14 posts tagged with

Set D

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treeblog update: the Set A Scots pines, the PSAUS, & the Set D(b) beeches (May/June 2012)

Get set for the latest update on the development of the two Set A Scots pines, the post-Set A unknown seedling (PSAUS), and the two Set D(b) European beeches! In the intervening two-and-a-half months since the previous Set A update, Scots pine Alpha has produced 2012’s candles, Scots pine Gamma has been struck by pests, and the PSAUS has come fully into leaf. The last Set D(b) update was in October 2011; since then the two beeches have lost their last autumn leaves and regrown a whole new set.

I photographed the Scots pines and the PSAUS on Sunday (Day 1901, or just over five years and two months since I planted the Set A trees as seeds). I photographed the two beeches a fortnight earlier on the 29th of May (Day 972, or two years and eight months since I planted the Set D(b) beeches as nuts).

Behold ye fine Scots pine Alpha with this season’s growth so far strikingly manifested as candles sprouting from the tip of every branch. You may perhaps have noticed a skinny foxglove growing through the tree to the right of the stem; this is a self-set which I do not have the heart to pull up. (The tent in the background was there to dry out, having just got back from walking the Rob Roy Way!)

A close-up view from the candles at the very top of my pine. The candles will get even longer and then sprout needles, transforming into ordinary branches.

A close-up of a branch rosette on the sturdy main stem.

Scots pine Gamma, sadly looking nowhere near as perky as Alpha. The candles are barely grown! Why?

This is why – Gamma is under attack from a pest, perhaps some kind of aphid. The poor tree is infested with these tiny, dark grey insects and they are definitely having an adverse effect.

The PSAUS is looking slender but healthy.

PSAUS detail.

Beech Alpha looks great with its fresh, new leaves!

Beech Beta looks lovely too. I can’t wait to see how these two develop this year!


Posted in The treeblog trees





treeblog update: the Set A Scots pines; PSAUS; the Set D beeches (October 2011)

Scots pine Alpha.

For the first time since April (!), here’s an update on the progress of the two Set A Scots pines; I took the photos yesterday, 1,677 days or 4 years & 7 months since I planted them as seeds.

Scots pine Gamma.

Well aren’t they both doing well? Absolutely spiffingly, even if I do say so myself.

A closer look at the centrepiece of S.p. Alpha’s highest branch whorl. All of this has grown this year. One whorl a year with Scots pine saplings!

Here’s something novel for you: a bird’s eye view of Scots pine Alpha…

…and Scots pine Gamma. The size difference is just as apparent from above.

The PSAUS. It doesn’t look very healthy here, but that’s because autumn has removed most of its leaves. Its actually doing rather well, but could do with a bigger pot as a matter of some urgency.

The two Set D(b) European beeches are also making their first appearance since April. I planted these as nuts 760 days or 2 years & 1 month ago.

Beech Alpha. This seedling is the offspring of a cut- or fern-leaved beech (Fagus sylvatica var. Aspleniifolia) but it appears not to have inherited the cut-leaf characteristic. Booo!

Beech Beta. This seedling is the offspring of a normal European beech – as you can see it is identical to its nurserymate. Its mother is a fine specimen of a beech – a ‘plus tree’ – so I have high hopes for this fella.


* * * * *

Now for some quantification... The following table shows the approximate heights in centimetres for all five trees, measured yesterday. The heights of the Scots pines and PSAUS as recorded on the 19th of August 2009 are also included, along with respective height growth in the intervening period (expressed as percentages).

Tree Height
Aug 2009
Height
Oct 2011
Height Increase
Scots pine Alpha 50 108 116%
Scots pine Gamma 30 73 143%
PSAUS 33 71 115%
European beech Alpha - 20 -
European beech Beta - 27 -

Posted in The treeblog trees





treeblog update: Set A Scots pines & cider gum; PSAUS; Set D(b) beeches

As a follow-up to Saturday’s treeblog census, here’s an update on the two Set A Scots pines, the sole remaining Set A cider gum, the PSAUS, and the two Set D(b) European beeches. I took the photos yesterday (Set A Day 1,483 / Set D(b) Day 566).

Scots pine Alpha, tied to a cane for straightening treatment. Last seen (along with SP Gamma, PSAUS & the beeches) on treeblog last June looking decidedly smaller. It’s now gearing up for this year’s growth spurt…

Behold! - new candles on the top of Alpha. They will develop into the third whorl of branches.

Scots pine Gamma. Only half the size of Alpha, but still looking good.

