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Set B

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treeblog Set D: Fagus sylvatica & Fagus sylvatica ‘Aspleniifolia’ nuts planted

On the left: a tray full of cut-leaved beech nuts. On the right: a tray full of Wigtwizzle beech nuts. (Photo: today)

Good news treeblog fans! The first part of Set D was planted today – Wednesday the 30th of September, 2009 – in a twofold break with tradition. The last three sets were planted in the spring; this time it’s autumn. All the tree species in the last three sets were planted on the same day; this time, each species will be planted on a different day. Shocker. The three species that will make up Set D are European beech (Fagus sylvatica), sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa), and rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), plus a European beech cultivar: cut- or fern-leaved beech (F. sylvatica ‘Aspleniifolia’).

The cut-leaved beech nuts, just prior to planting this evening.

“Here we go again. Didn’t you already plant beechnuts, like, two years ago?”

Why, yes I did, Negative Voice. For treeblog Set B, on the 14th of March 2008 I planted a small number of beechnuts collected from the same tree that I collected the Set D beechnuts from, as well as a smaller number of nuts collected from a weeping beech (Fagus sylvatica f. pendula) in Edinburgh.

NV: “Right. And just exactly how many of those nuts germinated?”

Precisely zero, which is why I am trying again. And this time I will succeed.

NV: “Your track record isn’t exactly filling me with confidence.”

Aah, but y’see, I’ve learnt from my mistakes. Last time I did it all wrong. I collected the nuts in the summer and kept them in the house all winter before planting them in the spring… by which time they would’ve been well and truly desiccated. Non-viable. Dead. (And the fact that I collected them in the summer meant I was probably collecting the previous year’s nuts – recipe for disaster or what?) This time around I planted my beechnuts just a few days after collection, and in the time between collection and plantage I kept the nuts from dehydrating by storing them in a couple of small bags of moist compost in the garden. I’ve got numbers on my side this time round too; I must have planted at least ten times as many beechnuts for Set D than I planted for Set B. Foolproof!

The Wigtwizzle beech nuts, immediately before planting this evening.

NV: “What about the rowans and sweet chestnuts? Haven’t you planted those before and weren’t those fail---“

All in good time, sir! All in good time. I’ve got foolproof plans for my rowans and sweet chestnuts too, but they’re best saved for future posts. Dudes, Set D is going to be immense.

Branches of the cut-leaved beech. (Photo: Saturday)

I went for a sweet little walk in the sun on Saturday (the 26th) afternoon. Yew Trees Lane Wood was really good, and by a certain bridge in a certain valley I found what I sought: a local oddity, the cut-leaved beech tree. I couldn’t see any on the tree, but the ground below the canopy was littered with fresh beechnuts, some still attached to their open cupules. I collected a fair amount...

A pair of beechnuts sitting in their open cupule, resting on the leaf litter below the cut-leaved beech. (Photo: Saturday)

My next port of call was just up the road, but I just didn’t have the time on Saturday to pay a visit. I returned on Monday (the 28th), to Wigtwizzle! where there doth grow one very ancient and venerable veteran sweet chestnut, and adjacent, one ancient, towering beech. Nuts were collected from both trees in 2007 for Set B and from just the chestnut in 2008 for Set C; neither set managed to produce a single tree. This year will be different! On Monday the sweet chestnut still wasn’t quite ready to relinquish its spike-protected fruits, but the beech was in full flow. The ground beneath the two trees was covered with thousands of beechnuts, all easy, luscious and ripe for the picking...

