fearnan by Loch Tay for a couple of nights, from where I visited the Birks of Aberfeldy and Britain’s widest conifer at Cluny House Gardens, I drove north to Glenmore (climbing Schiehallion – Munro no. 5 - en route) and checked into Cairngorm Lodge, a SYHA hosel, for four nights. The next day (Nov. 20th) I meandered (really meandered) part-way up the Ryvoan Pass to An Lochan Uaine – the Green Lochan. I’d walked down the pass and past the Lochan to camp near Glenmore three years previously with two friends, towards the end of a hike from Blair Atholl to Aviemore, but that’s another story.
Looking up at one of the giant Scots pines of the Caledonian Forest.
To provide you with a very brief history of Glenmore during the past century, I’ve just skimmed through the excellent little book I bought from the Glenmore Forest Shop during my stay. The book is called ‘No rivalry but different’; Glenmore and Rothiemurchus in the 20th Century, the third publication in the Touchwood History series. It was written by Mairi Stewart and first published in 2010.
Pine foliage against a clear, blue sky – it was a lovely day for late November in the Highlands!
One hundred years ago, the estate of Glenmore was owned by the Dukes of Richmond, who used it as a hunting ground. Between 1916 and 1918, during the First World War, just over a hundred thousand trees on the estate were felled to provide timber for the war effort – to make pit props, trench supports, crates, etc. Thankfully, the 7th Duke, Charles Gordon-Lennox, is said to have stipulated that some trees were retained to allow the forest to naturally regenerate – trees to be spared had the Duke’s stamp burned onto them. In 1923, the Duke sold the 12,474 acre estate to the newly-created Forestry Commission. Although the Commission decided that three-quarters of the estate were unsuitable for forestry, it had planted around 1,300 acres by 1934 – favouring the faster-growing but non-native Sitka spruce, Norway spruce and European larch over Scots pine.
Looking up at an absolute monster of a Caledonian pine. I have never seen Scots pines like these – they really are jaw-droppingly, breathtakingly, heart-stoppingly awesome.
Glenmore escaped the forester’s axe during the Second World War because it was considered more important for training soldiers than for supplying timber (although neighbouring remnants of the Caledonian Forest, at Abernethy and Rothiemurchus, were not so lucky).
A large fragment of scaly pine bark.
Glenmore was run as both a sporting and forestry estate until 1947, when it was designated a Forest Park. This re-branding officially recognised the popularity of parts of the estate with outdoor activities enthusiasts. Extensive planting continued throughout the Forties, Fifties and Sixties, however. In the 1960s recreation at Glenmore, particularly skiing, really took off, and a lot of new infrastructure was built. By the early Eighties the campsite at Glenmore was accommodating a thousand people at its busiest, and the main focus had shifted from forestry to recreation.
In the foreground – juniper (Juniperus communis). I have never seen so much juniper! In many places it formed an almost continuous shrub layer beneath the pine trees. Very pretty, very necessary for gin, but very prickly when wading through a waist-deep sea of the stuff to get to the next big pine.
During the 1990s the Forestry Commission underwent a significant change in its outlook and policies, with the old approach of “create as much timber as possible” replaced with a more responsible approach to forest stewardship. At Glenmore this meant felling the non-native trees planted in earlier decades, resulting in the decimation of two-thirds of the forest. These areas are being replanted with the native Scots pine.
Huge. Beautiful. Ancient.
Posted on October 12, 2011 by Ash
XL European beech (Fagus sylvatica).
Somewhere in the Ewden Valley there is a special piece of woodland full of absolutely enormous beeches. (No, not Spout House Wood. These are bigger…) Beeches with massive-girthed trunks that seem to go up for miles. Beeches with almost ramrod straight stems. Beeches that even though of gargantuan stature are still in the prime of life. No grizzled dotards here; well, maybe a couple. Just beautiful, jaw-droppingly large trees.
I’m pretty confident this one is the biggest of the lot. I’m calling it the King of Ewden. I think that’s suitably grand. It’s a shame my photo really doesn’t do justice to this titan’s size – it’s a hundred times more impressive in the flesh. There is a car-sized wound on the other side of the trunk, seriously! I’m going to have to go back with a tape measure and take some DBHs as proof!
One of the smaller ones?
Another giant. How many are there? I’m not sure. Thirty? Forty?
