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European ash (Fraxinus excelsior)

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Birthday Tour (Part 2): the Glen Lyon Ash – Loch Tay

…Continuing from Part One, in which I visited the Fortingall Yew.

Snow-capped Creag Roro (left) and the summit of An Stùc (1,118 m high) seen from Glen Lyon. Out of shot further right, the summit of Ben Lawers could also be seen - my third Munro, which I climbed in 2008.

Leaving Bridge of Balgie I retraced my route a little way until I came upon the Glen Lyon Ash, which I’d already driven past in the opposite direction. I would have stopped the first time but I knew that the Ben Lawers pass, the mountain road between Bridge of Balgie and Loch Tay, was blocked with snow and impassable by car (I’d walked up from the Loch Tay side as far as the Lawers Dam with friends a few days before and it was definitely blocked!). This meant Glen Lyon was effectively a giant cul-de-sac, so I’d have to backtrack as far as Fortingall to continue my tour.

The Glen Lyon Ash.

In the summer of 2008 I stayed with my parents for a week at Pubil, an absolutely tiny settlement at the far end of Glen Lyon. One day we were driving down the road when I noticed an ash tree of exceptional girth. I knew it was something special and had to get out of the car to have a look and take some photographs, which you can see in this vintage Treeblog post. That was the first I knew of the Glen Lyon Ash.

This Highland Perthshire website labels it the greatest-girthed ash (Fraxinus excelsior) recorded in Scotland, although it isn’t mentioned in my Tree Register Handbook. I wish I’d taken a tape measure along to see how it compares with the recognised champions. According to Highland Perthshire, “Close to the ash tree there is an ancient cross carved on a stone by the road. This is ‘St Adamnan’s Cross’ [shown on the OS map] and nearby is a stone with a deep hole where, so the legend goes, the saint banished the plague from the glen.” As if I needed an excuse to go back again!

The Ash grows but a field from the River Lyon. Here’s the view across the river and through the trees to Creag Roro and the summits of An Stùc and Ben Lawers.

The Glen Lyon Ash does get a mention in a Forestry Commission document titled Scotland’s Trees, Woods and Forests (available to download as a .pdf): “The Glen Lyon Ash can be found midway up this beautiful Perthshire glen. Ash trees are not noted for their longevity, but this tree is the exception. Thought to be 400 – 500 years old, this ash was once more than 100 feet high. It has recently been cut back to produce new growth, which should see it survive for another century or two.” You know, I would kill to see a photograph of this ash standing proud at its full height. The tree is also name-checked by the Woodland Trust’s Tree Disease website.

The Glen Lyon Ash seen with more of its surroundings. We’re facing north here, with our backs to the river.

You can clearly see that our ash was once a much taller tree. Its ‘pollarding’ was severe, but the Ash today is flourishing and it has already established a fine new crown. I hope the wood-rotting fungi take it easy on the bole and roots so the tree can live out the FC’s optimistic prediction of another century or two, but there are dark clouds on the horizon in the form of Chalara fraxinea - the dreaded ash dieback that has run rampant across Europe.

Anyway, after tearing myself away from this awesome veteran I made my way back down Glen Lyon to Fortingall, then hung a right to Fearnan… and Loch Tay!


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Continue to Birthday Tour (Part 3): Loch Tay & the Ardeonaig Sycamore - Killin.


Posted in Holidays and field trips + Notable trees





Perfect Sunday walk around Dale Dike and Strines Reservoirs (Part 1): ancient oaks & Boot’s Folly

Impressive ash on the way to Dale Dike Dam.

On Sunday I went walking with a couple of buddies in perfect weather through some beautiful countryside. Even though we’re not yet halfway through March it was a very good impression of summer: hot and cloudless and lovely. We set out from Lower Bradfield in the morning and walked along the south-eastern shore of Dale Dike Reservoir, looped around Strines reservoir via Boot’s Folly and the Strines Inn, then followed the north-western shore of Dale Dike back to Lower Bradfield, before climbing the hill to Upper Bradfield where we enjoyed a pint and some pub grub in the afternoon sun. It was a great way to spend a Sunday.