The beech at Wigtwizzle. (Photo: Saturday 7th July 2007 – the day I collected the Set B beechnuts)

A cut-leaved beech leaf. Nothing like an ordinary European beech leaf, eh? (Photo: Saturday)

This cut-leaved beech then. What’s it all about? I think a future post may warrant a deeper delve into the mysteries of this unusual tree, but until then here’s what the trusty Collins Tree Guide (Johnson, 2004) has to say:

Fern-leaved Beech, ‘Aspleniifolia’ (‘Heterophylla’), is only locally frequent as a tree of great distinctiveness and beauty, to 28 m, generating interest and sometimes bewilderment. The depth of the [leaf] lobbing varies from clone to clone. In the commonest and most feathery form (seldom grafted), the shoot-tip leaves are narrower or even linear [a few of the leaves on my local tree are very linear, reminiscent of the white willow, Salix alba], and the crown is distinctively pale, matt and fluffy even when seen at a distance; it colours early in autumn. This tree is a ‘chimaera’, with inner tissues of typical Beech enveloped by cells of the sport, so that sprouts with normal leaves will often grow from the trunk and branches, especially after an injury; unlike ordinary reversions, these seldom or never take over the whole crown. In winter, the tree is typically broad with a skirt of fine branches almost sweeping the ground, and has very dense, fine, horizontal or slightly rising shoot-systems; the distinctive leaves are very slow to rot.

My local tree fits all of these characteristics. I suppose it must have been planted by human hand, probably when the bridge was built (early- to mid-1930s). But by who and for what reason?

Slow-rotting leaf litter beneath the cut-leaved beech. (Photo: Saturday)

* * * * *

…To be planted as soon as the nuts are ripe: the Set D sweet chestnuts! …To be planted after a few months of pretreatment: the Set D rowans!

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog update (Set A, Day 495)

Before I get on with the Set A stuff, I want to sort out a few loose threads. I want to cut one off and I want to weave the other back into the treeblog tapestry. Remember the only tree seedling that grew from Set B - the downy birch? In this post from the beginning of July I remarked that “it’s not exactly radiating health”. Well I don’t know when it happened, but it died. Not exactly a surprise, but it would have been nice to have had something to show from the miserable Set B.

The second loose end is a seedling that is from neither Set A nor Set B, but rather somewhere in between. I’m going to call it the post-Set A unknown seedling from now on until I can identify whatever the hell it is. I am talking about the surviving seedling of the two found in the Set A alder seed tray last winter. At first I thought they were another two alders that were just late in sprouting. When it became apparent that they weren’t alders, I thought that they might be birches. Then one died, and it is now apparent that the survivor isn’t a birch. So now I am wondering whether it might be a willow, but I suppose that it’s probably just a weed.

post-Set A unknown seedling

The surviving post-Set A unknown seedling (photograph taken yesterday). Check out the Photo-timeline for this seedling.

Let’s crack on with the Set A update. Today I have photos of the alders and Scots pines, and in a few days time I’ll have another update for the cider gums. First of all, I must say that I have been wrong about the alders. I have been calling them common alders (Alnus glutinosa), but it has become apparent that they aren’t. I have become almost certain, however, that they are in fact grey alders (Alnus incana). I have reached this conclusion after staring at leaves that don’t look much like common alder leaves but look a lot like grey alder leaves. Long time readers of treeblog may remember that I originally called the alders ‘treeblog surprises’. The reason behind this is explained in this post from October 2007. If you read that post, you’ll see the following:

So why the uncertainty over whether the treeblog surprises are common alders or not? Well, I know for a fact that they are alders. I’m just ever so slightly unsure as to the species of alder. I am willing to bet good money that they are common alders, that species being native to most of Britain. But I know that the grey alder (Alnus incana) is often planted on reclaimed tips (according to my Collins Field Guide Trees of Britain and Northern Europe by Alan Mitchell, 1974) – i.e. Gowkley Moss [where I collected the seed]. And seeing as how my memory… is pretty rubbish, I’m not sure what species of alder I was collecting seed from. Pretty stupid of me, but to be fair it was winter, the trees were leafless, and I wasn’t an expert in telling apart common and grey alder.