Imagine climbing that! Imagine the view from the top!
I wish I had more photographs to share, but being under those monster canopies, in the bottom of a valley, late on an autumn afternoon… the light wasn’t great. I’ve got a mind to go back and carry out a more comprehensive study. These are trees worth getting excited about. If only the person / people who planted them could see them now!
Several Piptoporus betulinus (razor strop or birch polypore) fruiting bodies on a dead downy birch (Betula pubescens).
This big oak (probably Quercus robur) looked stunning as it caught the late afternoon sun. I love trees.
Posted on October 7, 2011 by Ash
A familiar rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) on Whitwell Moor.
The weathermen forecast a startlingly hot few days last week – 25°C for the end of September in Sheffield certainly made me open my eyes – so I took measures to make the most of this unexpected resurgence of summer by taking a couple of days off work. Instead of sweating buckets trapped in a pair of chainsaw trousers, I was out roaming the moors and woods having a whale of a time. Wednesday was incredible but Thursday was truly the epitome of an autumn day; it’s just a shame that the sun sets so much earlier now than it did in the height of summer.
A familiar downy birch (Betula pubescens) of extraordinary girth, also on Whitwell Moor…
…and growing beneath its spreading branches, this little bolete (some kind of Leccinum, I think).
Hallo! It’s the famous Lonely Oak!
Last year I couldn’t find any acorns on the L.O., but there were a few on one side of the crown last week. I confess I collected some. Perhaps there will be a treeblog Set E next year?
One of my acorns. The Lonely Oak is an English or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur), so the acorns are attached to the tree on little stems.
Looking north from the ‘back’ of the L.O. towards Hunshelf Bank. Looking over its shoulders?
A familiar pair of Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) between the Salter Hills.
Chilled-out cows in the next field.
The eastern Salter Hill, complete with solitary hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna).
Gorse (or furze or whin: Ulex europaeus) - one yellow drop in the ocean.
Posted on September 19, 2011 by Ash
…Continued from Part the First.
The black patches on this sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) leaf, known as tar spots, are the fungus Rhytisma acerinum. Those clusters of red spots are galls caused by the mite Aceria macrorhynchus. Neither have any significant impact on the host tree.
A razor strop or birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) juts from a dead downy birch (Betula pubescens).
An immature fungal fruit body begins to emerge from the soil. Maybe an Amanita?
I’m fairly sure this is a Suillus something - perhaps a dried-out slippery jack (S. luteus)?
Another Leccinum, but which one? There is so much variation within the different species, I just can never say with any certainty. Could this be a blushing bolete (L. roseofractum)?
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and a dry stone wall – a lovely combination. At this time of year the hawthorns are covered in little red fruits called haws. I suppose you could make a jam from these (edit: of course you can!).
Looking up into the rather open crown of the same hawthorn (or one of its neighbours).
Posted on August 11, 2011 by Ash
…Continued from the first course.
I went out for a little walk around Whitwell Moor last week. The weather was typical summer 2011 stuff – hot but cloudy. In the middle of the moor there is a little wood which is much longer than it is wide. The upper part of the wood is predominantly downy birch (Betula pubescens) with some English oak (Quercus robur). I would guess that this part of the wood is very old, and it was here that I found lots and lots of mushrooms.
Before we carry on with the fungi, here’s a glimpse of this birchwood to which you have already been introduced. Old, gnarly, many-limbed downy birches abound – this one is a fine example. The ground layer is made up of short grasses and scattered bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) bushes.
It’s a lovely place to linger.
This is a bolete… it’s a Leccinum… and that’s as far as my certainty goes. I’m tentatively going with an ID of Leccinum scabrum (brown birch bolete) because the scabers (stem scales) are black – if they had been buff or fox-coloured I’d have gone with Leccinum quercinum (orange oak bolete). I don’t think it’s a Leccinum versipelle (orange birch bolete) because the cap does not have an overhanging rim.
For the same reasons I think this too is a L. scabrum (brown birch bolete), but an older, more tired specimen.
This mushroom may be an immature Amanita fulva (tawny grisette), a species that favours birch woodland. From Jordan’s Fungi: “usually without cap patches but with volval bag… [cap] occasionally with brownish velar patches” – I believe the creamy covering on the right side of the cap is such a patch (a remnant of the veil). At the bottom of the stem are the remains of the white volval bag.
