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Fagus - the beeches

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Panthercaps in Millstones Wood

A couple of panthercaps (Amanita pantherina) in Millstones Wood.

I went for a walk with my camera through Millstones Wood at the weekend to get some shots of the panthercaps which are presently abundant beneath the beeches (Fagus sylvatica) in the north-eastern part of the wood. I’d walked through the wood earlier in the week and seen all of the mushrooms but I didn’t have my camera on me, so a repeat visit was called for!

A very young mushroom – an ‘Amanita egg’. At this stage the developing mushroom is still completely contained within the unbroken veil.

This young mushroom has fully emerged from its veil, but the cap has yet to open completely. Fragments of the veil remain attached to the cap forming the distinctive ‘warts’ which are a defining feature of many Amanita species.

According to my copy of Roger Phillips’ Mushrooms, the panthercap’s habitat is “in coniferous or deciduous woodland, especially with beech; summer to autumn. Occasional to frequent.” My mushrooms were found in an area of almost exclusively beech woodland with the occasional oak thrown in. Indeed, I saw one panthercap growing right at the very foot of a mature oak, but all the others were growing from the ground litter typical of beech woodland: old rotten beechnut cupules, old rotten beech leaves, beech twigs – and precious little else. The beech and the panthercap are obviously in mycorrhizal cahoots.

The cap is “finely striate at the margin”...

The panthercap is poisonous, by the way; “may be deadly” according to Phillips.

Exiting Millstones Wood onto the grassy hilltop that commands views of the Little Don and Ewden valleys, marked on the map as The Height, another sort of fungus was common. I counted well over a dozen of these small puffballs dotted about – perhaps the mosaic puffball (Handkea utriformis)? I’m not really sure!


Posted in Gone for a walk





A beech at the height of its powers

They don’t come much better than this: an enormous beech (Fagus sylvatica) at the top of its game, yet net showing any sign of decline. It is one of a long row of mature beeches running mysteriously through the middle of Spout House Wood in the in delightful Ewden Valley. Who planted them, and when, and why?

In the bottom of the valley More Hall Reservoir is so full it’s overflowing. We’ve had a hell of a lot of rain recently, but the local reservoirs already filled in a short period in the autumn after spending most of last year half empty. It’s been so long since they’ve been properly full that it’s weird seeing them like this. I’d gotten used to seeing More Hall Reservoir as I photographed it in these posts from January and September 2011!

Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa), an ancient woodland indicator species, in Morehall Reservoir Plantation. I confess I hadn’t a clue what it was until I looked it up. I need to work on my herb ident!

Much of the plantation was clear-felled at the end of 2010 but it has since been replanted. I had a look inside a fair few of the tree guards and they all contained baby hazels (Corylus avellana).

This is one herb I do know: wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), another indicator of ancient woodland.

Downy birch (Betula pubescens) catkins. The drooping yellowish catkins are made up of male flowers and will soon be dispensing pollen. The upright green catkins are made up of female flowers, and will dispense seeds later in the year when they too will be hanging downwards.

The view north across Ewden, taken with my back to Spout House Wood. The hand of spring has given the landscape a welcome boost of greenery.

Back to that sublime beech…

A mind-boggling number of branches!


Posted in Gone for a walk





The Birks o’ Aberfeldy

Moness Burn.

I recently spent a fantastic week on my own in Scotland making pilgrimages to big trees and climbing a couple of Munros. At the beginning of my week I walked around the Birks of Aberfeldy on a rather dank and overcast day. The Birks is a small, wooded valley through which flows the Moness Burn. It was originally known as the Den of Moness but the name was changed after Robert Burns visited and wrote the song ’The Birks of Aberfeldy’ in 1787 (‘birks’ is Scots for ‘birches’).

This is a European beech (Fagus sylvatica), although you can’t tell from the moss-covered trunk. Down here in the countryside on the edge of the Peak District, beech trees have beautiful silvery trunks more or less free of moss and lichen. I know our trees would probably have been dripping with lichens before the Industrial Revolution, but I reckon a beechwood is better-looking with its silverware on display.