I’m 99% sure that this is Daldinia concentrica, a fungus going by the common names of King Alfred’s cakes, carbon balls, and cramp balls. There were a few of them growing on a dead tree by the dam wall at Dale Dike Reservoir.

This is a seriously ancient oak. It grows between the two reservoirs and when I first spotted it I was amazed – amazed because this is the first veteran oak of this class I have found in my local area. Then I was excited. It looks smaller it really is in this photograph – my photos never seem to do big trees justice – but you can see it is a tree of great antiquity; an old pollard, from the look of it. 400 years old? 500? I look forward to putting it to the tape measure!

A nice little hawthorn.

A pause on the climb up to the folly for a look back over Dale Dike Reservoir.

Boot’s Folly! This 45 foot high tower was built in 1927 by Charles Boot of nearby Sugworth Hall (son of Henry Boot, founder of the eponymous LSE-listed company) to keep his workmen occupied during the Great Depression. There are stairs inside the tower but only at the very top – the story goes that they were mostly removed in the 1970s after a cow got itself stuck up there. The folly is a well-known local landmark that can be seen from much of the surrounding country, to which it adds character. It’s my opinion that it looks most impressive when viewed from up close, with the countryside as a backdrop.

This big ash grows just south of Strines Reservoir. The two branches on the left sure reach a good distance from the stem.

Another ancient oak pollard! This one is more squat and not so tall as the oak already passed, but it’s still a reverential veteran that has witnessed the passing of more than a couple of centuries. It’s part of a line of old trees that follow the stone wall on the left.

Continued in Part 2 & Part 3.


Posted in Gone for a walk + Notable trees





Chimney & ash

I like driving down country lanes and discovering new long-cuts. A couple of weekends ago on one of my trail-blazing runs I happened upon a new view of a chimney I have passed hundreds of times. Instead of some old stack at a boring, old paper mill seen from the main road in the valley bottom, it was suddenly a weird, brick obelisk all shrouded in trees seen viewed from across the valley. I was impressed to return the next day with my camera. The trees in the background are part of Wharncliffe Woods but the trees in the foreground are a single row at the bottom of a field; in between is the valley bottom with the main road, the paper mill, and the River Don.

This nice ash (Fraxinus excelsior) stood close to where I took chimney pic. I couldn’t resist a few shots of the crown!


Posted in Miscellany





Idyllic rurality in the lower Ewden Valley

Not yet in the Ewden Valley – this is my favourite hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna).

One hell of a bull at Hunger Hill.

Leaving Heads Lane, I walked through an old farm and started down to the bottom of the valley…

The pleasant, pastoral view back across the valley from the other side (near Snell House).

Lamb’s eye view?

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea).

More Hall Reservoir is looking empty again. It was about this empty at the start of the year, before briefly filling up in spring.

I passed this imposing and impressive ash (Fraxinus excelsior) in Wantley Dragon Wood. The tree would have been twice as big in its heyday when its stem forked into two equal stems a couple of metres off the ground, but one of them has been removed. The size of the trunk at ground level was incredible! It must be one of the largest ash trees in the local area.

Nearby a dragon slithers into a grassy clearing. According to the information board (sited close enough to ruin any photo from this angle) it was created by wood carver Mark Bell and dry stone waller John Alston, with the head made of elm. The sculpture represents the eponymous monster of the ancient satirical ballad The Dragon of Wantley, first published anonymously in 1685. The dragon lived across the Don valley in a cave on Wharncliffe Crags and devoured children, cattle, buildings and trees. The locals called upon More of More Hall to rid them of the dragon. After donning a special suit of Sheffield armour bristling with six-inch spikes, he hid in a well and kicked the dragon in the mouth as it went to drink, killing it. According to the information board, a “later version [published in 1765] included an explanation that it was based on a lawsuit against Sir Francis Wortley (the dragon) by other landowners, where the lawyer was More (the knight). It is difficult to know if this is true. Some of the elements could be a satire about a lawsuit; others are classic to dragon myths in this area. It is possible that this story is a combination of several tales.”