I fancy this yellow fellow is a Russula claroflava (yellow swamp russula / yellow swamp brittlegill), a species that is found in damp places under birch.
I guess these belong in the genus Russula, but I’m stumped again. I give up. They do look nice though.
Let’s end with an old favourite - an immature Piptoporus betulinus (razor strop / birch polypore) bursting in slow motion from the chest of downy birch.
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Posted on March 23, 2011 by Ash
A young oak rises from a sea of bilberry.
Monday evening. The sun was setting as I discovered an ancient oak coppice in a field above Wind Hill Wood.
Here a ring of callus wood has grown around the base of a dead branch to try and seal the tree against infection.
How old is this oak? More than a couple of centuries?
On a nearby downy birch, where one half of a bough has been split off, I found an adventitious root growing into rotting wood.
Beyond the wood, the sun set over the moors.
Posted on November 28, 2010 by Ash
I love this pine tree. It’s got a great shape, it’s in a great position, and it’s got a great friend…
It snowed a bit on Friday night. Only a centimetre or two settled but it was enough to bring a real feeling of winter to my walk up to the trig point.
Silhouette: European beech (Fagus sylvatica).
Silhouette: Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris).
Silhouette: downy birch (Betula pubescens) (and a Scots pine).
Silhouette: the Lonely Oak. I arrived with perfect timing to see the sun setting behind my favourite oak tree.
And just over the hill, I arrived in the nick of time to catch my favourite pair of Scots pines basking in the last of the golden sunlight.
Silhouette: Scots pine skeleton (or possibly a larch skeleton).
Posted on October 22, 2010 by Ash
The Sunday before last, I returned from the wedding of two friends to one of those perfect autumn afternoons. I couldn’t a waste a beauty like that so, spurred on by the best display of mushrooms on our lawn that I can remember, I set off around Langsett Reservoir anticipating a real smörgåsbord of fungi. I wasn’t disappointed!
So Yorkshire Water are clearfelling a lot of conifers from the North America Plantation on the south-west side of Langsett Reservoir.
[From one of Yorkshire Water’s information boards at Langsett, under the title ‘Reversing Woodland Bird Decline – East Midlands Woodland Bird Project’:]
There was a monster sleeping in the plantation, hidden amongst the trees. See it?
’Twas a big, bad forestry forwarder (a John Deere 1410D Eco III, in fact). This beast transports all the logs cut from the felled trees to a stacking area where they can be loaded onto a lorry and taken away for processing.
A whole load of razor stop or birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) brackets jutting from a dead downy birch (Betula pubescens) stem.
Here a living downy birch grows beneath a canopy of larch. Are they for the chop too?
Just upstream of where the Porter or Little Don River enters Langsett Reservoir at its most westerly point, I took this photo looking over the tree-tops from Brookhouse Bridge. Golden light and creeping shadows.
As I neared the end of my walk the Sun had almost set, but with its last golden rays it illuminated the lower stems of a group of Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) in a resplendent display of aesthetic magnificence. Two days after I took this photo – another perfect autumn evening - I rode around Langsett on my bike and just so happened to be passing by these same trees at near enough the exact same time (almost as if I’d planned it or sommat). I was lucky enough to be granted an encore.
Twilight over Langsett.
Posted on March 26, 2010 by Ash
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!
Pests, diseases, disorders, competing growth and unfavourable conditions (a field trip): the pests and disorders
Posted on February 11, 2010 by Ash
On Thursday the 21st of January my arboriculture class set out from college on a field trip to see a smörgåsbord of pests, diseases, disorders, competing growths and unfavourable conditions afflicting a variety of trees in the vicinity of York and Malton. Some of them were new to me, most I was already aware of, but it made for a very interesting way to spend a day and we got to see some cracking trees. Here’s a quick run-through of the pests and disorders that we saw:
Rabbit damage at base of ash (Fraxinus excelsior).
European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) - The field trip took place in a particularly harsh winter and the poor old bunny rabbits had resorted to stripping bark from trees. The damaged trees we saw formed part of a rough hedge along a field and were growing right beside a few rabbit burrows. The photo shows damage to an ash but we also saw damage to a tiny hawthorn (Crataegus). Bark stripping weakens trees (when trees are ring-barked / girdled all material above that point dies) and opens them to infection. [Other animals such as hares, deer and squirrels will also strip bark.]