A statue of Rabbie has been seated by the burn. Someone had attached a Remembrance Day poppy to his lapel.

An oak leaf amongst beech leaves.

I passed a few small waterfalls as I walked up the valley. There was a fair bit of water going over them – it had rained like billyo in the night.

The waterfall on the left drops into the burn just upstream of a wee gorge.

It’s funny how this oak burr is made up of segments that are trying to be hexagonal, as if it has formed like a big, wooden crystal. It kind of looks a bit like a turtle-shell.

Another oak tree – an overgrown coppice.

Eventually I reached the big waterfall, the star attraction of the Birks. This photo doesn’t really do justice to its size and power, but I assure you it was quite impressive in the flesh. There’s a really tall Scots pine growing from the bottom of the braes – you can see part of the trunk running up the left of the photo.

A footbridge over the top of the fall allows for a closer look at the action and the opportunity to walk back down the valley on the other side of the river.

The oaks in their winter coats of lichen really stood out from the bare birks.

A giant old stump exhibited fantastical patterning and had pretty groovy colouration to boot.

Abstract.

If you’re going to encircle a young tree with a metal bench, the tree would probably appreciate if you removed it before… this.


The Birks of Aberfeldy, by Robert Burns

Chorus:
Bonie lassie, will ye go,
Will ye go, will ye go;
Bonie lassie, will ye go
To the birks of Aberfeldy.

Now Simmer blinks on flowery braes,
And o'er the crystal streamlets plays;
Come let us spend the lightsome days,
In the birks of Aberfeldy.

[Chorus]

While o'er their heads the hazels hing,
The little birdies blythely sing,
Or lightly flit on wanton wing,
In the birks of Aberfeldy.

[Chorus]

The braes ascend like lofty wa's,
The foaming stream deep-roaring fa's,
O'erhung wi' fragrant spreading shaws-
The birks of Aberfeldy.

[Chorus]

The hoary cliffs are crown'd wi' flowers,
White o'er the linns the burnie pours,
And rising, weets wi' misty showers
The birks of Aberfeldy.

[Chorus]

Let Fortune's gifts at random flee,
They ne'er shall draw a wish frae me;
Supremely blest wi' love and thee,
In the birks of Aberfeldy.

[Chorus]


Posted in Gone for a walk + Holidays and field trips





In the Valley of the Beeches

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 in Gone for a walk





Macro monochromes from around Whitwell Moor

Taken August 3rd.

Larch cone.

Larch cascade.

Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) bark.

Beech (Fagus sylvatica) leaf.

Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) berries.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Sessile oak – developing acorns

These tiny acorns aren’t yet far along in their development. I’m sure this is a sessile or durmast oak (Quercus petraea) rather than an English or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) because: a) the leaves are stalked; & b) the acorns are stalkless (sessile).

Photos taken earlier today in Oxley Park, Stocksbridge.

Brown, many-scaled buds sit to the right of three developing acorns. I wonder if the Lonely Oak will have any acorns this year?

Colourful late-season growth was rocketing from the tips of many of this tree’s branches.

This beech (Fagus sylvatica) was loaded with cupules containing their own developing nuts.


Posted in Gone for a walk





A summery walk in spring (Part Two)

If you could be any leaf, which leaf would you be? A beech leaf wouldn’t be a bad choice.

This post continues from Part One.

Take a look up into the canopy of a big, old beech still thriving in Millstones Wood. There’s some kind of symmetry at work here, I think.

Not far away – but a very different atmosphere. High on the moors below Pike Lowe, ancient tree roots are exposed as areas of peat are eroded. What kinds of tree did they support? How long ago did they live? Were these desolate moors once covered in woodland? I wish I had a time machine.

Dropping down off the moors into the upper reaches of Ewden Valley I lingered for a while at Ewden Force. There was only a trickle falling over the edge by consequence of the long hot and dry spell we are currently enjoying. Compare this gentle side of Ewden Force with the one I saw in July 2009 when there was a real thundering cascade! (I walked more or less the same route on both of these visits.)

