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Picea - the spruces
Posted on September 11, 2011 by Ash
I paid a visit to the woods around Langsett Reservoir yesterday to have a play with my new toy, a Nikon D5100 SLR. I knew there’d be plenty of fungi around and I wasn’t disappointed!
I’ve never seen one of these before. I’m by no means confident I’ve identified it correctly but Cystolepiota seminuda is my best guess.
Here’s a typical scene in the part of the woods where I first set about hunting for mushrooms. It’s Scots pine and spruce plantation, with the odd broadleaf chucked in, probably planted in the early 1960s. There were mushrooms about but I didn’t see nearly as many as when I later moved into a mainly broadleaved, birch-dominated part of the woods.
A spruce cone on a conifer stump left behind after thinning. Some small mammal has been making a meal out of it - probably a squirrel (a mouse would have made a neater job and chosen a more secluded place to have its dinner). Whoever was eating it was disturbed (by me?) before the cone could be fully stripped.
Leaving the plantation behind, a cluster of poppies made for a nice juxtaposition.
The birch-dominated part of the woods was also a conifer plantation in the not too distant past, judging by the old stumps everywhere. Native broadleaved species such as downy birch (Betula pubescens) and rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) have quickly colonised the area, and mushrooms were in abundance!
A couple of small mushrooms at the mossy feet of a young rowan.
An unfortunate incident has befallen this mushroom, providing the opportunity for a good look at its pore tubes.
This spiky little ball definitely belongs in the genus Lycoperdon. I’m fairly sure it’s a L. echinatum.
Posted on October 21, 2009 by Ash
Hazel (Corylus avellana).
Photos taken on the 26th of September (Part One here).
Rose-bay willow-herb (Epilobium angustifolium) in a small area of clear-fell.
Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis).
Holly (Ilex aquifolium). Psst. Wanna see a photo of the same holly in February?
Three brothers. On the left: a hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna). In the middle: a fairly recently deceased beech (Fagus sylvatica). On the right: a longer-dead tree, probably a beech also.
Posted on August 30, 2009 by Ash
Three weeks ago yesterday I was travelling back from a week’s stay in the Highlands. Seeing as the road passed so close to Aira Force near Penrith, a detour was made. I discovered Aira Force completely by chance with a load of my eco-mates in May 2008 when we day-tripped out of Center Parcs. It was an awesome little trip that made a lasting impression on me, and I’ve wanted to go back ever since. There are a number of highlights to a visit to Aira Falls: there’s the money tree, there’s the actual waterfall, there’s the beautiful bit of river above the fall, there’s the whopping huge Sitka spruce, and there’s the general ambiance of the place… All this can be taken in and enjoyed in a couple of hours, but if the weather is tozzing I’d be more than happy to spend a whole day there.
And there it is! The famous Aira Force Money Tree! It is a tree wrapped in coins inside an enigma. How did it begin? Who hammered in the first coins? Who remembers to bring a hammer and coins along? How long did it take to completely cover the tree in coins, and how long since it was covered?
Coins galore, all bent by hammering. 1ps, 2ps, and a few 5ps.
A-ha! A bracket fungus growing (on alder? on hazel?) down by the beck. Q: What flavour are you? A: I think I’m a Laetiporus sulphurous - chicken of the woods, sulphur polypore. But I’m not sure. Can you help us, dear reader?
A quadruple hazelnut cluster (Corylus avellana).
A-ha! Another bracket fungus, definitely growing on an alder this time (Alnus glutinosa)! Q: What flavour are you? A: I think I’m a Ganoderma, perhaps G. applanatum - artist’s conk - but I’m not sure. These days I am old and blackened, but have a look at me as I was last year:
The same bracket on the 14th of May 2008. Again, dear reader – can you help ID?
Aira Force itself: an impressive 20 m / 65 ft drop (force, from the old Norse fors or foss, meaning waterfall.)
Downstream of the fall, Aira Beck flows through a gorge. Some of the oaks growing on the steep slope above the water were festooned with epiphytes. This photo shows a section of trunk about thirty feet up covered with mosses and ferns. I’ve seen trees dripping with lichens, but I can’t remember seeing British trees covered in ferns to this height. Remarkable.
