8 posts tagged with

goat willow (Salix caprea)

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Spring is sprung

The weather did an amazing impression of summer this weekend. On Friday I went for a little walk to take in some of the spring greenery that has suddenly appeared. It took me past this picturesque hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) that grows in the field between Whitwell Moor and Hunger Hill.

These pictures of a neighbouring hawthorn show how far along they are in unfurling their new leaves.

What a tangle!

I’m looking forward to seeing all the hawthorns clothed with white flowers in a couple of months, but right now it’s great seeing them clothed in green again.

Hole in the bole.

Looking down into Ewden Valley from Heads Lane.

Sycamores (Acer pseudoplatanus) are beautiful at this time of year with their unblemished leaves illuminated by the sunlight.

The bluebells are out in Yew Trees Wood!

I saw these catkins on a male goat willow (Salix caprea) in Ewden Village. My friends’ new house has a female goat willow growing in the garden – it too was covered in catkins yesterday.

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April’s edition of the Festival of the Trees is hosted by Georgia of local ecologist. Go read!


Posted in Gone for a walk





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

A twin-stemmed beech (Fagus sylvatica).

A proliferation of small fungal brackets on a dead Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris). They look like turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) - or at least something in that genus - but my encyclopaedia of fungi says that T. versicolor is only found on broad-leaved species. Is that right? Can anyone set us straight in the comments?

The first wood on Whitwell Moor, home to the twin-stemmed beech and rotting Scots pine.

A weak sun shines through the peeling, papery bark of a young downy birch (Betula pubescens).

Goat willows (Salix caprea) are currently putting out their furry catkins. They are dioecious trees – individuals are either male or female – and both sexes produce catkins. At this early stage in their development, I’m not sure whether these catkins are ♀ or ♂.

Alder (Alnus glutinosa) catkins. The long ones in the centre of the photo are the males; these will extend and become golden in colour before they shed their pollen, at which point they will resemble male hazel catkins. The ruby-red, rugby ball-shaped immature female catkins (above the males in this photo) will develop into hard, woody, seed-bearing ‘cones’.

Here they are: the mature female catkins. The three in this photograph would have been at the same stage as those in the previous photo at this time last spring. The cones persist on the tree through winter, lending the leafless alder a distinctive silhouette.

A female hazel (Corylus avellana) flower peeking between two pairs of male catkins.

Just look at all those catkins! There’s even another female flower at the top of the photo! Hazels are amazing at this time of year.

How’s this for a spot of genius? An ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) seen above and below ground simultaneously!


Posted in Gone for a walk





BudWatch (21st March 2010)

I went out for a wander on Sunday and was slightly disappointed to see such little springly progress from the buds on the locally-growing deciduous trees.

Hazel (Corylus avellana) buds and catkins. The catkins – some folks know them as lambs’ tails – are made up of male flowers. A female flower is hiding in the upper-centre of this photo.

Birch (probably downy birch, Betula pubescens).

English oak (Quercus robur). I’ve noticed that the terminal buds are often flanked by a pair of smaller buds, although the terminal bud in this photo has lost one of its two buddies. (It’s the Lonely Oak!)

Larch (probably European larch, Larix decidua) pegs and a ‘bud’ of some sort – maybe a flower very early on in development? I was very disappointed to find that there were no larch roses on this tree at all; this time last year they were out in force!

Goat willow (Salix caprea). On some of the trees catkins were already forming! I noticed that the buds on the trees with catkins were a light green while the trees without catkins had reddish buds (as in the above photo). Is this a way to tell the male trees from the female trees?

Common alder (Alnus glutinosa). Distinctively purply-velvety buds.

Hawthorn (probably the common hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna).

Here’s a wee hawthorn story: I was at college today, being taught how to use Tirfor winches in the context of stump removal. It is an agricultural college, and someone in the equestrian section pointlessly wanted a small section of hawthorn hedge, about five metres long, removing from a little patch of grass next to the stables. It was the remnant of a hedgerow that was mostly destroyed when the stables were built – a hedgerow probably laid down hundreds of years ago. Our instructor, an arboricultural legend (who shares my view that it is a great shame to get rid of something planted so long ago), reckoned it probably dated from the mid-eighteenth century, perhaps from medieval times; possibly, if it was Midland hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata), it may have dated from as far back as the tenth century! The roots were certainly grand old things.

European beech (Fagus sylvatica). The buds are easily identified with their long and pointy ways. ‘Cigar-shaped’, some say.

Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa). Unassuming, eh?

And of the buds of other locally-growing tree species that I saw up close but are MIA from this post… Common ash (Fraxinus excelsior) buds showed no signs of opening yet, sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) buds were green and swelling, and elder (Sambucus nigra) – I saw a couple of elders with closed buds but one growing on a south-facing slope was covered in tiny green leaves, yippee!