I loved these colours. The clear sky, the dead bracken, the new bracken growth, the stones, the bilberry…

These trees on the other side of the valley must grow within an enclosed area. If they didn’t, so many would never have made it to this size without being had by the sheep. It’s on my list of places to explore.

I just can’t get enough of beech-filtered sunlight, especially when a river is involved.


* * * * *

May’s edition of the Festival of the Trees - the 59th - is hosted by Suzi of Spirit Whispers. Don’t keep it waiting, go read!


Posted in Gone for a walk





A summery walk in spring (Part One)

As evident from the buds on this tree, the local hawthorns (Crataegus monogyna) are primed and ready to explode into flower. Driving back to Yorkshire from Wales on Easter Monday, I saw plenty of hawthorns further south that were already white with blossom.

The ashes (Fraxinus excelsior) are in flower at the moment. The structures in this photograph are female inflorescences; I could see no male flowers on this tree. Apparently ashes can be monoecious or dioecious, but dioecious individuals are rather more common.

The bilberry bushes (Vaccinium myrtillus) were also covered with flowers. The new leaves are such a vivid green – they really liven up Whitwell Moor.

Seen on a larch (Larix decidua): something caught half-way between being a flower (larch rose) and a cone.

I saw lots of beeches (Fagus sylvatica) in full leaf; I also saw plenty that still looked bare, like this one on the edge of Millstones Wood.

A closer look shows that it has at least begun to adorn itself in greenery, and reveals that the tree is actually in flower. There are both male and female flowers in this photograph.

Poking up through the leaf litter: a wee rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) seedling.


* * * * *

This post is continued in Part Two.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Lambs’ tails & other signs of spring

Lambs’ tails - the all-male catkins of hazel (Corylus avellana). I took the photographs in this post today in the rural Ewden Valley, but I saw hazels with their catkins already fully unfurled in the middle of January in Sheffield.

This is a female flower, which will hopefully grow into a hazelnut one day. Both male and female parts are found on the same individual, i.e. hazel is a monoecious species.

This hazel growing at Carr House Meadows (a nature reserve in the care of the Sheffield Wildlife Trust) was absolutely covered with golden catkins!

I only found out about the flowers of hazel a couple of years ago, but I now know them as a most welcome sign of approaching spring. How could I ever have missed them?

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) buds are almost ready to open...

…and these beech (Fagus sylvatica) buds have certainly grown in size, tiny cigars no longer.

What a display!

Hazel catkins have been out in force for a few weeks now and many of them are now past their best, turning brown and dry.

More of the female flowers. Is it just me or do they bear a slight resemblance to tiny cuttlefish?


Posted in Gone for a walk





Snow, beautiful snow (Part Two)

When the Sun goes down the trees turn black.

The Lonely Oak.

Rabbit tracks.

Bird tracks.

Scots pine.

Oak.

Beech.

Larch.

Whitwell Moor.


* * * * *

Snow, beautiful snow (Part One)


Posted in Gone for a walk





The first snow of winter

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 in Gone for a walk





A handful of field trip iPhone photos

The quality of these photos is poor because they were taken on my mobile (I didn’t have my camera with me). Yesterday my arboriculture class went on a couple of wee field trips to see some gymnosperms and today we went on another to see some angiosperms. It was awesome to be out in the woods with some seriously big trees. I saw the largest Norway maples (Acer platanoides) I’ve ever seen today at the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Moorlands Nature Reserve - super-tall, super-straight big stems - and yesterday we saw a magnificent Turkey oak (Quercus cerris) by the roadside near Askham Bryan.

Yesterday we visited the Forestry Commission’s Wheldrake Woods where they have plenty of conifers growing, including trials of grand fir (Abies grandis). The woods were full of fungi, including loads of these striking fly agarics (Amanita muscaria).

We also called in to see how our Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) plantation, that we planted at Escrick Park Estate in December, was getting on. Unfortunately it appears a fairly high proportion of the seedlings have died, but our forestry guru was unperturbed. Still, it looks like the beating up is going to be pretty heavy going, particularly with the resurgent bracken coverage.