This gargantuan Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) grows with one tree-sized limb hanging right out into space over the gorge. I have yet to see the ridonculous dimensions of this tree done justice to by a camera. Even with a bloke stood at the base, you cannot appreciate the scale of this thing the way you can when you’re actually stood gawping at it. The spruce is apparently part of an arboretum planted by the Howard family of Greystoke Castle in 1846. Well big.
And if you’re in the mood, how about a bonus poem by William Wordsworth?
Posted on June 3, 2009 by Ash
Fig. 1.a. Male pine (Pinus) flowers. Species unknown.
Fig. 1.b. Close-up.
Fig. 2. New spruce (Picea - probably P. sitchensis, Sitka spruce) growth.
Fig. 3. New larch (Larix) growth.
Fig. 4. Flowering pine, probably Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris).
Fig. 5.a. Unknown flowering pine.
Fig. 5.b. Male flowers.
Fig. 5.c. Three female flowers (red); male flowers in background.
Posted on February 25, 2009 by Ash
Carrying on from where I left off... While Part One was all about the broadleaves (and there was holly and hawthorn and sycamore and ash), Part Two is all about the conifers (and there is pine and Sitka spruce and larch, plus cameos from holly and oak). Enjoy!
Right on the edge of Broomhead Reservoir, a couple of the wee nippers that are springing up from seed dropped by the big forestry trees overhead. On the left, a luscious young pine (Pinus); on the right, a Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) seedling.
One particular spot, again right at the edge of the reservoir, was rich in chewed up spruce cones. The one shown in this photo is wedged between the spikes of a holly leaf. I saw another also wedged on a holly leaf and one wedged upright into a crack in the stump of a felled tree (see photo below). This stump was the centre of the cone stripping activity - obviously a favoured eating spot for some creature. From my Animal Tracks and Signs book, by Preben Bang and Preben Dahlstrøm:
Cones are a very important food… and conifer seeds form the bulk of [a squirrel’s] diet for a large part of the year… Fallen cones… are generally gnawed on the ground. The squirrel will usually sit on a little hillock or tree stump, so it has a good view all around and can spot possible danger in plenty of time… Squirrels begin gnawing at the base of the cone, holding it tilted with their forepaws… When it cannot tear off any more scales… it holds the cone firmly against the ground or branch, with one forepaw on the tip and the other on the scale-bearing section… Squirrels do not normally gnaw off all of the scales, but leave the top ones like a little tuft at the top of the axis. Clearly it would be difficult for it to gnaw off these last few scales, as this is where it has hold of the cone with its paw… As a particular squirrel will always hold a cone the same way, squirrels can be divided into right- or left-handed…
The distinctive, redonculously long leader of a Sitka sapling in an area of natural regeneration following clearfelling.
A recently cut spruce stump. We planted you; we let you grow big and strong; and then we cut you down, because all we ever wanted was your body.
Don’t forget to look up! The green trees are Sitka spruce and the bare trees are larch (Larix), one of the few deciduous conifers.
Much of the land just north of Broomhead Reservoir is forestry plantations of pine, Sitka spruce and larch. It might be owned by the Forestry Commission, but I’m not sure. A few years ago they clearfelled a patch, and more recently some thinning has being going on. Some of the trees that consequently became more exposed have since blown over. The cone in the photo is right at the top of a windthrown Sitka spruce, somewhere I wouldn’t normally get to see. The cones of the other spruce commonly found in Britain, the Norway spruce (Picea abies), have pointy tips.
This is the very topmost tip of the same fallen tree. The distinctive twin blue-white bands on the underside of the needles are waxy strips where the stomata (‘breathing holes’ for photosynthesis) are located. Notice how the needles are pressed upwards close to the shoot at the top of the tree; lower down, the needles are held perpendicular to the tree (like those of the seedling in the first photo).
Posted on May 19, 2008 by Ash
In the last post I showed you the money tree at Aira Force in the Lake District. Well, the fun didn't stop there! Besides Aira Force itself, there were further items of interest to be seen further up the trail.
View over Ullswater from the footpath leading to Aira Force.
