26 posts tagged with

pedunculate oak (Quercus robur)

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The Oak at the Gate of the Dead

The Oak at the Gate of the Dead (a.k.a. the Crogen Oak).

Once I’d seen all there was to see of the uprooted Pontfadog Oak, I got back in the car and headed for home. But only a couple of miles down the road I pulled over to visit two more giant oaks: the Oak at the Gate of the Dead and the Duelling Oak. Both of these veterans grow within a stone’s throw of one another (and right close to the Wales-England border), beside the road linking Pontfadog with Chirk.

The massive girth of the Oak at the Gate of the Dead.

The Oak at the Gate of the Dead (Derwen Adwy’r Meirwon in Welsh) is famous, at least locally, for growing at the Pass of the Graves (Adwy’r Beddau). This is thought to be the place where in 1165, during the Battle of Crogen, the forces of Henry II of England were ambushed by the Welsh under Owain Gwynedd. The battle is described in Thomas Pennant’s A Tour in Wales, published in 1778:

Offa’s ditch [Offa’s Dyke]… decends to the Ceiriog, and thence to Glyn, where there is a large breach, supposed to be the place of interment of the English who fell in the battle of Crogen, hereafter to be mentioned…

In this deep valley [of Ceiriog], which winds along the foot of the vast Berwyn mountains, was a bloody conflict between part of the forces of Henry II, and the Welsh, in 1165. Henry had determined once more to attempt the subjection of Wales, and to revenge the ravages carried through the borders by its gallant prince Owen Gwynedd; for that end, he assembled a vast army at Oswestry. Owen, on the contrary, collected all his chieftains, with their dependents, at Corwen. The king, hearing that his antagonist was so near, resolved to bring the matter to a speedy decision. He marched towards him; and in this valley, finding himself intangled in impenetrable woods, and recollecting his ill-fortune among the forests of Eula, directed his vanguard to make the passage clear, by cutting down the trees, in order to secure himself from ambuscade. The pikemen, and flower of his army, were posted to cover the workmen. The spirit of the common soldiers of the Welsh army grew indignant at this attempt; and, without the knowledge of their officers, fell with unspeakable fury on these troops. The contest was violent; numbers of brave men perished; in the end, the Welsh retired to Corwen. Henry gained the summit of the Berwyn; but was so distressed by dreadful rains, and by the activity and prudence of Owen, who cut him off from all supplies, that he was obliged to return ingloriously, with great loss of men and equipage.

This conflict is sometimes called the battle of Corwen; but with more propriety that of Crogen: for it happened beneath Castelh Crogen, the present Chirk castle; and the place is still called Adey’r Beddau, or the pass of the graves of the men who were slain here.

Pennant makes no mention of a large oak. Can we therefore infer, perhaps, that 250 years ago the Oak at the Gate of the Dead wasn’t significantly large or famous? ‘According to legend’, before the Battle of Crogen Owain Gwynedd rallied his troops beneath none other than the Pontfadog Oak… Would that have been at all a significant tree 850 years ago? Almost certainly not, I think it’s safe to say.

According to its page on the Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Hunt site, the Oak at the Gate of the Dead is a pedunculate or English oak (Quercus robur) that has a girth of 9.6 m (31 ft 6 in) at a height of 1.5 m – which equates to a dbh of 3.1 m (10 ft 2 in). By comparison, the Pontfadog Oak was listed by the Tree Register as having a dbh in 1999 of 409 cm (13 ft 5 in): a whole metre thicker! That isn’t to claim that the Oak at the Gate of the Dead is a small tree though – far from it.

Unfortunately the Oak at the Gate of the Dead split in half in January 2010. This YouTube video, by Rob McBride, tree hunter, records a visit he made to the tree just days before its collapse. In this Flickr collection, he has a photo showing the tree pre-collapse in October 2009 and another from December 2006 in which the large split in the trunk is obvious – a clear signal of impending collapse. It goes without saying that I wish I could have seen the tree in person while it was still intact.

Small Ganoderma bracket growing on the Oak at the Gate of the Dead.