Finally, the approach to Bolsterstone from a footpath just uphill of Sunny Bank Road. Broomhead Park and Moor are seen in the background.


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This month the Festival of the Trees returns to Via Negativa for its fifth anniversary. 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.


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This post is continued in Part Two.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Hallowe’en (Part Three)

An ash (Fraxinus excelsior) with interesting feet. This may be a tree that has been coppiced (by man or by nature) in the past to leave a great, gnarly stool; while the two stems are not that old (half a century or more?), the stool and roots could be many times older. It is growing on a slope just above a steep drop into a river - years of soil creeping down the hill and falling over the edge have probably given rise to the stool’s exposed position.

This larch rose has me bamboozled. It’s either really late or really early (larch roses come out in the springtime). Maybe when all of its friends started to turn into cones, its development was somehow suspended.

This is one bombed-out wreck of a tree. The trunk is extremely rotten and, as you can see, not all there. Yet this ash still lives – see those branches at the top of the photograph!

On larch (Larix).

This little brook in Crookland Wood joins the Porter or Little Don River just above Brook House Bridge. I can’t find this short section named on any map, but the three tributaries that combine to form it are Hagg Brook, Kiln Bank Brook and Badger Lane Brook. It is probably one of those, although much of the water came cascading out of a mysterious stone culvert.



While I can’t recall ever seeing this stream before, I’ve certainly heard it. No wonder it’s so noisy – thing’s full of little waterfalls.


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Hallowe’en (Part One)
Hallowe’en (Part Two)

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Have a look at this new blog written by a British ex-pat living in France and managing his own woodland: My French Forest. There aren’t many posts up yet but it is an interesting read from someone who has obviously got a lot of experience.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Set A Scots pines update (Day 1149)

Scots pine Alpha on Thursday evening (Set A, Day 1149). Those candles are getting pretty long now…

…but back on the 24th of April they weren’t really candles at all; more glorified buds.

A week later, on the 1st of May, and good progress had already been made.

Here they are again on the 11th of May…

…and this is an almost up-to-date view from Thursday (the 20th of May). Not be long until the needles appear now!

In addition to the candles on top of Scots pine Alpha, each of its three little branches has a candle on the tip (seen here on Tuesday).

With less candles than its stablemate, here’s Scots pine Gamma. It currently shares its pot with an ash and a sycamore seedling.

Not a Scots pine, but here’s the PSAUS a.k.a. the post-Set A unknown seedling a.k.a. a goat willow.

And last but not least, here’s the ash that germinated last year in grey alder No. 3’s pot: a real tree in minature.

Speaking of the grey alders, I wonder how they’re getting on. I think we’re due another visit soon, you & I. But first things first: the next two updates will deal with the cider gums. Yes, there have been deaths. But there has also been reincarnation!


Posted in The treeblog trees





The Bernhard Langer Tree Shot

A couple of Mondays ago I was at Fulford Golf Club (near York) for a stumpgrinding course with a legendary forester. As we arrived at the course, he told us a brilliant story about a famous golfer who was playing a tournament there a few years ago. On one of the holes his ball got stuck in a tree, so he climbed up the tree, took his shot, and went on to place second!

Here’s a photo and the story in Langer’s own words, lifted directly from his autobiography (Bernhard Langer: My Autobiography, 2003).

Langer calls it an oak tree, but you can see from the leaves and bark that it’s actually an ash (Fraxinus excelsior). Whatever, it’s still a fantastic, almost iconic, image.