Graffiti carved onto a beech tree (Fagus sylvatica).
Humans (Homo sapiens) – The example we saw was disfiguration of the bark by people carving initials or symbols. Graffiti has a negative impact on the aesthetic appeal of the tree and can open it up to infection. [Other examples of direct human damage: vandalism (breaking off branches), vehicle damage (usually inflicted by tall vans and lorries), and butchery by D.I.Y. / cowboy tree surgeons.]
Witch’s brooms on downy birch.
Witch’s broom (Taphrina betulina) – T. betulina is a fungus that causes dense balls of twigs (that look like birds nests from a distance in winter) – witch’s brooms - to form on the branches of silver and downy birches (Betula pendula and Betula pubescens respectively). As far as I was aware* the fungus doesn’t have any significant effect on the health of host tree, although as witch’s brooms grow larger every year, I assume that they eventually become so heavy that the supporting branch will break.
Included bark (to the left of the red line) in the crotch where two main stems meet on a beech.
Included bark - “Included bark forms when the bark of the branch and trunk squeeze together” (Shigo, 1991) 2. “In crotches that have very narrow angles of attachment the branch bark ridge [a ridge of bark in the crotch] sometimes fails to expand outward and is swallowed by the growth of the branch and trunk. Each year thereafter, more bark is enclosed within the crotch. This condition is referred to as included bark… Included bark has long been associated with weakness in tree crotches since it is frequently seen in failed tree forks. It is easy to assume that the included bark prevents the formation of connecting wood between two stems and therefore reduces crotch strength. …branch attachments with included bark are inherently weak and should be removed” (Farrell, undated) 3.
Sphaeroblasts - Disappointingly, I don’t have a photo of these intriguing fellas. You ever seen a Malteser- to fist-sized ball in the bark of a tree? Those are sphaeroblasts, described by Strouts & Winter (2000) 4 as “Bark-coloured spheroid lumps, small or large… woody, bark-covered structures, being an abnormal development of a bud which has produced annually a woody sheath without ever producing a shoot. Harmless.”
A large burr on an English oak (Quercus robur).
Burrs or burls - The burr we visited on our field trip – seen in the photo above – was a huge burr on a good-sized oak. It formed in a similar way to how sphaeroblasts form – the difference I think is that the buds in a burr are on the outside of the bark, not beneath it. The buds seem to multiply like crazy and sometimes produce tiny little shoots that never amount to anything. As far as I know, burrs are harmless to trees. They’re supposed to be highly valued by craftsmen because of the spectacular grain of the wood inside.
A pair of oak marble galls (one not fully developed) [photo taken 15 January 2009].
Galls - We saw a few old marble galls on the oak with the massive burr. I mentioned these in a post in January 2009: oak marble galls [are] caused by asexual Andricus kollari larvae. A. kollari is a member of the family Cynipidae, “whose members are of special interest because most of them induce gall formation on plants and many of them display a marked alteration between sexual and parthenogenetic generations. They are called gall wasps… Most of the European species occur on oaks, although some species attack roses and certain herbaceous plants. There are about 90 British species.” - from Chinery’s Insects of Britain & Northern Europe (Collins Field Guide, 1993). Again, as far as I’m aware, galls don’t significantly affect the health of a tree in normal conditions.
Posted on January 17, 2010 by Ash
Last Sunday when snow blanketed the country I thought it would be awesome if I could get up onto the moors to see Ewden Force, which was sure to be one sweet icicle fest. That turned out to be slightly over-ambitious. Once I got off the beaten path and onto the landrover track that goes up to the Broomhead shooting lodge the going got tough. The snow came to just below my knee and in places was up to the top of my legs! It was a super tough slog up the hill to the lodge but it felt like a real achievement once I made it one step at a time. There was only an hour of daylight left after my snow-slowed progression, so I turned my back on the unreachable frozen waterfall wonder and with a slightly heavy heart and a very cold face retraced my lonely footprints. I was within one and a half kilometres of Ewden Force at the shooting lodge, but it might as well have been a thousand miles away. By the time I’d have gotten there it would have been dark and I would have perished in the wilderness or something. It would also have been rather dangerous: I’ve fallen down holes on the moors in broad daylight so who knows what you’re going to be falling down with all that snow concealing the true lay of the land? So no Ewden Force. Disappointing.