Ganoderma is a wood-decay fungus causing a white rot in the roots and the stem bases of trees. Affected wood is turned soft, spongy and fibrous. It commonly leads to windthrow as afflicted trees are no longer effectively anchored into the ground. Another of Rob McBride’s photographs shows what look to be Fistulina hepatica (beefsteak fungus) brackets on the Oak at the Gate of the Dead. This fungus will also decay the base of the stem, but it causes a brown rot where the affected wood is turned brittle.

Another small Ganoderma bracket on the Oak at the Gate of the Dead.

An article at treehugger.com on the Oak at the Gate of the Dead - riddled with inaccuracies, such as that the Oak died in 2010 and that it is thought to date back to the reign of King Egbert in 802 “when Wales beat back Henry the Second” (the Battle of Crogen was in 1165) - repeats an incorrect theory put forward in this BBC News article from 2010 as to why the tree split in half. Said local historian Mark Williams:

“It seems to be a victim of the very cold weather. The tree is on marshy ground in a basin with a stream running down nearby. With the stream overflowing because of melting snow, the water must have settled around the trunk and it looks as if this has caused it to split.”

Actually the cold probably had nothing to do with the split, and I really doubt that the wee stream nearby played any part whatsoever. In all probability the Oak split in two simply because it was a very big, very old tree with a much decayed, hollow stem that was pulled apart by its long and extremely heavy limbs acting as levers, each limb pulling downwards and outwards in different directions. The tree had plainly reached a point where the trunk was no longer structurally sound enough to hold together under these forces; a strong wind could have finished it off sooner, or a heavy covering of snow, or some other loading factor. What could have prevented the split? By supporting the larger limbs with props, the forces pulling apart the stem could have been greatly reduced and the Oak at the Gate of the Dead could potentially have been kept in one piece for many years to come.

I actually met Mark Williams while I was at the Oak, where he was showing a Brummie family around, telling them of the big tree and the Battle of Crogen. He approached me because he’d just seen me at the Pontfadog Oak, where he’d been one of the farmyard group. He was a nice bloke; we talked about the two trees, and he was surprised that I knew about them - especially surprised that I knew the Duelling Oak, whose fame is not on a par with the others. Hey, a good treeblogger does his research before setting off on one of these trips!

Mark mentioned that he’d been on TV before – either to do with the battle or the trees, or both (my memory fails me) – and that he would hopefully be on again soon to get out the message that more needs to be done to protect and preserve our ancient trees.


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The Duelling Oak

The Duelling Oak or Duelling Tree.

The Duelling Oak stands perhaps fifty metres away from the Oak at the Gate of the Dead. It is so-called because duels was supposedly fought here, although I’ve been unable to discover any more information than that. According to the Ancient Tree Hunt, its girth at 1.5 m height was 7.3 m (23 ft 11 in) in 2012, giving a dbh of 2.3 m (7 ft 7 in). This makes the Duelling Oak almost a metre narrower than the Oak at the Gate of the Dead, but it is still an impressive veteran tree.

The mossy trunk branches off into several large limbs just above head height, so it is probably an old pollard.

The Duelling Oak, despite its age (and probably having been pollarded many years since), is still a tall tree. It is also supporting a great weight of ivy…


Posted in Notable trees





A glorious Indian summer: Five familiar friends

A familiar rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) on Whitwell Moor.

The weathermen forecast a startlingly hot few days last week – 25°C for the end of September in Sheffield certainly made me open my eyes – so I took measures to make the most of this unexpected resurgence of summer by taking a couple of days off work. Instead of sweating buckets trapped in a pair of chainsaw trousers, I was out roaming the moors and woods having a whale of a time. Wednesday was incredible but Thursday was truly the epitome of an autumn day; it’s just a shame that the sun sets so much earlier now than it did in the height of summer.

A familiar downy birch (Betula pubescens) of extraordinary girth, also on Whitwell Moor…

…and growing beneath its spreading branches, this little bolete (some kind of Leccinum, I think).