In 1981 I became a world-famous golfer in a rather amusing way. I was playing in the Benson and Hedges International at Fulford. On the seventeenth hole I hit a nine iron to the green, pulled it left and it hit a big oak tree, to the left of the green. I heard the ball hit two or three times but did not see it come down. Seconds later the spectators started laughing and, sure enough, the ball was lodged in a little indentation in a branch about fifteen feet up!

I was in contention – finishing second in the end. My only concern was how to play the hole best… The worst option was to go back and take a ‘stroke and distance’ penalty. Dropping a ball at the green side was a better option, but still with a penalty. The best option, if it were possible, was clearly to play the ball from where it lay. I considered the options, looked where the ball was and decided that I might be able to hit it onto the green.

The hardest part was getting up the tree, getting a stance, and especially not falling out of the tree as I hit the ball! I managed to succeed in hitting the ball onto the green, leaving myself a putt for par. The crowd went absolutely crazy. Unfortunately I missed it, but at least it was only one dropped shot.

My only concern was to get the best score on the hole, and it was a bonus that there was a TV camera behind the hole – remember, in those days they only covered the last few holes. It was shown on TV around the world and, as I was pretty much at the beginning of my career, I was in some places better known for climbing the tree than for my golf!



I had my first experience of playing in the USA in 1981 when I was invited to play in the World Series. I was leading with six holes to play but could not quite sustain it. It was a good experience and boosted my confidence. That was shortly after the Benson and Hedges tournament and the tree incident.

I was amused to overhear this conversation between two people in the gallery:

‘Who is that?’
‘Isn’t he the man who climbs trees?’
‘What’s his name?’
‘I think it’s Bernard-something.’
‘No, it’s not. That’s Tarzan!’

Langer also recounts a different time when he hit a ball into a tree:

In fact my ball has stuck up a tree three times in my career. The second and third times were both in California, most recently at the end of 2001, and both Peter Coleman (my caddie) and I were in the tree, though Peter went higher. As I definitely could not play the ball this time, there was no point in my climbing up. It was a three wood that struck the ball high up in the tree, where it stuck maybe sixty feet up. You could see the ball from underneath but you could not get to it.

The next problem in this situation is that, under the rules, I have to be able to identify my ball. I could see it was a Titleist but every tournament player marks his ball in a particular way. I put two dots by the number. The referee said, ‘ If you are not sure that is your ball, you have to go back and replay the shot.’
I said, ‘I know it is my ball. I saw it go there and get stuck.’
He said, ‘Can you identify it?’
I said, ‘No, but I know it is my ball.’

So we got binoculars from someone in the crowd and with them we could see the two dots on the ball, and so I was allowed to drop it under the tree. After I declared it unplayable, we shook the tree and the ball fell.

Bernhard Langer: what a guy!


Posted in Miscellany





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





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





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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Call for Submissions: Festival 44 Returns to the treeblog. Submit!


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).


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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





A wintry walk through the woods (Part 1)

The Long Lane ash. Have a look at it in early October and late November 2008 and early February and late May of this year. I’ve somehow started keeping a record of this tree.

There was a bit of snow put down before the weekend, so I went for a walk up to Millstones Wood yesterday afternoon to partake of the wintry atmosphere. It was biting cold and as I walked up Long Lane I was stung by flurrying microsnow. Once inside the wood, the snow eased off but the temperature fell even lower. It was proper Baltic. The ground was dusted with frozen snow and the footing was alternately slippery then crunchy. A robin flew across my path without stopping to say hello. I climbed partway up a reclining tree, but away from the warmth of a fleecy sleeve my fingers quickly protested the intense cold.

As I neared the other end of the wood more flakes began to fall.

Millstones Wood. Many of the beeches are rendered a vivid green by coatings of leprose lichen.

Leaning larches.

A wee spring that oozes out of the ground beside a large beech was frozen solid. An icy waterfall in miniature.

Almost every tree in this part of the wood is a European beech (Fagus sylvatica).