These brackets – which I’m fairly certain are chicken o’ the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) – were growing from a big old Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) stump at Moorlands NR. I don’t recommend touching them: they are grossly slimy.

Another gnarly bracket (actually much yellower than my phone depicts)…

…and the stump itself.

This gigantic European beech (Fagus sylvatica) was breath-takingly huge. Unfortunately it has been savaged by artist’s conk (Ganoderma applanatum) – you can see a few of the big brackets - and so the upper part of the tree has been completely removed for the safety of the reserve’s visitors – what you see in this photo is pretty much all that remains. The stem has been left upright to provide ‘standing deadwood’, and the timber from the crown has been left on the ground to rot away too.

Moorlands has some fantastic trees, but there are a hell of a lot of rhododendrons around. Apparently the lady volunteer who has managed the woodland for the past twenty-odd years is a big fan of them. How the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust can reconcile this with the fundamental concept of a nature reserve is beyond me. Rhododendrons are among the last things you should want in a nature reserve!


Posted in Holidays and field trips





Loch Tay and the Falls of Acharn

The beautiful, beautiful Loch Tay, seen through my sunglasses. Seven of us stopped in a log cabin up there for three nights last weekend (April 15–18). On the Friday we hired a couple of boats and spent the day motoring around and fishing. It was a good time, even if our trawling wasn’t successful.

The harbour at Milton Morenish. The mountain in the background is Beinn Ghlas, a Munro in the Ben Lawers Range.

The big tree in the centre of the foreground is the famous Mother Beech - a tree with a special place in my heart.

This mahoosive Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) stands by the road between Milton Morenish and Killin. What a tree.

Not far away was this curiosity: a perfect ring of tree stumps. Who planted a ring of trees and why? Who cut them down? I do love being intrigued by these little mysteries.

On the Saturday we had a walk up to the Falls of Acharn, a series of small waterfalls and pools around one giant waterfall. This photo shows one of the pools. As you can see, there wasn’t much water coming down the falls, so all the interesting rock formations were revealed.

This is the same pool on the 4th of August 2009, the last time I was up at Loch Tay. What a difference!

Another section of the falls in low flow…

…and the same view in August. Back then it was a noisy, scary, raging beast of a river; now it’s a gentle trickle!

And here’s the main waterfall, seen from across the gorge. More rock than water...

…but a totally different animal in spate!


Posted in Holidays and field trips





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

A dead and rotting birch (Betula). I think the little bracket fungi you may be able to make out are birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus), but they’re pretty poor attempts at fruiting bodies.

This picture is classic Millstones Wood through and through: all rocks and twisty beeches.

This particular beech (Fagus sylvatica) has a splendidly green trunk thanks to a coating of enthusiastic leprose lichen.

I rediscovered this larch (Larix, probs decidua) wound. It hasn’t changed much since the last time I remember seeing it, on the 3rd of January 2008. I first saw the wound on the 4th of April 2007 when it was still very fresh.

Blue sky, shadows, Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris), rocks, and bilberry. What more could you want?

This dead branch reminded me of the chair in ‘Jacob’s’ cabin…

I suppose that to most people this is just a photo of a dirt floor - or more precisely, a photo of a woodland floor covered in old pine needles and bits of pine cone. But I hold a sort of weird fascination for this shining gold-silver pattern.

At one end of Millstones Wood, before it peters out into a grassy, trig-point-topped Salter hill, there grow a few stunted Scots pines and larches. Over the stone wall on the right of this photo there is a field full of gorse (Ulex europaeus) that has recently been completely burned, presumably with a view to control / eradicate it. Whether purposefully or accidentally, the fire spread over the wall where it destroyed several of the stunted pines and seriously singed a few more.

This poor pine is like one giant piece of charcoal now.

Pine cone. Victim.


* * * * *

Early this morning, under the cover of fog, treeblog history was made: grey alders Nos. 2 & 3 were released into the wild in a special covert op! Parts 3 & 4 of Operation Alder shall commence next weekend, all being well, and after that I shall produce a post detailing the daring exploits of these guerrilla plantings!