Cider gum No. 14 (last seen on treeblog in May, looking much better) – the only cider gum to survive the harsh winter of 2010/2011. It isn’t in good shape.

The top of No. 14 is the only part with any vitality. New growth has been put on here already this year.

The PSAUS a.ka. the post-Set A unknown seedling a.k.a. the post-Set A willow. I think it’s probably a goat willow.

Admire those tender, young, willowy leaves.

treeblog’s only cut- or fern-leaved beech* a.k.a. the Alpha beech [*may just be an ordinary old European beech]. Still bare, but beech is always one of the last trees into leaf along with ash and oak. Those buds surely can’t be far from bursting now.

The Beta beech a.k.a. the only beech that grew from the nuts I collected at Wigtwizzle in 2009. Definitely just an ordinary European beech, but it has one hell of a parent!

And look - its cotyledons are still attached!


Posted in The treeblog trees





treeblog census: April 2011

I’m afraid I have been rather lax of late in sticking to this blog’s original purpose of charting the development of the treeblog trees. There have been some pretty important developments over the winter, yet I’ve hardly mentioned a thing. I badly needed to turn over a new leaf, so I have carried out a full census of the trees to provide a snapshot overview of the treeblog population as it is today. It may send you to sleep. Here goes :

Set A
Set A was planted on the 28th of March 2007 (1,480 days ago)

The two Scots pines (Alpha & Gamma) are alive and well. They last appeared in an update in June. (Nearly a whole year ago?? Can that be right??)

Of the four grey alders, No. 4 is now dead but Nos. 1, 2 & 3 were alive the last time I saw them (I last visited Nos. 1 & 4 on the 12th of March and Nos. 2 & 3 on the 12th of February). They last appeared in an update last month.

In the last cider gum update (in May 2010!!), Nos. 1 & 15 were reported dead, but Nos. 2 – 14 were all alive. Alas, after the very harsh winter of 2010/2011, only one cider gum now remains alive: No. 14. Terrible news!

post-Set A willow

The PSAUS is alive and coming nicely into leaf.

Set C
Set C was planted on the 11th of March 2009 (766 days ago)

Fifteen of the downy birches are alive and coming into leaf: Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 25, 27 & 30. Since the last update in August, No. 28 has gone missing from its pot (possibly squirrel-related).

Set C(r)
Set C(r) was planted/replanted on the 12th of May 2009 (704 days ago)

I’ve cocked up big-time with the Set C(r) rowans. At the end of June I planted the nineteen ‘Whitwell Moor’ seedlings (Nos. W1 – W15 & W17 – W20) and twenty ‘Upper Midhope’ seedlings (Nos. U1 – U20) out in individual pots. Each seedling was identified with a little flag made out of sellotape and a cocktail stick. Disastrously, during the winter many of the cocktails sticks have rotted through and these flags have blown away. Which means I have a large number of seedlings that could have come from either the Whitwell Moor rowan or the Upper Midhope rowan. Which kind of defeats the object. I think these identity-less rowans will have to be released from under the treeblog umbrella. The remaining identifiable Set C(r) rowans are Nos. W2, W6, W7, W11, W12, W14, W15, W17, W18, W19, U2, U5, U7 & U14: ten Whitwell Moors and four Upper Midhopes. Doh! I think the Upper Midhope population will have to be topped up from the reserves still in the seed tray.

Also - the five Whitwell Moor tricot rowans (Nos. WT1 – WT5) are all alive, but they are still in the plug tray. They need putting in pots.

The Whitwell Moor rowans last appeared in an update in September; the Upper Midhope rowans appeared in a separate update at the same time. The tricots haven’t appeared in an update since May!

Set D(b)
Set D(b) was planted on the 30th of September 2009 (563 days ago)

Both the single normal beech and the single cut- or fern-leaved beech remain alive and well. They last appeared in an update in June.

Set D(r)
Set D(r) was planted/replanted on the 11th of April 2010 (371 days ago)

In the last update in May, there were nine Oaken Clough rowan seedlings (O1 – O9) and seven Whitwell Moor rowan seedlings (W1 – W7). Today all nine Oaken Clough seedlings are alive, but two of the Whitwell Moor seedlings have died (W3 & W4). There are plenty of reserves still in the seed trays, so these populations can be topped up.


* * * * *

OK… I think I’ve cleared all that up as best I can. Here’s a quick summary of what is currently alive and accounted for in the treeblog stables then: 3 grey alders (Alnus incana); 2 Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris); 1 cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii); 15 downy birches (Betula pubescens); 33 rowans (Sorbus aucuparia); & 2 European beeches (Fagus sylvatica)… which gives a grand total of 56 trees spread over 6 different species. [Plus the honorary treeblog tree, the PSAUS, which is a willow - possibly a goat willow (Salix caprea).]