The frozen floor: twigs, beech leaves and snow.

An evergreen Scots pine breaks up the monotony of bare branches.

This afternoon it snowed again, and really went for it. There’s now a proper covering down. If it snows again in the night and recovers the roads, there is a chance that tomorrow won’t find me at work. It’ll find me roaming abroad with a grin on my face.


Posted in Gone for a walk





A huge ash in Glen Lyon. The Falls of Acharn.

One really, really big ash.

Somewhere in Glen Lyon grows a bloody huge veteran ash (Fraxinus excelsior). Though it has a girth of truly enormous proportions, it is sadly lacking in the height department after a recent pollarding. I reckon this major piece of tree surgery was carried out about ten years ago in order to make the tree safe – it stands at the side of a road – by removing a diseased / rotten / dying crown. Happily, the tree is looking super healthy and vigorous today and has put on plenty of new growth since it was pollarded, forming a nice ball-shaped crown.

All photos taken on Tuesday the 4th of August.

Two ashes.

A look round the other side.

The longest drop at the Falls of Acharn.

Later in the day after a drive around the eastern end of Loch Tay we parked the car in Acharn and went for a walk up by the burn to see the Falls of Acharn. July was very wet and the few days prior to our visit had been quite rainy, so the Falls were an impressive sight with Acharn Burn in good spate. There isn’t just a single fall, but rather a series of spectacular falls; the photo above shows the biggest drop, which can be admired from a wee viewing platform accessed through a “hermit’s cave” (read small T-shaped tunnel apparently built in the 1760s). Further upstream are a series of smaller yet equally (if not more so) impressive waterfalls in a rapids-stylee. If you’re up in the Loch Tay area they are definitely worth a visit.

This page on the Walking Highlands site and this Wikipedia page have a few of photos that show the same views as a couple of mine, but with the burn in a much reduced flow.

Part of the series of smaller falls further upstream of the big drop. Note the daredevil tree (centre top of the photo) growing right out of the rock and leaning over the churning pool.

Even further upstream. If you like waterfalls, treeblog will soon be treating you to more watery goodness in the form of Killin’s Falls of Dochart and the Lake District’s Aira Force.

Rogues and beeches.

And still in the vicinity of the Falls, a luscious young hazelnut (Corylus avellana) is coming along nicely.


Posted in Gone for a walk + Holidays and field trips + Notable trees





treeblog update (Set A, Day 822): grey alders & Scots pines

Cripes! I hadn’t realised how much time had elapsed since the last grey alder / Scots pine update. The last one was in mid-May: Day 782. The trees have grown a hella lot in the intervening forty days!

Photos taken yesterday (Day 822).

Scots pine Alpha: one ridonculous leader and three side-shoots. 48 cm from tip to base.

Scots pine Gamma: a modest leader and just the one side-shoot. 27 cm.

Grey alder No. 1: way overgrown for its pot. 105 cm.

Grey alder No. 2. Had its leading stem bitten off by whatever nasty piece of work is mauling the alders. Damn. 71 cm.

Grey alder No. 3: as of yesterday, now in a 35 litre pot with plenty of growing room! 109 cm. No. 4 was also repotted on Wednesday (the 24th), but Nos. 1 and 2 will have to wait until I get some more sand and compost.

Grey alder No. 4. 120 cm. The size gap between No. 4 and Nos. 1 and 3 has diminished rather! While many of No. 4’s leaves are damaged (overzealous application of pesticide?), the newer ones are thankfully healthy. I moved it out of ‘quarantine’ on Wednesday as the worst of the alder attacker’s attacks seem to be over.

When the mystery alder attacker was a new phenomenon, around mid-May, the leading stem of No. 4 had a massive chunk taken out of it. I thought the Beast would be beheaded for sure, but it fought back and has now put plenty of new growth above the injury. Here’s the scarring as it was today next to the fresh damage on May 17th. How the stem has thickened!