Hallo! It’s the famous Lonely Oak!

Last year I couldn’t find any acorns on the L.O., but there were a few on one side of the crown last week. I confess I collected some. Perhaps there will be a treeblog Set E next year?

One of my acorns. The Lonely Oak is an English or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur), so the acorns are attached to the tree on little stems.

Looking north from the ‘back’ of the L.O. towards Hunshelf Bank. Looking over its shoulders?

A familiar pair of Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) between the Salter Hills.

Chilled-out cows in the next field.

The eastern Salter Hill, complete with solitary hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna).

Gorse (or furze or whin: Ulex europaeus) - one yellow drop in the ocean.


Posted in Gone for a walk





The Major Oak of Sherwood Forest

The Major Oak, Sherwood Forest. I paid a short visit on Sunday.

Although not the largest of our ancient oaks, the Major Oak is probably the most famous tree in Britain. Its fame stems from its association with the myriad legends of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. As the romantics would have it, the outlaw from Loxley variously hid from the Sheriff of Nottingham’s men inside the Major Oak’s hollow trunk or he kept his larder of venison within the tree along with his takings from the rich.

The Major Oak – an English or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) - is thought to be around eight hundred years old, but no one can be sure. Recent measurements hold the girth at ten metres (thirty-three feet), with the tree’s branches spreading over twenty-eight metres (ninety-two feet). It is a monstrously impressive tree when seen in the flesh, much larger than the massive Capon Tree that I visited just before Christmas. (And like the Capon Tree, the Major Oak was designated as one of ‘fifty Great British trees’ in celebration of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002.)

The tree’s current name is a slight alteration from “the Major’s Oak”, as it was known after being described by Major Hayman Rooke in his book on Sherwood oaks published in 1790. Before that it was known as the Cockpen Tree.

Over the last century there has been much management of the tree with a view to keeping it healthy and whole. In 1908 metal chains were installed in the crown to brace the tree. In the late 1970s large wooden poles were put in place to support the large, spreading branches; these have been replaced with thin, metal poles within the last decade. The Major Oak was fenced off from the public in 1975 to prevent the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors from compacting the soil and damaging the root system.

If a comprehensive gallery of Major Oak photographs and illustrations stretching back over a century is your thing, you could do worse than check out this page at eyemead.com.

A half-dead dotard.

There are a lot of ancient oaks around the Major, although most of them are dead or half-dead: extreme dotards. I need to go back in the summer and pay a proper visit, hopefully on a day that isn’t as overcast as Sunday was. All I could manage photo-wise was drab and colourless.


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I will be hosting next month’s edition of the Festival of the Trees. Please send your submissions to mail [at] treeblog [dot] co [dot] uk before the 30th of January, ensuring that you include Festival of the Trees or FOTT within the header. Thanks!


Posted in Notable trees





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.


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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





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





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





Five favourite photos from 2009

A few weeks ago I had a look back through the photos that have appeared on treeblog over the last year and picked out my favourites. Then I agonised over whittling them down to a final five – my five favourite treeblog photos from 2009.

22nd January 2009 The Lonely Oak on Whitwell Moor at sunset. The Lonely Oak, an English or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur), is very probably the tree that I have photographed the most and very probably the tree that has appeared most on treeblog (excluding those that I’ve planted myself). It stands within a half-hour walk of my house, on one of my favoured walking routes; it has tons of character; and it is highly photogenic: it’s the Lonely Oak. This photo originally appeared in the 32nd edition of the Festival of the Trees (February 2009).

2nd February 2009 We received a pretty heavy snowfall at the beginning of last February. This was the first decent amount of snow we’d had in ages so I went on a walk to make the most of it. Out in the fields, the snow was drifting behind the walls. Walking along a footpath hidden beneath this drift, I was ploughing through waist-high snow in places. It was either that or slide down a gorse-covered hill! The wind blowing through the gaps in the dry stone wall was sculpting fantastic shapes… Millstones Wood can be seen in the left half of the background.