This number will be bumped up when I draw on the rowan reserves, but as you may have noticed I haven’t planted a Set E this year. Maybe next year? Right now I’m going to try and photograph all of these trees and bring the series of updates bang up to date. It’s about time!


Posted in The treeblog trees





Set A Scots pines update (Days 1162 & 1172). Set D beeches update (Days 232 to 255).

Set A: the Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris)

Scots pine Alpha on Saturday (Day 1172). Look how the next generation of needles have begun to spring out from the new candles!

Here it is again ten days earlier, on Day 1162 (June 2nd); notice how the needles haven’t yet started growing in earnest.

Here’s Scots pine Gamma on Day 1162…

…and here it is ten days later, on Saturday. What a difference! You can check out both pines (and the PSAUS) as they were on Day 1149 in the last Scots pine update.


Set D(b): the beeches (Fagus sylvatica)

It’s the cut- or fern-leaved beech on Day 235 (May 23rd). But is it a cut-leaved beech? Its mother certainly is, but look at its leaves…

…they just look like normal European beech leaves (photo taken on Day 245 - June 2nd). Will future leaves be cut-leaved? Here’s the is it / isn’t it situation as I currently read it:

While there may exist actual wholly cut-leaved cultivars (where every cell contains the freak cut-leaved DNA), it seems that most cut-leaved beeches are ‘chimaeras’. In these chimaeras the inner tissues are identical to the normal European beech, but they are enveloped by the cells of the sport [a sport is defined as ‘a genetic freak’ by the Collins Tree Guide]. In other words, a cut-leaved beech is really a normal beech tree coated in a cut-leaved beech skin. That’s why branches with normal leaves will sometimes sprout, especially after an injury: the freakish skin has been removed and normality has been exposed to the outside world. I don’t know for sure one way or the other – I can’t find an answer anywhere – but I can imagine that the nuts of a cut-leaved beech tree are normal beech nuts wrapped (or not) in a cut-leaved skin. If that’s right, I assume these nuts would grow into perfectly normal beech trees free of a cut-leaved skin. If my assumptions are on the money, it would mean that treeblog’s Set D(b) cut-leaved beech is just a bog-standard Eurobeech. Bah.

The cut-leaved (?) beech on Saturday (Day 255). I think from now on it’ll have to be called the Alpha beech instead.

This little chap is the Set D(b) European beech – definitely just a bog-standard European beech, albeit the miracle offspring of a magnificent mature tree. I first noticed this seedling, the Beta beech, on the 18th of May (Day 230). Here it is rising above the soil two and three days later.

A few days later (the 26th and 30th of May) and this tiny beech was standing erect.

By the 2nd of June (Day 245) its cotyledons had opened…

…and by Saturday (Day 255) its first pair of proper leaves were forming. Bravo, Beta beech, bravo. The last Set D(b) update has photos of Alpha beech from Days 213 to 228 and the first photos of Beta beech along with the story of the ‘miracle’.


PSAUS: hopefully a goat willow (Salix caprea)

The PSAUS on Saturday.

Photos from May 30th and June 2nd taken by my father.


* * * * *

This month’s short but sweet Festival of the Trees, hosted by Casey of Wandering Owl Outside, has been up for a fortnight. Go read!

And as June is already half-spent, it’s probably a good time to think about your submission for July’s festival, which will be hosted by Yvonne of The Organic Writer.


Posted in The treeblog trees





Set D round-up: the beeches and the rowans

1. The cut-leaved beech (Days 213 to 228)

The terrific Set D(b) cut-leaved beech on the 1st of May (Day 213)…

…the 11th of May (Day 223)…

…and the 16th of May (Day 228) – Sunday. Here come the first pair of true leaves!


2. A beech miracle

On the 11th of April, my impatience at the lack of any seedlings in the Set D beech and sweet chestnut seed trays got the better of me and I began to rummage. I didn’t find a single germinated sweet chestnut, but I did find three germinated beechnuts. Two of these were cut- or fern-leaved beeches (Fagus sylvatica ‘Aspleniifolia’), one of which was still stuck inside its woody cupule (and to date has yet to appear above-soil, if it is still alive); the other is alive and well and was the star of the first part of this post. The third germinated beechnut was the only one out of the normal beech (Fagus sylvatica) I planted to do so… but in my rummaging I accidentally went and broke off its root. Shit.