So if I had “bet good money” that treeblog’s alders are common alders I would have lost it all, what with the people reclaiming the Gowkley Moss coal bing obviously having planted grey alders. Bloody typical. But not the end of the world. So as not to mislead future treeblog visitors who may browse the archives or arrive via a search engine, I have updated all previous posts and images relating to treeblog’s common – I mean grey – alders. What fun!
Anyway, here are all four grey alders as they were yesterday – Day 495:

grey alders Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4

Grey alders (from left to right) Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4. No. 4 truly is something incredible. But there is bad news. As you might be able to see from the photo, Nos. 1 and 2 are wilting at the top, and No. 4 has a few damaged leaves. The wilting is obviously caused by lack of water and the soil in the pots was bone dry, even though they were watered the night before. Just one morning in the sun had dried the soil out completely. These trees need planting into the ground a.s.a.p., but as I have nowhere to plant them the best I can do is get them in some really big pots. At least it rained all day today.

Scots pine Alpha

The Alpha Scots pine. Good to see its spindly lower stem has thickened up, but Ah dinnae ken what to think about its bizarrely long needles. I’m sure they’re not normal.

Scots pine Gamma

The Gamma Scots pine. Again, what’s with the outlandishly long needles?

This month's Festival of the Trees (No. 26) can be found over at Fox Haven Journal. Go read!

Posted in The treeblog trees

Super treeblog seedling update (Day 458): Part I

It has been almost four weeks since the treeblog Set A seedlings were lined up and photographed like recently arrested criminals. In my absence the most recent mugshots were taken last Saturday (Set A Day 458) by my father. But before we get down to business, let’s talk Set B for a moment. The last post revealed a horrific deception: what I thought to be a couple of sweet chestnuts are actually nettles. This means that the only tree seedling produced by Set B is a solitary downy birch. And I’m afraid things aren’t going too well in the downy birch department. I haven’t seen the seedling with my own eyes since the beginning of June, but in the photo from Saturday (Set B Day 106)… it isn’t looking too hot. I don’t think it’s dead, mind, but it’s not exactly radiating health. I’ll let you, dear reader, form your own opinion.

downy birch No. 1

The downy birch is in the centre (see the inset for an enlarged and brightened view). The other two seedlings are weeds.

Not good, is it? Ne’ermind. I’d rather not dwell on the failure that was Set B. Instead, I like to console myself with the dandy Set A:

Scots pine Alpha

The Alpha Scots pine. The stem is still bendy but the kebab skewer has done wonders. See the lower needles, from about half-way down? They are juvenile needles. The upper needles are adult – notice how they are arranged in pairs.

Scots pine Gamma

The Gamma Scots pine. My father reports that recent heavy winds had bent the soft seedling over (just as previously happened with Alpha), so he had to intervene with a kebab skewer. Again, notice the two different types of needle, adult and juvenile.

grey alder No. 1

Grey alder No. 1. This alder, along with Nos. 2 and 3, has enjoyed a growth boost since being transplanted to a larger pot at the beginning of June. I’m not happy about the lean that’s developing though. A kebab skewer is going to be headed your way, sir.

grey alder No. 2

Grey alder No. 2: the smallest of the alders.

grey alder No. 3

Grey alder No. 3. Transplantation has done this seedling a world of good!

grey alder No. 4

Grey alder No. 4: the Beast. What can I say that I haven’t said a thousand times before? It’s just one rampant seedling. Proper rampant.

…And that’s enough Set A for one post. We still have to cover the cider gums though. All fifteen will be paraded soon in Part II of this super treeblog seedling update. So 'til next time, ta-ta.

Posted in The treeblog trees

Sweet chestnut No. 1... not a sweet chestnut

sweet chestnut No. 1 – actually just a nettle

Well there you go. Feast your eyes on what I thought was a sweet chestnut. But I was wrong. That isn't a sweet chestnut: it's just a nettle (Urtica dioica)! The sneaky snake must have grown from a chance seed settling in the tray. And, although I haven’t got this confirmed, I guess that ‘sweet chestnut No. 2’ must also be a nettle. Crap.

 sweet chestnut No. 1 – actually just a nettle

The photographs, both of what I thought to be sweet chestnut No. 1, were taken by my father last night: Set B’s Day 106. Details and photos of the rest of Set B and Set A will be coming within the next few days. I apologise for the long wait, but it has been out of my hands. Blame the recent rainy weather. But now thou must ready thy sen for some treeblog action!