21st March 2009 Larch flowers – probably European larch (Larix decidua). The one on the right is a female flower, known colloquially as larch roses – they take a year to ripen into seed-containing cones. (The flower on the left is too undeveloped for me to tell whether it’s a male or female.) I find it quite humbling to think that that last spring was the first time I ever came across these beautiful little flowers. How did I ever manage to miss them before? Spring 2009 was a fantastic spring - loads of surprisingly warm days with amazing clear blue skies. I was regularly out and about making personal discoveries in the shape of alder catkins, hazel, goat willow, and, of course, larch roses. Saturday the 21st of March was one of those glorious halcyon days.

24th May 2009 The 24th of May was a beautiful day in early summer and I went out for a ride on the pushbike. I was cycling down a firebreak in a conifer plantation next to Langsett Reservoir when I spotted this perfect dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) clock almost glowing in the late afternoon sunlight as it filtered weakly through the trees.

12th September 2009 This whopping great fungus was growing from the base of a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in Millstones Wood. I didn’t know what species it was at the time, but I now think it’s chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus). [Update (July 2010): Wrong! It’s a dyer’s mazegill (Phaeolus schweinitzii).] I took this photograph on a walk with my dad one lovely day at the end of summer. My main aim for the walk was to collect rowan berries - which are scheduled to be planted as treeblog Set D(r) this March - but it also took in Pike Lowe, Ewden Force, and some incredible moorland along the way. Perfect.


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You may also be interested in…
Five favourite photos from 2007 & Five favourite photos from 2008


Posted in Miscellany





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

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

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

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

These crazy patterns are galleries produced by elm bark beetles.

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

Cankers on a sycamore.

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

Huge ivy-covered canker on a red horse chestnut.

Razor strop on silver birch.

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

Ganoderma on a veteran English oak.

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

Slime flux on the same oak.

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

Inonotus hispidus on an ivy-clad ash.

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

Fomes fomentarius on silver birch.

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


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


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Posted in Pests and diseases





Calm down dear, it’s only winter (3rd January 2010) (Part 1)

A snowy scene in Lower Whitwell Wood, looking west across Whitwell Moor to distant Millstones Wood.

It’s been snowing a lot lately. In fact, the last couple of weeks have made 2009/2010 the snowiest winter in these parts since 1981/1982. I went for a walk on Saturday afternoon when there was still plenty of snow around up on the tops. It snowed a lot Saturday evening, and I went for another walk Sunday afternoon on which I took these photos. Then yesterday the weather went beserk and it put down, on average, nine inches of snow around the house. And more snow is forecast! It’s brilliant!

A pair of reasonably lonely oaks not far from an even lonelier one.

This bleak and snowy scene may not have much in the way of trees, but I’ve included it here as it’s the view to the south-east from…

…the Lonely Oak. (There are now eleven different photos of the Lonely Oak on treeblog’s Flickr.)

There were a fair few tracks around the Lonely One. The two tracks in the bottom left part of the photo were made by one or more rabbits or hares, (likeliest to be rabbit, I’d say). From the book Animal Tracks and Signs by Bang and Dahlstøm (2001): Each of the regular print groups is made up of four separate footprints, at the back the two short fore prints, one behind the other almost in a line, and at the front the two hind prints, more side by side and usually longer than the fore prints. So the furthest-left track was made by a rabbit/hare heading towards the camera; the track to the right of it was made by a rabbit/hare heading away from the camera. The track with the funny lines coming out of the bottom right corner is probably from a little dog; the lines would have been made by paws skimming the top of the snow.

There were tiny icicles dangling from the Lonely Oak (an English oak, Quercus robur). Is that a gall I spy in the background?

The Trig Point atop the western Salter Hill.

A lovely pair of Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris). They appeared in a couple of posts last March when summer was near and snow wasn’t on my mind.

This would be the view from the top o’ the hill, looking south-west towards the darkly wooded upper Ewden Valley and Pike Lowe (on the horizon, slightly right of centre). Snowtastic.

A snowy cluster of mushrooms. This photo was taken on my Saturday walk, but I’ll sneak it in here. I love those gills.