* * * * *

The April 2010 edition – #46 – of the Festival of the Trees is now up at Vanessa’s Trees and Shrubs Blog. Go and drink your fill of this monthly pleasure!


Posted in Gone for a walk + The treeblog trees





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.


* * * * *

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





In the evening sun (20th February 2010)

I like the summ— miss the summer

After finding the way… Millstones Wood in the evening sun.

In the evening sun: the beast of a beech and friends.

In the evening sun: a larch and a beech.

In the evening sun: an oak and a beech.

In the evening sun: Scots pine and beech; and in the foreground, mounds of dead bracken.

In the evening sun: beech (Fagus sylvatica) bark.

In the evening sun: a close look at part of a giant burr on an English oak (Quercus robur).

In the evening sun: the mighty mega-burr in all its tree-consuming glory!

In the evening sun
In the evening sun
In the evening sun


Posted in Gone for a walk





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

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:


PESTS
January isn’t a very good time to see pests in Britain. I think the scene is a lot more banging in the summer months.

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.]


DISORDERS

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.

[ * I found this abstract to a scientific paper by Spanos & Woodward (1994) 1 online: The impact of infection by Taphrina betulina on the growth of Betula pubescens was studied in naturally regenerated stands in the North East of Scotland. Infection by T. betulina was associated with a significant reduction in height growth and poorer developmental tendency, vigour, and stem quality of B. pubescens, whereas diameter at breast height was little affected. Tree height was reduced by an average of 25% over all diameter classes, with the greatest effect in smaller trees. For brooms of 100 mm diameter and over, numbers and sizes were strongly correlated with diameter at breast height and tree age. Reductions in height and vigour were not correlated with the number and size of brooms present, but were more pronounced in younger, smaller trees.]

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.


1 Spanos, Y. A. & Woodward, S. (1994). The effects of Taphrina betulina infection on growth of Betula pubescens. European Journal of Forest Pathology, 24 (5), 277-286.
2 Shigo, Alex L. (1991). Modern Arboriculture. Shigo and Trees, Associates.
3 Farrell, Robert, W. (undated) Structural Features Related to Tree Crotch Strength (Thesis submitted to the Faculty of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for the degree of Master of Science in Forestry). Available in PDF format from: http://www.treeworld.info/manualuploads/crotchstrength.pdf [Accessed 11th February 2010].
4 Strouts, R. G. and Winter, T. G. (2000). Diagnosis of ill-health in trees. The Stationary Office.


Posted in Pests and diseases





Calm down dear, it’s only winter (3rd January 2010) (Part 2)

I love this dead tree. I love the hill on which it used to grow. I love the view from this hill, especially towards the Ewden Valley and Broomhead Moor and Pike Lowe, all of which I also love. You might have seen this tree before.

[Part 1, sir? – more snow & trees, incl. the Lonely Oak.]

The dead tree stands among a cluster of stunted trees at one end of Millstones Wood. The trees in this photo are all Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) except for the one on the left, which is a beech (Fagus sylvatica).

The setting sun dripped molten gold over the glacial Broomhead Moor but did not thaw that frozen wilderness.

More of those stunted trees…

A wee beech cupule, its two little nuts replaced with one giant snow-nut.

A typical snowy scene inside Millstones Wood.

A whole load of what I’m sure are pine seeds scattered across the snow by a grey squirrel in the canopy above. As it jumped from branch to branch, the snow it dislodged fell in little avalanches to the ground.

I think this was the fallen tree that my and some mates climbed up back in high school days to have our dinner, which would make it the Picnic Tree. These days it’s better known for the frightful cage structure constructed around its exposed root system. Constructed by witches! It is witches, I’m telling you.

The Long Lane Ash (Fraxinus excelsior).


* * * * *

February’s edition of the Festival of the Trees will be hosted by treeblog! So: people who read or look at or watch or create content on trees on blogs and/or other forms of internetery… please send in your submissions!

Do it.


Posted in Gone for a walk





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