Posted in The treeblog trees

Depressing lack of Set B seedlings

Today is the 76th day since I planted 105 nuts/seeds and only three have sprouted. And two of those might not even be trees after all, so perhaps only one treeblog Set B seedling has sprouted! What a depressingly pathetic turn-out. I have no idea why such a disaster should befall, but a disaster this is. In comparison, I tell you that of last year's Set B, by Day 87 sixteen seedlings had sprouted! I can't believe how wrong Set B has gone! I really hope a bunch of new seedlings pop up in June.

Anyway, I took some photographs of Set B today; check them out below. I also spent a hour or so gently tying the big cider gums to wooden kebab skewers with cotton to try to keep them straight - a very fiddly and tedious exercise. The old Alpha Scots pine appears to have over-stretched itself in height growth and had been bent all over the place by the recent heavy rains, so I also tied that up to a skewer. Photos shall be coming soon. I hope this skewer idea isn't a disaster.

downy birch seedling

This is the only seedling that I think definitely belongs to treeblog's Set B: it is a downy birch. On Day 57 it was photographed with a birch seed case still attached to one of its cotyledons. Unfortunately, there has been little growth since then.

two possible sweet chestnut seedlings

Here there may be sweet chestnuts. The biggie on the left is the one featured in previous updates, but it doesn't look particularly chestnutty. The cotyledons of both seedlings match, and I hope this is too much of a coincidence for them to be weeds. [Update (November 2008): Wrong! They were weeds. Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) in fact. Bah!]

fake European beech seedling

The last time I put up photos of the Set B seedlings (Day 57), I explained my reservations as to the autenthicity of this seedling. While growing in the 'European beech section', this seedling has never been a European beech. Weeeeeed.

fake mountain pine seedling

In the 'mountain pine section' there are two seedlings. Unfortunately, they are not coniferous. So weeds again. Interestingly, this one appears to be tricotyledonous.

Posted in The treeblog trees

More Set B seedlings and Set A growth!

More Set B seedlings! Well, they might be. Else they might be weeds. We'll have to wait and see. Anyways, my father took all of these photographs on Saturday the 10th of May, a.k.a. Day 57 (Set B), a.k.a. Day 409 (Set A).

possible sweet chestnut seedling

This might be a sweet chestnut seedling, the same one from the last post. In the four days between photos, it has grown another pair of leaves. Now that's progress! [Update (November 2008): Afraid not. This wasn't a sweet chestnut, it was a stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)!]

possible downy birch seedling

This little chappy is almost definitely a downy birch. Notice that the seed coat is still attached to the left cotyledon!

possible European beech seedling

This seedling is growing in the European beech section so it may well be one of them. But I have my reservations. This seedling has very narrow cotyledons, but beeches have extremely broad cotyledons, as illustrated by my photo in this post. By the way, the two coloured tubes bottom right are drinking straws used to mark the different species planting areas. [Update (November 2008): My apprehensions were right; I don't know what this seedling was, but it certainly wasn't a beech!]

grey alder No. 4 - a right beast

Back to Set A. Behold the treeblog king! Grey alder No. 4. I just can't get over how amazing this seedling is. It's just... awesome. The whole top quarter is new height growth from just the last few weeks!

Scots pine gamma

The Gamma Scots pine. A lovely straight stem on this one.

Scots pine Alpha

The Alpha Scots pine. Massive height growth so far this spring! You can see the thicker, lighter green portion of the stem is new. A little bit wiggly though.

close up of top of Alpha Scots pine

A closer view of the rosette on top of the Alpha pine. They're kinda hard to make out, but just below the pot rim is a pair of 'horns', one on either side of the stem. I think these will develop into the first pair of branches. Excitement!

Posted in The treeblog trees

First Set B sighting? Possible sweet chestnut seedling

possible sweet chestnut seedling?