Ewden Valley, upper section.
Drifts around the lodge.
Looking across the snowbound valley.
Birch, probably downy (Betula pubescens).
It rained on Friday and Saturday – proper rain for the first time in weeks! – and washed away most of the snow. There are weather rumours that it may snow again mid-week (the BBC is forecasting heavy snow for Thursday)… and for much of February.
Posted on July 25, 2009 by Ash
I was out walking on the moors last Saturday, and in Part One of this two-part post I’d just walked across Whitwell Moor, through Millstones Wood, and over Broomhead Moor to Pike Lowe...
After a bit of a dinner stop at that ancient cairn, I headed south to intercept the upper course of the Ewden Beck, I almost perfectly landed upon what I’d come looking for. Right next to the confluence of the beck with an unnamed (on the map) tributary from Stainery Clough, there is an impressive waterfall. (A second, smaller waterfall is to the left of the main fall, where the Stainery Clough stream drops into the beck, but it’s hidden by bracken in my photo.) Two things about this fine waterfall: 1. It is orange! - a consequence of the very peaty water. 2. It is bigger than it looks in this photo, which was taken zoomed in from the top of a steep bank overlooking the river. I reckon the face of the fall to be about three metres tall. There is an excellent photograph on Flickr by Peter Bell, taken on May 30th this year, that gives a much better idea of the true height of the waterfall. It also shows a much denuded flow; my photo was taken after a prolonged rainy spell, so the Ewden Beck was in full flow, and judging by the flattened vegetation along the river edge the water had been a foot higher in places after a big storm during the night. The waterfall isn’t named on the map – it isn’t even on the map (1:25,000 OS) – so I’m calling it Ewden Force. I’m sure some locals have a name for it already. I wonder what?
So after finding a good place to confidently cross the swollen Ewden Beck upstream of the waterfall, and then crossing the Stainery Clough stream, I walked east over the moor (south of and parallel with Ewden Beck) towards the shooting lodge I visited on the 21st of March. Between Stainery Clough and the lodge, I had to cross another two significant cloughs and their swollen streams. One was Oaken Clough, which looks quite meaty on the map, contours-wise; the other, of similar size to Oaken Clough in real life, is unnamed on the map where the contours barely bend for it! Anyway, there are a number of small unnamed streams either side of Oaken Clough, so I couldn’t tell which of the two big cloughs was Oaken Clough because of the dodgy cartography. Either way, all the cloughs were devoid of oaks; a much better name for Oaken Clough would be Rowan Clough.
A wee birch seedling (pendula or pubescens).
Heading down into one of the cloughs. Rowans (Sorbus aucuparia) ahead, stream to the left, grassy ancient path to the right. Bear in mind that this is in the middle of nowhere, with no footpaths anywhere near it. There can’t be many people ever walk here, but sometime in the past, probably hundreds of years ago, there was a way down here that was important enough for someone to go to the trouble of creating a stone-edged path down to the stream, probably to ford it. Perhaps you can make out some of the mossy edging stones on the left side of the path; to the right, off the photograph, is a steep bank that is supported with a sort of stone wall. Very old, very gone-back-to-nature. I almost walked along it without even realising what it was. I really need a GPS device to record the location of these things so that I’ll never forget where they are.
Developing rowan berries. Not ripe just yet, but in another few weeks all of the local rowans will be covered in clusters of bright red berries.
Speaking of rowans, here’s one leaning over the stream.
More rowans! It’s rowan heaven up here in these wee cloughs all surrounded by moorland. Many of the trees were practically dripping with lichens; it was like being up in the Highlands.
Heading down into the other decent-sized clough, this: the biggest-girthed rowan I have ever seen. I knew it was a special one as I eyed it from a distance. A sheep track led straight to it, so our ovine friends use it as a landmark. Well over a metre in diameter (I’ll need to come back for some DBH action), the tree had split in half with its still-healthy branches spanning quite an area. There was also a lot of dead wood scattered around its vicinity; it must have been quite an explosive collapse!
It wasn’t just the tree that was huge. Some of the lichens were beasts, like this monster growing on one of the branches.
In the bottom of a clough, this unusual sight. A rowan and a birch growing hip to hip on the stream bank.