I thought there was no hope, but I replanted it anyway.

(You can see where this is going, right?) Well, my optimism was rewarded! I checked on the treeblog stable this very afternoon (Set D(b) Day 230) and look what miracle awaited me:

Yes!!! The only germinating beechnut collected from the beech at Wigtwizzle has survived!


3. The Set D(r) rowans (Day 36)

I feel like the Set D(r) rowans are playing second fiddle to the Set C(r) rowans, mostly because I planted them thinking that Set C had failed to produce anything other than downy birches. But I was wrong, and now I have four lots of rowans: Set C(r) Whitwell Moor, Set C(r) Upper Midhope, Set D(r) Whitwell Moor, and Set D(r) Oaken Clough. I’m happy to be growing the offspring from three different trees, but does treeblog really need two years of seedlings from the rowan on Whitwell Moor?

Oaken Clough rowans Nos. 1 to 4 (O1 to 04).

Rowans O5 to O8.

Rowan O9 and Whitwell Moor rowans Nos. 1 to 3 (W1 to W3).

Rowans W4 to W7.

Photos taken on Sunday (Set D(r) Day 36).

When I planted (/replanted) the Set D(r) rowans on the 11th of April, I had nine Oaken Clough seedlings and twenty-two Whitwell Moor seedlings; of these all of the Oaken Clough offspring have survived, but only seven of the Whitwell Moor seedlings are still with us. Further seedlings have appeared in the seed tray since – I’ll transplant these soon.


Posted in The treeblog trees





Set D(b) cut-leaved beech update (Days 206-209). Set A grey alders update (Day 1123).

The Set D(b) cut-leaved beech has appeared above ground! Here it is on Saturday (Day 206), the first time I’d seen it poking up through the soil. A couple of Saturdays previously I was searching through the Set D beech seed trays when I noticed that this wee tree had sprouted a long root – that was Day 193.

Beech seedlings don’t hang around. Here it is a day later, on Sunday….

…here it is yesterday…

…and here it is this evening. Its cotyledons should open up over the next few days. This is the first beech I’ve ever managed to grow!


* * * * *

As well as discovering this young beech, Saturday also saw me off on a long walk to check up on the recently released Set A grey alders – 1123 days after I planted them as seeds. The good news is that they are all still in situ and doing well. The bad news is that three of them have been munched on by sheep! (I planted Nos. 2 and 3 out in the wild on the 2nd of April (Day 1101); Nos. 1 and 4 were planted out on the 14th of April (Day 1113) – see this post for the details.)

Grey alder No. 1 – this one lives next door to No. 4. Some of the lower branches have been cut back by browsing sheep – I know who the culprits are because they left some wool behind. Nevermind. Those lower branches wouldn’t be kept by the tree for long anyway, and I’d already given thought to pruning them off.

Grey alder No. 2 – this one lives next door to No. 3. No. 2 is the only one of the alders to remain unscathed by sheep.

Here’re some of No. 2’s brand spanking new leaves (all of the alders have them now!). They’re perfect.

Grey alder No. 3. (Sorry about the photos of the alders – I couldn’t get any good ones with their superb camouflage for blending in with the background).

Here’s the tip of one of No. 3’s branches after being nibbled down to size by an ovine fiend. Disgraceful.

Grey alder No. 4 – leading the competition in the leaf department.

Taken back home in the garden on Saturday evening, this photo shows how another Set A tree – Scots pine Alpha – has begun expanding its buds. These little brown columns are lengthening noticeably with each passing day; soon they will be great, long candles. Then it won’t be long until they blast out 2010’s needles!


Posted in The treeblog trees





Set C(r) rowans transplanted. Six rowan tricots. Set D rowans planted. The fate of the Set D beeches and sweet chestnuts.

The transplanted Set C(r) rowans (Sorbus aucuparia) yesterday, minus the tricots.

Yesterday was a busy day for treeblog

1. Set C(r) rowans transplanted

(Set C(r), Day 334) I transplanted forty of the Set C(r) rowan seedlings - U1 to U20 (the progeny of the Upper Midhope rowan) and W1 to W20 (the progeny of the Whitwell Moor rowan) - from the unordered, overcrowded seed tray to a regimented ‘plug’ tray, where each seedling gets its own little space to breathe. There they all are in the photo above, happy as Larry.

The first five Upper Midhope rowan seedlings, U1 to U5, en route to the plug tray.

The plug tray as a bird would see it. May they live long and prosper.