Yesterday, fifty-three days after I planted Set B, my sister noticed (and my father photographed) what I hope is the first seedling of the set. If it isn't a sneaky weed, this seedling should be a sweet chesnut. And it took a lot of effort to get hold of the sweet chestnuts! Let's hope that now the first seedling has broken through, the rest come thick and fast. [Update (November 2008): Ha ha ha! This seedling was never a sweet chestnut. It was a tricksy stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)!]

Posted in The treeblog trees

Set A super treeblog seedling update (Day 397): Part I

Oh my. It appears I haven't posted a proper treeblog seedling update in a goodly while. I guess I ought to remedy that situation... with a super treeblog seedling update love explosion!!! This is only the second time all of the Set A seedlings have been featured in an update, so it's an event of some importance! The first STSU was way back when in December with photographs from Day 264 (see Part I and Part II). The photographs in this update were taken on Day 397 - Monday the 28th of April - by my father. Massive props to him!

Alpha Scots pine

The Alpha Scots pine. C'est magnifique! After an eternity of no apparent change in nature, the last month or so has seen this beaut get pumped! The green section of stem seems to have swelled in girth as well as grown taller... and at the top a rosette!

Alpha Scots pine

The rosette can be seen better from this angle.

Gamma Scots pine

It's Alpha's younger buddy, the Gamma Scots pine. Again, the green section of the stem is swollen with new growth. I expect big things from these two pines this growing season!

grey alder No. 1

Grey alder No. 1. While pathetic in comparison with the superlative No. 4, No. 1 is still a pleasant enough specimen.

grey alder No. 2

Grey alder No. 2. The runtiest of the runts. Looks healthy though.

grey alder No. 3

Grey alder No. 3. A slightly better performance places this seedling in grey alder second place, ahead of No. 1 but behind...

grey alder No. 4

Grey alder No. 4! King of Set A! Absolutely incredible! I cannot praise this beast enough.

This photo has somehow sneaked into a Set A update... it shows the "pine needle or blade of grass" noticed in one of the Set B seed trays by my father on Saturday. I don't think that's a seedling, so, slightly worryingly, no Set B seedling has yet appeared above-soil.

And so ends Part I of this super treeblog seedling update. Come back soon for Part II, when it will be time to put the cider gums under the spotlight. And, to end on a bit of a cliffhanger... terrible news regarding one of the fake alder seedlings!

Posted in The treeblog trees

Duddingston Loch (26th April 2008)

Being free at last from the bonds of dissertation, yesterday I took a walk in the sunny afternoon to Duddingston Loch, only about ten minutes from my flat.

yellow sea of gorse

The yellow sea of gorse covering the foot of Arthur's Seat near Samson's Ribs.

willow and water

This willow grows at the bottom of a rocky slope, right on the shore of Duddingston Loch.

small hawthorn

A few stunted hawthorns are growing on the rocky slope...

new leaves on hawthorn

... and they are well advanced in putting out their new leaves relative to most deciduous species. Other early flusher I've noticed in Edinburgh include elder, gean, rowan, and certain silver birches and European beeches. The earliest flusher in town is probably the horse chestnut.

lichens on rock

Oooh, look: a token lichen photograph! One of the hawthorns can be seen in the background.

willow branches silhouetted against the sun

Dead and living branches of the willow silhouetted against Sol.

yellow gorse flowers

Let's end with a stunning gorse photograph. Doesn't it make you long for summer?

treeblog Set B update (Day 44 - yesterday) According to my father there are still no signs of life in the treeblog seed trays, except for something in the downy birch section that looks like a pine needle or blade of grass - probably a weed.

Posted in Gone for a walk

Grey alder No. 4 update (Day 381)

grey alder No. 4 is flushing

Grey alder No. 4 is flushing!

Doesn't it look great? After months of looking like little other than a stick, No. 4 finally puts out an explosion of greenery! The photos are courtesy of my father, who took them on Saturday (the 12th) - Day 381 for the Set A treeblog trees. There were four photographs altogether, each from a different angle, and I have cropped and stitched them together for your viewing pleasure.

grey alder No. 4 from 4 angles

Four times the greenery!