Posted on May 1, 2009 by Ash
Before we get stuck in to the main course, would Reader like a starter? Another two seedlings were observed in the birch tray yesterday (Day 50), bringing the total to twenty-six. On top of that, a Set C first: two seedlings were discovered in sweet chestnut territory! But are they really sweet chestnut seedlings or just weed impostors? I’ve never seen a sweet chestnut seedling before, but I had a mental image of them being, uh, beefier. At least they’re not nettles…
The Set C birch seeds. I collected them from an impressive tree on Whitwell Moor. Those catkins (more correctly “strobiles”) were chock-a-block full of seeds too.
The Set C sweet chestnuts. I collected them from a magnificent old tree at Wigtwizzle.
…some very small seeds, such as willow and poplar, and some very large fruits, such as oak, sycamore, sweet chestnut and horse chestnut, die quite soon after being shed from the tree – one of the last properties you would normally associate with seeds. The fruits are killed if they dry out and at present there is no known method of doing anything more than slowing down their rate of deterioration. It is therefore only worth collecting seeds of these species if you can sow them fairly quickly, or are prepared to suffer significant losses over, for example, one winter’s storage.
Great. It goes on to describe chestnuts as recalcitrant – highly perishable. One thing you can’t do is to let these things dry out: “if they are frozen or dried, they die”. I didn’t have anywhere humid to store my chestnuts, so I stuck them in the shed all winter. The air in the shed is certainly not as dry as that in the house, but I wouldn’t exactly call it humid. At least I didn’t put them in the freezer.
I collected these, the majority of the Set C rowan berries, from a tree on Whitwell Moor. A further eighty or so berries were collected from a tree near Upper Midhope.
Fleshy fruits are also some of the most awkward and certainly the messiest to process. …very occasionally a little fermentation can help. However, for seeds such as hawthorn, holly and rowan, fermentation can be significantly harmful or even fatal and is therefore to be avoided. Subsequently, most seeds will need repeated washing not only to remove the clinging remnants of sticky flesh, but also as a means of removing chemicals that have the potential to inhibit germination.
Germination-inhibiting chemicals? Oh no! (At least rowan seeds, like birch seeds, are “orthodox” so can be dried and frozen for storage. My berries experienced the same storage conditions as my birch seeds.) Anyway, once your rowan seeds are nice and clean with no tarrying trace of berry, they can enter pretreatment hell. The guide describes pretreatment as “Only partially effective: even with the longest pretreatment durations and/or several pretreatment cycles”! Still, it recommends 2-4 warm (about 15°C) weeks and 16-30 cold (about 4°C) weeks of pretreatment. Awesome.
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Raising trees and shrubs from seed is a great little guide. It provides a host of advice on collecting, preparing, storing and planting seed. You can download it free from here: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/fcpg018.pdf/$FILE/fcpg018.pdf
Posted on March 23, 2009 by Ash
Friday and Saturday were incredible days, real shorts-and-t-shirts weather; beautiful blue skies, and temperatures March will be proud of. On Saturday I went on a walk that took me down Ewden and along the edge of Broomhead Moor to the furthest point I’ve ever been up the Ewden Valley: the shooting lodge at SK 222 956 (check it out, Google Maps-style). It wasn’t challenging to get there – a Landrover track leads to the lodge – but it was pleasingly remote for a shortish walk. On Friday I didn’t stray so far, walking to Wind Hill Wood and the craggy outcropping of millstone grit I know by the name Devil’s Cave. I was annoyed to see that some morons had been littering, but don’t let that negative image tarnish the goodtime spring vibes I hope the following photos (taken Friday) are emitting.
The view NNW over Wind Hill Wood towards Midhope. The woods in the distance are coniferous forestry plantations around Midhope Reservoir
A rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) bud: big and softly, silvery furry. I’ve noticed that rowan twigs tend to be rather thicker than those of our other tree species.
A strikingly wind-swept beech (Fagus sylvatica) near Devil’s Cave… and from below:
One of the bigger blocks of grit making up the Devil’s Cave formation, dappled with lichens, mosses, bilberries, birches, and the shadows of trees.
One of the many tiny birches growing from cracks in the rocks. Their persistent roots pry open the cracks and split apart these vast boulders.
I chanced upon this rusty horseshoe hanging in a young rowan and was concerned that it wouldn’t catch much luck this way up. The beech on the right in the background is interesting in that on it’s other side a huge old wound stretches from the ground to the first branches; the tree is doing a good job of closing the wound with new wood and bark, but it still has a few inches to grow before the two edges meet.