Posted in Gone for a walk





A walk through Yew Trees Lane Wood (Part One)

A goat willow (Salix caprea) with birch saplings on Whitwell Moor.

This set of photos isn’t very recent. I took them three weeks ago, on the 26th of September – the day I collected cut-leaved beech nuts for treeblog Set D. It was a beautiful, beautiful day.

A hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) below Hunger Hill.

Entering Yew Trees Lane Wood from the fields, you are plunged into an amazing environment of dense foliage and huge pine trunks.

A Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) looms overhead…

Scots pine bark.

It may not look very big in this photo, but the tree in the centre is a very tall, very straight beech (Fagus sylvatica). It’s a cracking specimen!


Posted in Gone for a walk





A walk in the sun (Part 2): down the salt path

Delectable hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) flowers.

Looking up from the Ewden side at the saddle between the Salter Hills (the eastern hill is on the right and vice versa). A branch of the old salt way from Cheshire almost certainly ran close by here. Several local names on this path - which runs down to the goat willows - are linked with the route: Salt Springs Farm, Salt Springs Cottage, Salt Spring Beck, and of course Salter Hills.

This is the eastern Salter Hill, adorned with a lonely hawthorn.

The view south-east towards the wooded upper reaches of the Ewden valley, with the moors in the distance. If the horizon looks dodgy in this photograph, it’s because I replaced the original over-exposed sky with my ideal blues. I don’t normally go in for Photoshopping photos like this, but I’ve never been able to get a good shot of this valley and now I can pretend I’ve got a half-decent photo in the bag.

This year’s goat willow (Salix caprea) catkin arc on treeblog has just about come to an end. Here we see a ripe female catkin at the seed-dispersal stage. For earlier stages in the catkins’ development, have a look at some of the photos in these posts: on the 21st of March, developing catkins (not sure which sex); on the 29th of March, slightly further developed catkins (again, unsure which sex); and on the 3rd of April, pollen-emitting male catkins and female catkins around the pollen-receiving stage (this post also includes a photo of the eastern Salter Hill).

Goat willow leaves.

Looking back up the path from the group of goat willows. The non-tree greenery in the foreground is almost entirely bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), a very common fern that dies back each year but grows back often taller than a man.

The same view on the 29th of March. What a difference summer makes!

Cotton wool in the grassy ground layer. Actually, this fluffy stuff comes from the goat willow catkins. It holds several tiny seeds inside. I saw this fluff all over the place – the wind can blow it for miles!


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





Goat willow and larch roses: a reprise

Sunday was an incredible day. The sky was an amazing blue, a shade darker than the hazier skies of Friday and Saturday the weekend before. The air was cooler, but summer lies ever closer. Another treeblog photographs-from-a-walk post begins.

In the saddle of Salter Hills – westwards along Heads Lane from the village of Bolsterstone - two Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris). From the Bolsterstone Extension Draft Conservation Area Appraisal 1:

Bolsterstone lies close to the main salt route between Cheshire and Yorkshire, and names such as Salter Hills, Salt Springs Farm and Salt Springs Cottage at the western end of Heads Lane… suggest that the lane may have been on a southern branch of the main saltway (Hey, 2001 2).

Clothing the southern flank of the western Salter hill, remnants of a wood planted between 1855 and 1893. Today it consists of nowt but Scots pine and European larch, tree-wise.

A week previous I wasn’t so sure. Now I am almost certain: these catkins belong to goat willow (Salix caprea) a.k.a. pussy willow a.k.a. sallow. In a week or so, these male catkins will have extended their stamens to become big, yellow pollen-deployers. [Update: Ahem. They would have if they were male, but I now think they are female catkins.] Notice the densely shrubby form in the background.

I have just learned that all willow species are dioecious – trees are either male or female, not both. The catkins of this particular goat willow are not quite flowering yet.

This catkin is slightly more advanced that its brethren. The yellow pollen-containing anthers are clearly visible.

Caveat lector! - From my Collins Field Guide Trees of Britain & Northern Europe by Alan Mitchell (1978):

The native sallows are a complex group, and several species, subspecies and hybrids occur, most of which pass as Pussy Willow when in flower. All except [grey willow (Salix cinerea) ] are strictly shrubs… S. caprea is distinct from the other tree willows in its rather thick, often short and knobbly shoots and upright shrubby growth. In the Highlands of Scotland many are [20 metres tall with a girth at five feet of 2 metres].

From the same book, an experiment that may be worth a try: “If the bark is stripped from a two-year [grey willow] shoot, it reveals fine ridges absent in S. caprea”. Leaves should help too.

A lovely female larch flower...