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Posted in Gone for a walk





A late autumn’s afternoon wander (Part 2)

Autumnal larch (Larix decidua) needles.

Photos taken on Sunday the 15th of November.

To Whitwell Moor…

Could this be… a golden chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius)? Y-yes?

Mycological bird-bath.

These are immature amethyst deceivers (Laccaria amethystea). I know they are because I overhead some people in the woods say they were .

A Malus fruit – perhaps a small crab apple? Aah, Millstones Wood – you and your mysterious Maluses!

The Lonely Oak, looking all apocalyptic and stuff. Yeah, but not really. It’s a fake. A fraud. A Photoshop phoney. The sky just wasn’t red at all.


Posted in Gone for a walk





A late autumn’s afternoon wander (Part 1)

These rubbery-looking mushrooms were growing out of a dead part of the split oak on Whitwell Moor. The split oak is an English oak (Quercus robur).

Photos taken yesterday.

Lichen growing on a nearby oak that is still managing to hold on to its leaves.

The wee mushroom here was growing from a dead branch overhead. Unusual place for a stalked mushroom, I thought.

A lovely turquoise lichen with bonus pinky-red bits. The dark green crust growing all around the big lichen is lichen too.

These tiny orange brackets were growing out of a dead branch on the ground beneath the oak. Their undersides look sort of bristly.

Tiny mushrooms growing under the big tree that is the mother of the treeblog Set C birches.

These two bigger shrooms were growing close by…


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As usual when I put up photos of mushrooms, I’ll tell you I’m pants at identifying mushrooms and then ask for your help.

I’m pants at identifying mushrooms. Help me.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Out on the moors: to Pike Lowe and beyond! (Part One)

I went out on the moors on Saturday with the intention of making Pike Lowe, and, if I had the time, of finding the mythical waterfall far up the Ewden Beck...

First checkpoint: the Lonely Oak of Whitwell Moor.

It doesn’t appear to be doing too well, our Lonely one. Most of its leaves are crinkled and ragged-looking, whereas the rest of the oaks I saw on my ramble were all healthy. So it’s not a weather thing. I couldn’t find a single developing acorn on any of the oaks, which is disappointing as I was thinking of planting some for treeblog Set D. The red balls on the leaf in the photo are galls.

A Jew’s ear (Auricularia auricular-judae) –like fungus growing on a dead branch attached to a living English oak (Quercus robur) in Millstones Wood.

Also in Millstones Wood, a beast of a beech (Fagus sylvatica). This looks like an old coppice to me. There may not be any acorns this year, but there’s no shortage of beechnuts: the floor was covered with cupules!

Leaving the wood behind, I was confronted with a field full of near fully grown cattle. I had to pass within a metre of these two, but they seemed completely indifferent to my presence. I was glad to avoid a trampling! Broomhead Hall Farm can be seen across the valley in the background.

Developing hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) fruit, or haws. The hawthorns hereabouts were in full flower at the end of May / beginning of June.

Looking back across the moors to Millstones Wood from near the summit of Pike Lowe, just over an hours walk away!

The cairn on the summit of Pike Lowe (OS grid. ref. SK 208 974 or 53.4726° N, 1.6865° W), 476 metres above sea level. So close to civilisation, yet so isolated.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Chatsworth Park & a great veteran oak

Today was the day of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year; it is also Father’s Day, and we made an excursion to Chatsworth Park, the extensive grounds of the famous stately home, Chatsworth House. At the top of the field where we parked stood a massive oak.

Look at the size of this veteran giant! This photo doesn’t really do it justice, but in the flesh it was awesome-huge. My father is there to lend a sense of scale (and a hug).

The great oak in its entirety, albeit silhouetted by the sun. I think it’s an English oak (Quercus robur).

Proto-conkers. All of the horse chestnut trees (Aesculus hippocastanun) I’ve seen recently are absolutely covered with developing fruits. 2009 looks like it’s going to be a bumper year for conkers!

The River Derwent flows though the magnificent parkland.