On the return leg of the journey, I made a little detour to see a special birch.
Posted on March 11, 2009 by Ash
Day 0 (Set C).
One hundred and one weeks since the planting of Set A and fifty-one weeks since the planting of failed Set B, I planted treeblog’s Set C today in a private garden ceremony. This latest set is represented by three species: rowan (Sorbus aucuparia L.), sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.), and birch (either silver (Betula pendula Roth) or downy (Betula pubescens Ehrh.)). Whereas a single tree provided me with all my chestnuts, and another with all my birch seeds, my rowan berries were collected from two different trees.
Another (more aesthetically pleasing) view of those chestnuts.
The planting process was straightforward. I half-filled four seed trays with compost. Into one tray went all the birch seeds, into another went the Whitwell Moor rowan berries, into the third went half of the sweet chestnuts, and into the fourth went the rest of the chestnuts and the Upper Midhope rowan berries. All nicely spaced out likes. Then a light covering of more compost and a good watering.
Posted on January 11, 2009 by Ash
We’re not yet a fortnight into the new year but I’ve already been casting an eye back over 2008, picking out my five favourite treeblog photos from the year that was. For a photograph to qualify for consideration, I must have taken it in the last year and subsequently featured it on this blog. Higher higher-res (1024px by 786px) copies can be found by clicking on the photos. In order of oldest first...
14th May 2008 The Aira Force money tree, with some of my eco-mates in the background. Back in May I stayed for four nights at the Whinfell Forest Center Parcs village with fifteen buddies, all of us finishing the final year of our ecological science degree at the University of Edinburgh. Mid-week, half of us headed into the Lake District to leave behind the Verruca Dome for a day. And what a beautiful summer day it was! Going along the shore of Ullswater, we spotted a car park and decided that there was no point in driving any further when we were already in such a perfect spot. And I’m so glad we did, because a short walk from the car park we discovered a piece of idyllic woodland complete with lovely stream – Aira Beck – an impressive waterfall – Aira Force – an unbelievably ginormous spruce, and this money tree. A perfect day, and it got even better back at our chalets with a roast dinner and plenty of beer pong.
27th July 2008 There was a spell of incredible weather at the end of July, just before I left Edinburgh behind and returned to Sheffield. I spent quite a bit of time at the Royal Botanic Garden, and on one of my visits I took this photograph of a common lime (Tilia x europaea) inflorescence. The common lime is a hybrid of the small- and broad-leaved limes (Tilia cordata and Tilia platyphyllos respectively).
18th September 2008 I stayed over in my friends’ flat the night before I took this photo. They live in the middle of Sheffield, and in the morning I caught a train to Hope. I then spent a brilliant late summer’s day walking home through the Peak District. I crossed over the River Derwent at Slippery Stones using the 17th century packhorse bridge there. The bridge originally stood further downstream, but if it remained in that location today it would now lie beneath the waters of Ladybower Reservoir. When the reservoir was under construction in the first half of the 20th century, this old bridge was carefully dismantled stone by stone, with the position of each recorded, then reconstructed at its present location. This lonely birch stands just a little further along the path, at the bottom of Cranberry Clough.
26th September 2008 A pearl-studded puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum). It’ll not be long before I plant treeblog’s next set of seedlings – birch, rowan, and sweet chestnut. Near the end of September I went on a mish to collect rowan berries and birch seeds – probably downy birch (Betula pubescens), possibly silver birch (Betula pendula): I sometimes cannot make up my mind with these tricky trees. There were a fair few pearl-studded puffballs under my big birch of choice and I was glad to see they were all in tip-top condition. The only time before I’d seen these things – down in Thetford the previous February – they had been old and dry and liable to shoot out a puff of spores if you stepped on one. And you wouldn’t want a lungful of those; Lycoperdon perlatum spores have microscopic spines and will severely irritate lungs if inhaled in sufficient quantity – lycoperdonosis.
6th December 2008 Deadwood at twilight (probably larch or pine), taken within a kilometre of the above photo but later in the day and year. I took a walk with my father in the chilly late-afternoon-turning-evening through my favourite hunting ground and we found ourselves at this picturesque spot with a bright moon and a clear sky. We both took a lot of photos (I can remember how cold my hands got); of mine, this is my favourite.
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