2. Six rowan tricots

Set C(r) has produced six tricots so far! They are all progeny of the Whitwell Moor rowan. The sixth one I only discovered today, but the other five were transplanted into a plug tray just like their cohorts. I’ve labelled them as ‘WTn’, where WT stands for Whitwell Moor tricot. This is an exciting development for treeblog! I’ve previously found two tricot sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) seedlings; both died. I’ve also grown a tricot downy birch seedling (Betula pendula) in Set C; I lost it. Not a good track record then, but how can I lose with six rowan tricots?

The first five tricots, WT1 to WT5, en route to their plug tray.

A closer look at WT1…

…and WT2 and WT3 and WT4 and WT5. Marvellous.


3. Set D rowans planted

I collected more rowan berries last September, again from the Whitwell Moor tree, but also from a gigantic, ancient, collapsed rowan growing up on the moors near a tiny valley going by the name of Oaken Clough. Once I’d extracted the seeds from the berries, I pretreated them over the winter before planting them yesterday - (Set D(r), Day 0). I planned to use three different methods of pretreatment, outlined in this post from October, but I ended up only following one of the methods accurately: the easy one, where all you do is bung your seeds in a pot of soil and leave them outside over the winter.

So yesterday I gathered up all of the Set D rowan seeds to check for any germination. Sure enough, several of the seeds pretreated the easy way had germinated. I planted them into the same plug tray as the Set C(r) tricots. After a couple of casualties injured when extracting the germinated seedlings from the pretreatment plant pot, there remained nine Oaken Clough seedlings and twenty-two Whitwell Moor seedlings. I planted all of the ungerminated seeds in a couple of seed trays.

The germinated Oaken Clough seedlings, freshly removed from the pretreatment plant pot and ready for planting.


4. The fate of the Set D beeches and sweet chestnuts

(Set D(b), Day 193 / Set D(c), Day 183) I had a feeling that none of the beechnuts I planted in September or the sweet chestnuts I planted in October were going to germinate, so I went on a major rummage. I emptied fifty percent of the sweet chestnut seed trays (actually plug trays – to make room for the rowans!) and found that fully one hundred percent of the chestnuts were dead. I have yet to check the remaining half, but I am resolutely pessimistic with regards to the outcome.

I also rummaged through both of the beech seed trays – one containing standard European beech (Fagus sylvatica) nuts, the other containing cut- or fern-leaved beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Aspleniifolia’) nuts – and this is what I found:

F1: one germinating cut-leaved beech nut. Yes!!!
F2: a second germinating cut-leaved beech nut, trapped inside its rock-hard cupule. How the hell is it ever going to get out of there?
W1: how’s this for a total tragedy. Out of the all the standard beechnuts I planted, only one germinated and I bloody accidentally snapped its root off when I was looking through the seed tray. How crushingly depressing is that? I feel really, really terrible about it. What an idiotic mistake to make.

These three germinated beechnuts I planted in pots. The damaged beech will just shrivel and die; it has expended all of its energy on a root that is now not there. The cut-leaved beech trapped in the cupule will probably die from being unable to escape its prison. Now all of treeblog’s beech hopes and dreams rest on the shoulders of one cut-leaved beech. No pressure or anything.


Posted in The treeblog trees





First signs of spring: alder and hazel catkins. A brief update on the treeblog trees.

Male catkins on hazel (Corylus avellana).

Winter’s grip on the countryside is finally loosening! The weather may still be nasty, but the days are getting longer and the local alders and hazels have been blasting out their male catkins. The hazels in particular look rather spiffing, their pale yellow lambs’ tails creating welcome splashes of colour in an otherwise bleak treescape.

More male hazel catkins, or lambs’ tails. These photos were taken beside Broomhead Reservoir on Tuesday.

This year’s developing male catkins (cigar-shaped) and last year’s woody female catkins (egg-shaped) on an overhead alder (Alnus glutinosa) branch.


* * * * *

And now for a brief update on the treeblog trees, neglected on this blog for far too long. Sad face.


Set A

The two Scots pines look fine. The four grey alders are covered in buds; the top of grey alder No. 4 is dead, as suspected in September. Most of the cider gums look alright, although a few of them have picked up a bit of a lean. Cider gums Nos. 1 and 15 look like they have suffered some serious frost damage. Will they survive? No. 15 took a lot of frost damage last year and survived… The post-Set A goat willow (the seedling formerly known as PSAUS) has some nice big buds.