What about Set B? Well, as of yesterday (Day 30) there were still no reported sightings. Set A had seedlings by Day 30! But Set A was planted a fortnight later in March than Set B.

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog Set B planted (Friday 14th March, 2008)

Fifty weeks since the planting of treeblog Set A, Set B was planted on Friday the 14th of March. I have made a few improvements in the planting process for Set B. I know exactly how many seeds or nuts of each species I have planted, and the spacing between each seed and nut is much more uniform. All together, I planted the following 105 nuts / seeds:

20 European beech nuts and 10 weeping beech nuts

Twenty European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) nuts (top) and ten weeping beech (Fagus sylvatica L. var. pendula) nuts (bottom). The European beech nuts were collected from the edge of Broomhead Park at Wigtwizzle in South Yorkshire, England, on July 7th, 2007. The weeping beech nuts were collected from the University of Edinburgh's Kings Buildings in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 4th, 2007.

Thirty sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.) nuts. My father collected some chesnuts on October 20th, 2007 from a tree at Wigtwizzle (next to the aforementioned beech). It turns out that he also went back a few days later and collected several more - these can be seen in the photo below. The chestnuts I planted came mainly from his latter visit.

Thirty downy birch (Betula pubescens Ehrh.) seeds. I collected these from our garden (South Yorkshire) on July 9th, 2007 with a stepladder!

Fifteen mountain pine (Pinus mugo subsp. mugo Turra) seeds. I collected these from Val Canali in the Italian Dolomites on August 23rd, 2007. These seeds were all I could extract from four pine cones. I don't have any hope that many of these will germinate - if the top left seed in the photo is the norm, then the rest are woefully undersized.

So that is how Set B shaped up on Day 0. Judging by how Set A went, I expect that we'll start to see things sprouting from Set B in about four to six weeks. I can't wait!

Posted in The treeblog trees

Comparing treeblog Set B seeds and nuts

treeblog Set B seeds and nuts (downy birch, sweet chestnut, European beech, weeping beech and mountain pine)

There they are, the treeblog Set B seeds and nuts, all laid out nicely for direct comparison:

1. Downy birch (Betula pubescens) seeds and a few catkins.
2. Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) cupules and a lone nut.
3. European beech (Fagus sylvatica) nuts and a couple of cupules.
4. Weeping beech (a European beech variant) nuts.
5. Mountain pine (Pinus mugo) cones.

I'll probably get these planted next week, which'll be about three weeks earlier than when I planted the Set A seeds in 2007. I can't plant them at the end of March this year though because I'll be up in Edinburgh working on my dissertation.

Posted in The treeblog trees

Mountain pine for treeblog's Set B

mountain pine cones

Mountain pine cones.

I will be planting some mountain pine seeds as part of treeblog's Set B this spring. Mountain pine, also known as dwarf pine, is a real taxonomic confusion. There is a bewildering tangle of subspecies and variants and even hybrids. Nevertheless, I believe I am correct in identifying the seeds I will plant as being Pinus mugo subsp. mugo Turra; more simply Pinus mugo. See the four pine cones in the photograph above? I hand-picked those on a mountainside in the Italian Alps back on the 23rd of August on a field trip with the University of Edinburgh (see photos of the trip here and here). I picked 'em, and soon, I'm gonna plant 'em.

Posted in Holidays and field trips + The treeblog trees

Beechnuts for treeblog's Set B

My favourite tree species is the European beech (Fagus sylvatica), so of course I want to grow some for treeblog. In the summer, when I was on one of my chestnut missions, I found an abundance of beechnuts beneath the big old chestnut. It is right next to a big old beech, you see. "What a marvellous opportunity!" I thought, and swiftly procured a handful. Those nuts are now sat around waiting to become beautiful treeblog trees as part of Set B (coming Spring 2008!).

collecting beechnuts

Collecting beechnuts on the 7th of July (photograph taken by my sister).


Lovely beechnuts.

the big old beech

The big old beech. Mighty!

treeblog beechnuts

The beechnuts that are destined for a treeblog planting.