The post-Set A goat willow, formerly called PSAUS. Truly a healthy looking specimen, radiating vitality and vigour. 25 cm.

A wee common ash (Fraxinus excelsior), potted up yesterday from its former residence in grey alder No. 3’s old pot (see the Day 782 update). Just as treeblog has followed the PSAUS even though it was self-seeded, this cheeky chappy will become a permanent fixture in the treeblog garage. 8 cm.


* * * * *

Set A cider gums update coming soon!


* * * * *

Update – 29 June 2009:
Grey alders Nos. 1 and 2 were repotted into 35-litre pots this afternoon.


Posted in The treeblog trees





A walk in the sun (Part 3): on to Mortimer Road

Continuing this series of photos from a walk in the sun on the glorious first of June… carrying on down the salt path to reach Mortimer Road.

Flowering hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna).

A big old yew tree – in the Ewden valley. Is Ewden a corruption of Yew Dene, dene being an old British word for a wooded valley? There aren’t very many yews in Ewden today at any rate!

Yew (Taxus baccata) leaves.

The green roof overhead.

From woodland the path opens into this sloping grassy field. I bet it would be perfect for cheese rolling.

Which one do you prefer?

Bear in mind that this photo was taken three weeks ago, but look how far behind this ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is lagging in the leaf stakes. Ash is the last tree to come into leaf in these parts, but the majority of the local ashes were by this time halfway through flushing.

Shady woodland on the bank of a tiny stream, a tributary of Ewden Beck

Mortimer Road just above where the path comes out. From Jack Branston’s History of Stocksbridge:

[Mortimer Road] was named after Hans Winthrop Mortimer, Lord of the Manor of Bamford who died in 1807. He had the idea of linking the Peak with the woollen manufacturing districts of the West Riding and so reap a profit from the road-tolls. This road was to run from Penistone Bridge to Grindleford Bridge, starting from Penistone, over Midhope Bridge to Bardike and Agden Bridge, past the Strines Inn and so on. In the wall at [I think he means outside the Strines Inn] you can see a stone built in which reads “Take Off”. This was another of Mortimer’s ideas; whilst wagon horses were resting he used chain horses to pull the wagons to the given point, then took them off and returned for another wagon.

The Sanderson – Bradfield and Beyond site says that the road was built in the 1770s and that Mortimer died in poor circumstances after failing to comply with the Authorising Act of 1770. And from this Flickr page, part of a comment by ‘evissa’, who mentions a small book called Mortimer Road: the turnpike that failed:

[Mortimer] owned property in Essex, Derbyshire and London and was MP for Shaftsbury. Alas he died bankrupt.


Hawthorn flowers in their prime.


Posted in Gone for a walk





A walk in the sun (Part 1): over Whitwell Moor

Last Monday (the 1st of June), in the middle of a period of brilliant weather, I went for a walk up Whitwell Moor, down into Ewden, through Millstones Wood, then back down Whitwell Moor. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the trees were rustling…and I enjoyed every minute!

The branches of an ash (Fraxinus excelsior) hang low over an abundance of flowering cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris).

A cherry sapling (Prunus avium) growing amongst more cow parsley by the side of a lane.

The view to the west across Whitwell Moor from the Set C(r) parent rowan (right). The lush ground cover in the foreground is bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus).

Looking across the Moor - studded with naturally regenerating birch – to Emley Moor Mast. The mast is a Grade II Listed Building and the tallest freestanding structure in the UK at 330.4 metres. It may look as if it stands on top of the hill in the photograph but it is actually much further away, standing roughly ten miles distant.

Male Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) flowers.

English oak (Quercus robur) leaves in the sun.

Standing amidst the heather and bilberry, Whitwell Moor’s most iconic oak: the Lonely Oak (also an English or pedunculate oak).

A developing European larch (Larix decidua) cone. Remember all those photos of larch roses on treeblog in March? This is what they have grown into!