Set C

Most of the downy birches have just started opening their tiny little buds. A few of them may have died, and some of them look to have had their roots exposed over the winter, so some replanting may be in order this weekend.

Set C’s downy birch No. 2 on Tuesday (16th February – 342 days after planting), standing a fine one-inch tall.


Set D

None of the sweet chestnuts or beechnuts, planted in the autumn, have sprouted yet. I’m aiming to plant my rowan seeds, the other component of Set D, in March. They are currently undergoing pretreatment.


* * * * *

P.S. It was treeblog’s third anniversary on Sunday!


Posted in Gone for a walk + The treeblog trees





treeblog Set D: pretreatment of the rowan seed

So I’ve (1) collected and (2) pre-pretreated treeblog’s Set D rowan seeds. Now they are undergoing (3) pretreatment before I (4) plant them in the spring. The last time I planted rowan seeds – for treeblog Set C – I neglected to pretreat them and my folly was rewarded by a total absence of germination. (So far… A year of ‘natural pretreatment’ and they may yet germinate alongside the Set D seeds!) This time I am boosting my chances of success by trying out three different methods of pretreatment advised by the Forestry Commission in their Practice Guide Growing trees and shrubs from seed by Peter Gosling (2007) [available online in .pdf format here].

Rowan seeds are classed as orthodox, deeply dormant seeds – ‘orthodox’ meaning easily stored and ‘deeply dormant’ meaning they ‘remain outwardly inactive under all conditions’, i.e. they require pretreatment to bring about germination. In the wild, rowan seeds would remain dormant for a year or two before germinating – the ‘natural pretreatment’ I mentioned above.

You’ll remember that I collected seed from two different individual rowans: a tree on Whitwell Moor and a tree above Oaken Clough. I kept each seed collection separate to find out if there is any difference in growth or form between the seedlings of the two trees. I also divided each collection into thirds so that the seeds of both trees will undergo all three of the pretreatment methods recommended by Growing trees and shrubs from seed. I’ve provided an abridged version of each of those methods below:

A. “Easy: natural (outdoor) pretreatment / sowing with medium”

1. Prepare a moisture retaining medium by mixing one part organic material (such as peat or decomposed leaf litter) with one part coarse particle material (such as sand or grit).

2. Mix one part seeds with one part moist medium and place in a container which is open to rainwater at the top and has drainage holes at the base.

3. Pretreatment: place container outdoors for thirty (16 – 30) weeks, positioned so as to receive exposure to seasonal temperature changes whilst avoiding daily temperature fluctuations.

4. Inspect seeds regularly (weekly to fortnightly) and if necessary re-moisten the stratification mix or remove decaying seeds to prevent the spread of fungal infections.

5. Remove and sow germinating seeds (or sow all seeds when 10% have begun to germinate).

A. On Saturday I filled two small plant pots with a one part compost, one part sand mix. Into one pot I mixed a third of the Whitwell Moor seeds; into the other I mixed a third of the Oaken Clough seeds. I’ve placed the two pots outside where they are open to rainwater but should avoid large fluctuations in daily temperature. There they shall remain until spring. Sixteen to thirty weeks from the 10th of October gives us a planting window open from the 30th of January to the 8th of May. I’ll probably plant all of the Set D rowan seeds proper in March.

B. “Moderate: artificial (temperature controlled) pretreatment with medium”

1. Prepare a moisture retaining medium by mixing one part organic material (such as peat or decomposed leaf litter) with one part coarse particle material (such as sand or grit).

2. Mix one part seeds with one part moist medium and place in a container, leaving a gap in the top.

3. Pretreatment: two (2 - 4) weeks warm followed by thirty (16 - 30) weeks cold. Use the main compartment of a refrigerator for the cold phase.

4. Inspect seeds regularly (weekly to fortnightly) and if necessary re-moisten the stratification mix or remove decaying seeds to prevent the spread of fungal infections.

5. Remove and sow germinating seeds (or sow all seeds when 10% have begun to germinate).

B. On Saturday I filled two empty yoghurt pots with a one part compost, one part sand mix. Into one pot I mixed a third of the Whitwell Moor seeds; into the other I mixed a third of the Oaken Clough seeds. I’ve placed the two open-topped pots in the fridge where I’ll ensure that they remain moist until spring.

C. “Skilled: artificial (temperature controlled) pretreatment without medium”

1. Place seeds in a loosely-tied woven bag and rinse / soak in cold (+4°C) water for forty-eight hours to remove any chemical inhibitors.