Posted in The treeblog trees

Happy New Year! New trees ahoy!

real Christmas tree

Happy New Year, dear reader. Let's hope it's a good one. Doesn't the tree above look great, all dressed up in Christmas lights? I took that about a year ago. I was just impressed. I mean, that's how you decorate a tree. And that's a fairly big tree.

It'll only be a few months before treeblog can look forwards to planting some more trees, the fabled Set B. What flavour trees shall B see? We're talking downy birch (Betula pubescens), European beech (Fagus sylvatica), weeping beech (a variant of European beech), dwarf pine (Pinus mugo), and sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa). The seeds and nuts are all collected (more on this later). Now all treeblog needs is time. And a bigger garden.

Posted in Miscellany

Sweet chestnuts (finally)

For some time now I have been waiting to get hold of some nuts from a certain venerable sweet chestnut tree. I visited the tree in July and August, but the nuts where nowhere near ripe back then, and it appears that I totally jumped the gun! As I have been up in Edinburgh since the end of August, I have been unable to visit the sweet chestnut myself since then, so I have been sending my father on nut missions in my place. The tree has finally given up its fruits, and my father was there on the 20th of October (last Saturday) to collect a few for treeblog's second set of trees: Set B.

The chestnuts! These will be planted as part of treeblog Set B next year.

I collected these chestnuts from a tree at the University of Edinburgh's King's Buildings on the 15th of October. They will not be planted for treeblog... they will probably be roasted and eaten instead.

A few of my Edinburgh chestnuts, once removed from their spikey cupules. There are three nuts to a cupule, and the cupules tend to hang in pairs.

Posted in The treeblog trees

Sweet chestnut - waiting for the nuts

Thinking ahead to next years' set of treeblog seedlings (Set B), I have already been out and collected two lots of seeds. Another species I want to grow for treeblog is the sweet (or Spanish) chestnut, Castanea sativa. My Collins Field Guide Trees of Britain & Northern Europe [2nd Ed.], by Alan Mitchell (1978, HarperCollinsPublishers) has this to say on the sweet chestnut's flowers and fruit:

Axillary bunches of cord-like catkins at end of June open whitish-yellow, 25-32 cm long, crowded with small male flowers each a mass of stamens, turn brown and fall in mid-July. Female flowers sometimes on small, separate spreading catkin, 5-6 cm long, 5-6 flowers; usually 1-2 at base of short, 10-12 cm catkin of unopened, yellowish rudimentary female or rarely male flowers, near tip of shoot. Female flower a 1 cm rosette of bright green, minutely hairy spines with a bunch of spreading, slender white styles. Fruit in bunches of 2-3, in light yellow-green 3 x 4 cm husk covered in sharp spines 1.5 cm long, radiating in clusters; interior white with silky, appressed hairs. Usually two nuts: one globose, the other smaller, concave; dark, shiny red-brown, narrowing to a tip bearing dead styles.

There is a huge, old sweet chestnut quite local to where I live, and it is the offspring of this tree that I wish to raise. I visited the tree on the 7th of July, earlier this year. However, the 'cord-like catkins' were not yet in flower.

cord-like male catkins on the sweet chestnut

Cord-like male catkins on the sweet chestnut (7th July 2007).

close-up of male catkins - not yet in bloom

Close-up of the male catkins (not yet in bloom) (7th July 2007).

I visitied the sweet chestnut again a few days ago on the 8th of August, but was disappointed to find that the nuts were not yet ready for harvesting. In fact, the tree was still in flower, despite my Field Guide stating that the male flower-supporting catkins "turn brown and fall in mid-July". Perhaps the unusually wet weather this summer has affected the tree's phenology. treeblog will have to wait a little longer to get hold of some sweet chesntuts.

cord-like male catkins in bloom on the sweet chestnut

Cord-like male catkins in bloom on the sweet chestnut (9th August 2007).

close-up of male catkins in bloom, with female flowers (spiny) in foreground

Close-up of male catkins in bloom, with spiny female flowers in the foreground (9th August 2007).

Posted in The treeblog trees

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