* * * * *

The 36th edition of the Festival of the Trees is up at Roundrock Journal - go check it out.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Out on the bike: around Langsett and back (Part 1 of 4)

Sunday was a real stunner, and after the dire weather of May so far it was even nicer than usual to get out into the countryside. I took the pushbike for a ride over to Langsett, going clockwise around the reservoir via North America before coming through Upper Midhope and heading for home.

The spring to summer transition is virtually complete, with the ashes (Fraxinus excelsior) being the last of the trees coming into leaf. With it being so long since we’ve had such a nice day, and with summer now practically fully upon us, I was almost overwhelmed by the slightly surreal vividity of the ubiquitous greenery. The moors in particular, brown and desolate for so long, are now punctuated with patches of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) bright green with new growth. The heather is not yet in flower, and so there was no sea of purple surrounding these verdant isles, but myriad other plants and trees were in bloom: rowans (Sorbus aucuparia), pines (Pinus spp.), bluebells (Hyacinthoides sp.), cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris), oaks (Quercus robur), hawthorns (Crataegus sp.), sycamores (Acer pseudoplatanus), buttercups (Ranunculus spp.), and white dead-nettles (Lamium album) to name but a few.

To say my camera was mostly in my pocket or rucksack as I was on the bike, I landed quite the catch of photos. Here be the first batch:

Clusters of male catkins dangling from an English oak. The English or pedunculate oak is a monoecious species so individuals produce flowers of both sexes.

This particular oak had pea-sized galls attached to some of the catkins. I’m fairly sure that they are the sexual galls, known as currant galls, of the currant gall wasp (Neuroterus quercusbaccarum). Common spangle galls found on the underside of oak leaves are the agamic galls of the same wasp.

An old friend: the rowan on Whitwell Moor from under which I collected half of my berries for Set C (replanted as Set C(r) a fortnight ago). Rowans are in full bloom at the moment, and this one was no exception. It was absolutely covered with infloresences!

A bit of lovely lichen growing on the rowan.

Get a close-up look at one of the inflorescences.

This young ash grows on the aptly named Long Lane and I’ve developed a habit of taking its picture every time I pass by, which allows for some interesting seasonal juxtapositions. Here it can be seen in the thick of a blizzard on the 2nd of February and also just coming into leaf in happier weather on Sunday. (See the same ash with and without leaves last October and November respectively in this post!)

The other rowan whose seeds comprise Set C(r). This unique and arresting rowan unfortunately blew over last year. It was still lying where it had fallen on the wall the last time I visited on the 14th of February, but since then it has been cleared away.

The only extant trace is this stump. The fallen tree was still alive too – I noticed live buds during my February visit. It must still have been connected to the root system. I hope that the roots continue to live and send up new sprouts, but given the stump’s situation in a field oft home to a herd of cattle it may never be able to re-establish anyway. I really hope that the seeds I took from it last year germinate to allow me the pleasure of raising the offspring of a remarkable ex-tree.

I took this photo looking south up-valley while standing on the bridge over Thickwoods Brook where that stream enters Langsett Reservoir. The brook gathers in the wee pond you can see in the bottom right of the photograph before rushing down a little weir into the reservoir.

Still on the bridge, but looking east towards Thickwoods, a coniferous plantation owned (as is the reservoir and much of the surrounding land) by Yorkshire Water. See what I mean about the bilberry being vivid? It’s almost glowing!


Posted in Gone for a walk





Flowers of the ash, the wild cherry, and the sycamore

Spring is in the air and flowers are everywhere. So far this year treeblog has carried posts on the flowers of the hazel, the alder, the larch, and the goat willow; also last week, a crab apple on the verge of flowering; and if I may whet your appetite for posts to come, have a sniff of these soon-to-be-flowering trees: the rowan, the horse chestnut, the birch, and the hawthorn. What a bounty! What a feast! In today’s post: the flowers of the ash, the wild cherry, and the sycamore.

Cherry blossom.