2. Drain seeds in a sieve to obtain imbibed, surface dry seeds.

3. Transfer seeds to a polythene bag. Leaving an air gap above the seeds, loosely tie the neck of the bag with a finger-sized hole to permit gaseous exchange but retard drying.

4. Pretreatment: two (2 - 4) weeks warm followed by thirty (16 - 30) weeks cold. Use the main compartment of a refrigerator for the cold phase.

5. Inspect seeds regularly (weekly to fortnightly) and if necessary re-moisten the stratification mix or remove decaying seeds to prevent the spread of fungal infections.

6. Remove and sow germinating seeds (or sow all seeds when 10% have begun to germinate).

C. On Saturday the 3rd of October I started separate 48-hour soakings of the Whitwell Moor and Oaken Clough seeds. I rinsed the seeds two or three times during the 48-hours. A week later (last Saturday), I transferred the surface-dry seeds to two small polythene bags and placed them in the fridge.

* * * * *

So there you go. Will the seeds make it through the winter? Will any of them germinate next spring? Will there be any difference between the Whitwell Moor and Oaken Clough seedlings? Which method of pretreatment will be the most successful? Only time will tell!!!


Posted in Dendrology + The treeblog trees





Set D: sweet chestnuts collected & planted

Three sweet chestnuts sitting in an opened cupule. The dead catkin that held the male flowers, still attached to the base of the cupule (which once was a female flower), can be seen in the background. [Photo: 8 Oct. ‘09]

Last Thursday (the 8th of October) I went on a tree mission to Wigtwizzle with my sister. Mission objective: to collect nuts from the massive sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) there for treeblog Set D.

The Wigtwizzle chestnut. Beast! [Photo: 7 Jul. ‘07]

While a lot of unripe cupules were stillon the tree, a great many ripe ones were lying open on the ground below. While trying to avoid a nettling, I managed to gather a haul of chestnuts with a total fresh weight of 75 g (2 ½ oz). Mission accomplished!

The Set D sweet chestnut haul. Third time lucky?

I collected nuts from the same tree in 2007 and 2008 for Set B and Set C respectively, but I didn’t manage to grow a single seedling. I now know the error of my bad old ways; I erred by waiting until spring before planting, by which time the chestnuts – which lose moisture rapidly and so are unsuited to storage – would have been well and truly dessicated. This time around, with only two days passing between collection and planting, treeblog might finally produce some baby sweet chestnuts.

Come closer…

I planted one hundred of the nuts yesterday in five forty-individual-pockets-to-a-tray seed trays using a special seeds and cuttings compost from B&Q. I ran out of room (and out of compost), so I had about sixty nuts left over. Until I decide what to do with them, I’ve mixed ‘em with some damp compost and popped ‘em in a plastic bag.

One of the seed trays showing forty chestnuts in forty ‘pockets’: a planting action shot.

The final product: five seed trays with one hundred sweet chestnuts carefully picked and planted. This is treeblog Set D(c) - the chestnut part of Set D. Set D(b) – the beech part – was planted on the 30th of September and the rowan seeds – Set D(r) – have just begun pretreatment and are on schedule for a springtime planting.

The 10th of October 2009 = Set D(c) Day 0.


Posted in Notable trees + The treeblog trees





treeblog Set D: collection and pre-pretreatment of rowan seeds

Looking into the canopy of the Whitwell Moor rowan. [Photo: 12 Sep. ‘09]

On Saturday the 12th of September I went for a late summer’s wander with my father. The weather was beautiful, the scenery was stunning, and our route just happened to pass by a couple of special trees: two rowans from which we collected berries to plant for treeblog’s Set D, one on Whitwell Moor and one overlooking Oaken Clough high up in the Ewden Valley.

Berries on the Whitwell Moor rowan. [Photo: 12 Sep. ‘09]

I previously collected berries from the Whitwell Moor rowan in autumn 2008 which I planted as part of treeblog Set C this spring (along with berries from another rowan, downy birch seeds, and sweet chestnuts), then replanted as Set C-r on the 12th of May. None of those seeds have germinated to date, presumably because I never pretreated them before planting them - something I didn’t realise was necessary. Without the pretreatment they still ought to germinate, but a whole year later rather than in the same year like I expected. So treeblog is expecting rowans from both Set C and Set D to germinate in spring 2010!

The Whitwell Moor rowan on the day of my Set D berry collection: the 12th of September 2009.