Typical view of the oak woodland around Aira Force.
Aira Beck upstream of Aira Force. The river looked to be a little low in its flow. Old alders were plentiful - a sort of naturally copiced alder is in the middle of the river in this photograph.
This large bracket fungus was growing on a poorly-looking alder growing above Aira Beck.
Check out this behemoth of a birch! It was so big it was barely recognisable! There were a few similar birches reaching the kind of size most birches never even come close to.
And if the giant birches weren't enough, there was this gigantic Sitka spruce, the like of which I ain't ever seen before! This photo does not do it justice, because in the flesh this tree is a jaw-dropping spectacle. That massive branch alone is as big as your standard ready-for-harvesting forestry Sitka!
This is the view from just outside our chalet back at Center Parcs, 69 Seven Pines: some lovely pine. Not bad, eh?
And finally, this slice of weirdness was just around the corner from our chalet. The Sitka spruce once growing on the right had grown roots over the left Sitka, and the two trees' roots had merged together a bit. Freakish.
Posted on September 15, 2007 by Ash
A rockslide in the beautiful Dolomites. (16th August)
Dwarf pine (Pinus mugo). Might be making an appearance in the treeblog nursery next year... (16th August)
‘Resonance wood’ from the Paneveggio Forest, stored to season. The wood has special acoustical properties, making it desirable for the production of musical instruments (mainly violins). Of the 6000 cubic metres of wood felled in the Forest each year, only 0.5% is selected as resonance wood. The wood has very narrow growth rings, coming from trees grown in an optimal and unchanging mountain climate. Other qualities include low specific weight, good elasticity, dimensional stability, and a good ratio of resistance to weight. (18th August)
Timber extracted from the Paneveggio Forest. (18th August)
Norway spruce (Picea abies) needles suffering from a fungal infection. (18th August)
Lovely, lovely larch (Larix decidua) in the mist. (21st August)
I was blown away by this view. So stunning, almost surreal! The lake is called Lago di Calaita (Lake Calaita) but I don't know the name of the mountain. (24th August)
I took this at a goat farm. The farmer told an inspirational tale about how it had taken him and his wife 10 years to get the farm going properly in the face of fierce resistance from the local population and powers-that-be who believed the smell of the farm would impact negatively on tourism. We watched the goats being milked, then bought a couple of bottles and drank it while it was still warm from the udder. The farm didn't even have much of a smell! (24th August)
A biggie! (25th August)
Posted on September 13, 2007 by Ash
The field trip forms a major part of one of my courses (Research Practice in Forest Ecology) for my Honours year at the University of Edinburgh, and it ran from the 15th to the 26th of August. The purpose of the trip was two-fold; we learned about forestry in the Paneveggio Forest and its surrounds, and we also spent time in the field collecting data for a paper we are to write. Eight of us (seven students and one lecturer) flew out to Treviso (near Venice), and from there we drove up into the Dolomites, part of the Alps. We stayed for most of the trip in a big house in San Martino di Castrozza used by foresters, but the last 3 nights we spent in a couple of log cabins partway up a mountainside.
The foresters’ house where we lived for most of the trip. The sign next to the door read:
The discerning Italian forester's vehicle of choice: a Fiat Panda 4x4.
The log cabins where we spent a few nights. The cabin on the left is the cookhouse and the bunkhouse is on the right. The cabins are part of a malga, a seasonal farm typical to this part of the world. In the past, cattle would have been driven here for summer from the winter pastures in the valleys below.
The night sky as seen from the bunkhouse on the 24th of August. The silhouettes probably belong to Norway spruce (Picea abies). Fifteen second exposure.
We spent one day planning and four days collecting raw data as a group, on which we each have to write an individual paper. The rough question that we were asking was "how do capercaillie chose their breeding sites?" The capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) is a large woodland grouse, with a range encompassing much of Northern Europe. It is also a native of Scotland, although it became extinct in 1785, was later successfully reintroduced... but is now facing extinction for a second time. The capercaillie is found in the Italian Dolomites (where we stayed), but it is less abundant than in the northern Alps.
Ashley Peace: wannabe forester.
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