The wild cherry or gean (Prunus avium) is a spectacular sight at this time of year as whole trees are covered with white flowers - the magnificent cherry blossom. All wild cherry flowers are hermaphrodite, each flower having a single style (♀) surrounded by several stamens with orange anthers (♂). By mid-summer, the bee-pollinated flowers will have developed into small red then red-black fruits; they are eaten by birds.

Cherry blossom at sunset.

These three wild cherry photos were taken yesterday evening in the Ewden Valley.

Ash flowers.

On the flowering front, the wind-pollinated ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is a bewildering, polygamous mess. From my Trees of Britain & Northern Europe (Mitchell, 1974):

Total sexual confusion: some trees all male, some all female, some male with one or more female branches, some vice versa, some branches male one year, female the next, some with perfect [hermaphrodite] flowers. Male flowers in dense globular bunches along shoots of previous year, purplish then dark red in bud, open yellow with slender anthers in early April well before leaf-buds; female flowers similar but open more widely into a filigree of purple then pale green.

and from my Trees of Britain & Europe (Aas & Reidmiller, 1994):

Flowers: Apr-May, before the leaves open, trees may be monoecious or dioecious, and the flowers hermaphrodite or unisexual, arranged in many-flowered panicles, at first upright, but later drooping, at the tips of the previous year’s growth. Individual flowers are inconspicuous and lack petals [and sepals]. Stamens 2(3), are brownish-red to violet; ovary has 2-lobed stigma.

Ash flowers.

I’m having difficulty discerning whether the ash flowers in my photos are male, female, or perfect, a problem possibly compounded by the flowers perhaps being past their best. With help from this this excellent page by Eva Wallander, I’m fairly sure the pinkish-red-headed parts are anthers (♂), but I’m not at all sure whether the black-headed parts are stigmas (♀) or just anthers that have already lost their pollen. If you can help me out, please email or leave a comment.

These three ash photos were taken on Friday.

Sycamore flowers seen yesterday on a tree in the Ewden Valley. Most local sycamores hereabouts are a little behind it with their inflorescences.

Figuring out which parts of a sycamore inflorescence are male and which are female sounds like another pain in the ass! From a paper by Binggeli (1990):

In Sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus L., all flowers are functionally unisexual and appear sequentially on a single inflorescence… In a single inflorescence the sex of sequentially opening flowers may differ more than once in time, and de Jong… described eleven different modes of sex expression within an inflorescence…

and from Rusanen & Myking (2003):

The reproductive system is complex. The majority of flowers are morphologically hermaphrodite, but all flowers are functionally unisexual. In each inflorescence there are both male and female flowers – but the number of male flowers is higher, and the duration of the male flowering sequence is always much longer than that of the female sequence. At the tree level, half of the individuals function predominantly as male or female, but there may be some annual variation in sex expression. Flowers are a vital source of pollen and nectar for bees and bumble bees, which are the primary vectors for pollination. A small proportion of the flowers are also pollinated by the wind.

Sycamore leaves illuminated against the sky yesterday afternoon.


References

Aas, G. and Riedmiller, A. Translated by Walters, M. (1994). Trees of Britain & Europe. HarperCollins Publishers. – A Collins Nature Guide.

Binggeli, P. (1990). Detection of protandry and protogyny in Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus L.) from infructescences. Watsonia, 18, 17-20.

Mitchell, A. (1974). Trees of Britain & Northern Europe. HarperCollinsPublishers. – A Collins Field Guide.

Rusanen, M. and Myking, T. (2003). EUFORGEN Technical Guidelines for genetic conservation and use for sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus). International Plant Genetic Resources [Rome]. Available from: http://www.ipgri.cgiar.org/publications/pdf/853.pdf [Accessed 26th April 2009].


Posted in Dendrology





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

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

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

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

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

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

Three female goat willow (Salix caprea) catkins…

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

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

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

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

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


Posted in Gone for a walk





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