I discovered the Oaken Clough rowan this summer on the 18th of July. When I first lay peepers on it I knew that it had the biggest girth of any rowan I’d ever seen. I measured it on the berry run: 3.4 m (11 ft 2 in.) in circumference at about shin height. That gives a diameter of 1.1 m (3 ft 7 in.). These figures might not sound very impressive, but for a rowan they are well impressive. Unfortunately, this monster of a rowan has suffered a catastrophic collapse. Most of the collapsed boughs nevertheless remain alive, and since this incident the tree has put out a lot of new growth. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t keep on going for many years to come.

The Oaken Clough rowan. Massive yet collapsed. [Photo: 18 Jul. ‘09]

After I’d picked my berries, I sort of forgot about them for a couple of weeks. I just couldn’t stomach the upcoming task…

The Oaken Clough rowan berries. The black ones have gone bad. [Photo: 20 Sep. ‘09].

Then last week I got around to removing the seeds from the berries. This was a long, time-consuming process. I estimate it took me four or five hours, and that was only working with about half of the berries! The other half had gone rotten because I’d waited so long to act. I should have removed all of the seeds when the berries were fresh, but then ten hours of seed extraction would have sent me pathologically insane. Whatever, the outcome is I have plenty of seeds.

The Whitwell Moor rowan berries. [Photo: 20 Sep. ‘09].

This afternoon I removed any bits of husk still attached to the seeds. How nice and clean they look!

The clean extracted rowan seeds earlier today. The Oaken Clough rowan’s seeds appear to be slightly larger than those of the Whitwell Moor rowan.

Right. Now the seeds are all ready for pretreatment. To improve my chances of Set D success, I’ll be trying out not one, not two, but three methods of pretreatment. My two piles of seeds will be split into thirds, and each pair of thirds will undergo a different method of pretreatment. These methods are laid out in a Forestry Commission practice guide, and an upcoming post will detail what they are. The pretreatment has actually already begun for one pair of thirds: they are currently being soaked for 48 hours to rinse off any germination-inhibiting chemicals!

N.B. As each of the three Set D species are being planted on different days, I’m going to describe the rowans as belonging to Set D-r, the beeches – which were planted on Wednesday - as belonging to Set D-b, and the sweet chestnuts – which I have yet to collect – as belonging to Set D-c. That’s just to make things easier when I say blah blah blah Set D-r, Day XX.


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The fortieth edition of the Festival of the Trees is over at local ecologist. Go read!


Posted in Gone for a walk + The treeblog trees





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)


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…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





A late summer's wander

Dyer’s mazegill (Phaeolus schweinitzii) at the base of a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris).

This post shall send prose to his room and welcome poetry into the drawing room for a brandy. Let me spin thee the tale of last Saturday:


A Late Summer’s Wander

Late summer’s wander Saturday
Into the Peak our path did lay
On Whitwell Moor ‘neath a rowan, halted
To fill a bag wi’ red berries wanted
Through t’ first wood and up we walked
There wa’ no acorns on t’ Lonely Oak

Cresting t’ hill we entered t’ Wood
Where Millstones lie; it were right good
To find at t’ foot of a Scots Pinus
A great and gnarly yellow fungus
Over t’ lane and out on Thorpe’s Brow
T’ sky seemed somehow bigger now

We strode past ruins of t’ last war
Tanks aimed at targets high up on t’ moor
Long out ahead rose Pike Lowe
A cairn for t’ dead, or so I trow
For much of t’ way rose hummocky grasses
Eek heather and bracken and bogs and mosses
It hurt to see the cairn ruined
A wanton act: a villain’s doing

Now heading south across the heath
Our destination: watersmeet
Ewden Force wa’ running low
As fine a sight as in full flow
Where rowans glow wi’ crimson berries
And for a while t’ walker tarries

In Stainery Clough we traced a road
An ancient trail the river fords
O’er Oaken Clough a giant sags
Of berries now two heaving bags
A rowan great but broke asunder
When it tore it must ha’ thundered

Heath and bracken for miles a’ more
Bare shanks soon are feeling sore
Past t’ shooting lodge and Broomhead Hall
The veteran chestnut of Wigtwizzle
Summer’s fading fast and autumn’s near
Here’s hoping t’ rowans grow next year


A holly (Ilex aquifolium): the last tree before Pike Lowe.

A stunning berry-laden rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) near Ewden Force.

And another. The rowans around here, while absolutely covered with berries, had more or less lost all of their leaves already. Rowan berries seem to be much more abundant and redder than usual this year. I’m loving it.

A shady pool in Oaken Clough. Danger! Midges!

Looking across the Ewden Valley to Thorpe’s Brow on our way home.


Posted in Gone for a walk + The treeblog trees





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