…and another two…

…and another. Guess what? I really like these. I hesitated before to say with certainty that these are European larch (Larix decidua) flowers, but I’ll hesitate no more: these are European larch flowers! I’m not afraid that these trees are Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi); I’ve seen cones and their scales don’t curl sharply outwards! And I’ve realised that if the bit of wood these larches belong to was planted no later than 1893 (for having walked circularly we have returned to that bit aforementioned), it is extremely unlikely that these larches are Dunkeld larches (Larix x eurolepis) for that hybrid wasn’t first selected until 1904!

Déjà vu then? This post is a cheeky reprise of last Wednesday’s Summer’s outrider: flowers & buds & catkins & trees. Another clear blue sky; those same two pines and that same bit of woodland; goat willow catkins; larch flowers… Obviously much of this walk shared the same route as much of the other. I wanted to see those willows again, wanted to see if they really were goat willows, inspired by some goat willows in full yellow-catkinned bloom I’d spied through a bus window two days earlier. And I wanted to take more photographs of larch flowers.

Remember the post-Set A unknown seedling? The one that was neither alder nor birch, but induced a “gut feeling of willow”? Could it be a goat willow? Its buds bear a strong resemblance…


References
1 The Bolsterstone Extension Draft Conservation Area Appraisal, published in February 2009 by the Peak District National Park Authority, is available from: http://www.peakdistrict.org/draftbolsterstone-conservation-area-appraisal.pdf (PDF, 3.59 MB).
2 Packmen, Carriers and Packhorse Roads: Trade and Communications in North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire by David Hey (2001). Landmark Publishing Ltd. All editions seem to be out of print.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Summer's outrider: flowers & buds & catkins & trees

Male catkins swinging from a common alder (Alnus glutinosa) at Owler Carrs.

Yes, Friday and Saturday were real stunners. It seemed as though summer was already upon us, even though the trees were still bare. Signs of spring were all about. Catkins still dangled from alders in droves, although most hazel catkins are now past their best; and immature catkins – probably male - were protruding stiffly from the ends of birch twigs. Sycamores (Acer pseudoplatanus) are on the verge of flushing, and I saw evidence that rowans and birches are to soon follow suit. A single larch was already sprouting bright green needles; other larches, while not yet flushing, bristled with small but beautiful flowers.

The photographs in this post were all taken on Saturday in the Ewden Valley as I walked down one side and up the other – then later on back the same way.

Two pines at the bottom of a hill. I’ve seen old maps from 1893, 1903, and 1905 that show this patch was then within the bounds of a coniferous wood. A map from 1855 shows the wood not yet in existence, and a “revision of 1929 with additions in 1938 & 1948” map shows the wood to have been much reduced in size. The wood survives today in a further reduced state, mainly to the left of this shot…

...here: a very open wood consisting primarily of stunted pines and larches. I wonder if the wood was planted as a means of sheltering Whitwell Moor, lying to the north, which in those days was grouse shooting territory.

A cluster of willowy trees growing around a spring. Are they willows? Dunno. I currently have little confidence identifying willows, but I want to change that. For the present… are these developing goat willow (a.k.a. pussy willow a.k.a. sallow - Salix caprea) catkins? Any help in the comments would be greatly appreciated!

More male common alder catkins. On the twigs just above where the male catkins are attached, immature, dark purpley-brown female ‘cones’ (technically catkins) are developing. My apologies for their being out of focus in this photo.

An unfurling rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) leaf. It’ll be up and photosynthesising in no time at all, sir.

Here are a couple of past-their-best, dead-looking male hazel (Corylus avellana) catkins. It feels as if treeblog has gone a bit crazy on the alder and hazel catkins lately. That’s a good thing.

So, you’ve seen the male parts of a hazel. In the interests of balance, how about a peek at the female parts? I’ve noticed that there are barely any of these female flowers on each plant, and I’ve read that hazel’s fertility in many parts of Britain is already compromised by grey squirrels eating the hazelnuts that these flowers develop into. It’s a wonder there are any new hazels growing at all.

Aaaah, larch flowers (probably European larch, Larix decidua). The above photo shows a bird’s nest-like male flower (left) and a beautiful, rose-like female flower (right). On the subject of L. decidua flowers, Forestry Commission Booklet No. 15, Know Your Conifers, by Herbert L. Edlin (published by HMSO in 1970) has this to say:

The male flowers, borne in spring just as the delicate needles open, are clusters of golden anthers. The female flowers, often called “larch roses”, are pretty flower-like clusters of scales, and may be green, white, or deep pink in colour. They ripen within one year to rather cylindrical cones. These cones only slowly expand their scales, and when the forester wishes to extract larch seed he has to break them apart.

And back to where it all began. The two pines from this post’s second photo join the background of this late afternoon sun-bathed pine scene.

This post lives on in March 31st's Goat willow and larch roses: a reprise.


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Set C update – Day 14 (today): No sign of germination yet.


Posted in Gone for a walk





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