The park is studded with hundreds of veteran oaks; this one is a typical example.

The ruins of the old corn mill. The A Taste Of The Peak District website says the mill “ceased operations in 1950 and was badly damaged when a tree fell on it during a storm in 1962.”


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!


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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





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





A walk in the snow (2nd February 2009): Part One

Everything was white.

It snowed pretty heavily Sunday night and most of Monday up here - probably the biggest snowfall in our local area in seven or eight years. It put down a good six or seven inches in our garden; the roads were covered; the treeblog trees were covered; the roofs and lawns and trees and bushes were covered; the hillside was covered. Everything was white. So as a dedicated lover of snow, while the rest of the UK was plunged into chaos (according to the tabloid press), I strapped myself into snow-proof attire and headed for the countryside...

My first port of call: the ‘first wood’ on Whitwell Moor. The trees prominent in the foreground are Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris), but this part of the wood also contains plenty of beech (Fagus sylvatica), English oak (Quercus robur), and larch (Larix decidua).

This split English oak on the edge of the wood featured heavily in a mid-January treeblog post on galls.

Snowy holly (Ilex aquifolium) leaves – those Christmas card favourites.

Hello! It’s the Lonely Oak, last seen with a bit on snow on treeblog in January 2008.

Snow-packed Scots pine needles.

A pair of heavily snow-laden beeches in Millstones Wood, a veritable winter wonderland.

The view south-west from the southern edge of Millstones. Ewden Beck courses through the wooded valley, which splits Broomhead Moor on the left from Upper Commons on the right.

It didn’t snow on Tuesday or Wednesday, so the roads cleared up. But we got another inch or so on Thursday morning. It’s Friday afternoon as I write this and there has been no fresh snow today. The roads are clear, but the gardens and pavements are still covered. To be continued...


Posted in Gone for a walk





English oak: galls, lichen and fungi

What is a gall? The British Plant Gall Society’s site has a good definition from Redfern & Shirley’s British Plant Galls:

A gall is an abnormal growth produced by a plant or other host under the influence of another organism. It involves enlargement and/or proliferation of host cells, and provides both shelter and food or nutrients for the invading organism.

British oaks are particularly rich in galls. Here is just a tiny sample.

A pair of oak marble galls (one not fully developed) 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). This page at hedgerowmobile.com details the life-cycle of A. kollari and has good photos of the wasps and larvae with cross-sections of the gall.

A pair of artichoke galls caused by asexual Andricus fecundator larvae. Another gall wasp, A. fecundator is closely related to A. kollari. I’ve known about marble galls since I was a kid, but my first encounter with an artichoke gall came recently, in September 2007, on a university field trip to Kintyre. How did I ever miss them? hedgerowmobile.com has an A. fecundator page too.

An unknown gall. Perhaps a partially formed marble gall?

An unknown bud gall. If you recognise this gall and can ID the causal agent, please leave a comment.

Enough galls; how about some fungi? This weirdness has taken over the underside of this branch. The top side is covered with leprose lichen.

More leprose lichen. Notice how it only grows on the right side of the branch. There must be a favourable microclimate there, perhaps because of sunlight or exposure.

Another lichen; this one is fruitcose. As for what species it is… I wish I could tell you.

The subjects of all those photographs were found on this one English or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur). Even though it has split in two, both halves continue to grow; in fact, the large branch that goes off to the right is impressively long.

One more thing! A reminder about the next edition of the Festival of the Trees, which treeblog will be hosting. Please submit your blog posts, photographs, poetry, works of art, articles, news pieces, bark rubbings and anything else tree-related to mail [at] treeblog [dot] co [dot] uk, making sure that Festival of the Trees or FOTT is contained in the subject header. Alternatively, you can use the online submission form at blogcarnival.com. You do not need to be the author or artist of the content you submit. Although there is no theme this month, it would make my day if you submit something pertaining to a particular favourite tree of yours! The deadline for submissions is the 30th of January, so that leaves you a fortnight to get them in. Get to it!


Posted in Pests and diseases





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