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rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)
Posted on April 4, 2012 by Ash
A couple of days ago I returned home from half a week on Mull & Iona, where I saw an enormous fossil tree… but that’s another post! The weather up there was for the most part dull and drizzly, and in Sheffield today it put down a few inches of late snow. Yet before I went away we had some incredible weather at home. It was like high summer, but in March…
Holt House, an abandoned farm on the other side of the Ewden valley, stands close to some quite old and fairly gnarly trees. In the foreground, Rhododendron ponticum is colonising the moorland – it has already claimed the valley side down to the river. It would be the mother of all nightmares to eradicate at this stage, and it gets worse every year.
Park Cote, the walled area, is on the same side of the valley as Holt House. With another abandoned building or two (they draw me in!), it’s been on my list of Places To Visit for a while now.
A typical Oaken Clough scene: a lovely, big, lichen-encrusted birch, plus rowan, more birch, bracken, moss, holly, heather, lichen-encrusted rocks, a wee burn… it’s paradise.
A rowan in its prime leans out over Ewden Beck high up the valley. The river was very low; much of the riverbed was exposed and dry. This section is bare bedrock.
A close-up of one of the exposed stumps you sometimes stumble upon out on the moors, usually in groughs: relics from a time long ago when the moor was not a moor but a wood. The peat preserves the timber really well.
A larch rose in the making! I love larch roses. They can’t fail to put a smile on your face.
Holt House again, surrounded by mature sycamores. Today it’s just a deteriorating shell, but when I win the lottery (once I’ve started playing the lottery) I’ll do it up and turn it into treeblog HQ. That’s the dream!
Posted on October 7, 2011 by Ash
A familiar rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) on Whitwell Moor.
The weathermen forecast a startlingly hot few days last week – 25°C for the end of September in Sheffield certainly made me open my eyes – so I took measures to make the most of this unexpected resurgence of summer by taking a couple of days off work. Instead of sweating buckets trapped in a pair of chainsaw trousers, I was out roaming the moors and woods having a whale of a time. Wednesday was incredible but Thursday was truly the epitome of an autumn day; it’s just a shame that the sun sets so much earlier now than it did in the height of summer.
A familiar downy birch (Betula pubescens) of extraordinary girth, also on Whitwell Moor…
…and growing beneath its spreading branches, this little bolete (some kind of Leccinum, I think).
Hallo! It’s the famous Lonely Oak!
Last year I couldn’t find any acorns on the L.O., but there were a few on one side of the crown last week. I confess I collected some. Perhaps there will be a treeblog Set E next year?
One of my acorns. The Lonely Oak is an English or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur), so the acorns are attached to the tree on little stems.
Looking north from the ‘back’ of the L.O. towards Hunshelf Bank. Looking over its shoulders?
A familiar pair of Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) between the Salter Hills.
Chilled-out cows in the next field.
The eastern Salter Hill, complete with solitary hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna).
Gorse (or furze or whin: Ulex europaeus) - one yellow drop in the ocean.
Posted on August 24, 2011 by Ash
Taken August 3rd.
Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) bark.
Beech (Fagus sylvatica) leaf.
Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) berries.
Posted on June 15, 2011 by Ash
A powerful waterfall above Bucktooth’s Meadow in Glen Golly. We were going to camp in the meadow on our third night, but nay sooner than we’d selected a passable pitch a swarm of midges materialised and we legged it sharpish.
Two weeks ago I was on a hike in the extreme North-West of Scotland with two friends from uni. This was Team Seatle’s fourth big walk together, having previously done Lake Windermere and Coniston Water in the Lake District in 2007, Blair Atholl to Aviemore through the Cairngorms in 2008, and the Skye Trail in 2010. This year, because of some spectacularly wet weather, we had to cut short our planned route. Yet despite our perpetually saturated boots (leading to some impressively sore feet on my part), we still managed to enjoy four days of walking and three nights of camping in an incredibly remote and beautiful part of the country.
We passed this rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) on Day One soon after crossing over the Kyle of Durness on the ferry (which was just a really small boat). It was just coming into flower.
The Kyle stretches out behind the rowan. In the distance we saw a group of seals chilling on a sand bank.
On Day Three a landrover track we had been following ended abruptly at a loch. We followed deer tracks around the edge of the loch and had to cross over this boisterous stream which was at the foot of a very impressive waterfall… (The tree in this photo is another rowan. The vast majority of trees we saw were rowans or downy birches (Betula pubescens)).
…this waterfall. Seeing the waterfalls in full flow was definitely a worthy pay-off for suffering with incessantly-soaking boots. We filled our water bottles at this one. The water was good.
This is another ‘tree’ that we saw a lot of. It was common on the boggy moors and grew no taller than the grass and heather. I’m fairly sure that it’s some dwarfish species of alpine willow, but I can’t make a positive ID. Can anybody help me out with this one?
We walked past this broch in the rain on Day Four (the stone structure by the river). We passed it again driving back to Edinburgh so we stopped to take photos in better weather. According to the information board: ”When built about 2000 years ago, Dun Dornaigil (or Dornadilla, as it is also called) would have stood about twice as high. Its drystone walls formed a complete circle, pierced only by a single narrow entrance. The walls were hollow, and within their thickness a stone stair gave access to several narrow galleries, probably used for storage. The inner courtyard would have held a thatched wooden dwelling which housed the small farming community who had built the broch as a shelter against marauding raiders.” The Strath More river is calm in this photo, but when two days earlier it was flowing frighteningly fast.
We stopped for a bit at Glenmore near Aviemore on the way back to Edinburgh. This is the view across Loch Morlich to the Cairngorms; those leaves in the foreground are common alder (Alnus glutinosa). The weather was phenomenally nice, so it was a bit weird to be seeing snow on the tops. After resting by the loch-side for a while, we headed to the café adjoining the visitor centre for cake and a drink… which was exactly what we did as we passed through near the end of our big hike in 2008! I thought that was a nice touch.
Posted on April 30, 2011 by Ash
As evident from the buds on this tree, the local hawthorns (Crataegus monogyna) are primed and ready to explode into flower. Driving back to Yorkshire from Wales on Easter Monday, I saw plenty of hawthorns further south that were already white with blossom.
The ashes (Fraxinus excelsior) are in flower at the moment. The structures in this photograph are female inflorescences; I could see no male flowers on this tree. Apparently ashes can be monoecious or dioecious, but dioecious individuals are rather more common.
The bilberry bushes (Vaccinium myrtillus) were also covered with flowers. The new leaves are such a vivid green – they really liven up Whitwell Moor.
Seen on a larch (Larix decidua): something caught half-way between being a flower (larch rose) and a cone.
I saw lots of beeches (Fagus sylvatica) in full leaf; I also saw plenty that still looked bare, like this one on the edge of Millstones Wood.
A closer look shows that it has at least begun to adorn itself in greenery, and reveals that the tree is actually in flower. There are both male and female flowers in this photograph.
Poking up through the leaf litter: a wee rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) seedling.
This post is continued in Part Two.
Posted on March 5, 2011 by Ash
Lichens are just amazing. This one was growing on a detached rowan branch. I’m pretty sure it’s a Xanthoria parietina - one of Britain’s commonest lichens.
This big rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) is interesting because it is surrounded by hundreds of stick-like suckers, many of them dead, that have been sent up from the roots. I’ve never seen a rowan behave like this before, and I wonder why this one should.
The tree had a decent girth for a rowan but it wasn’t particularly tall and looked easy to climb, so I jumped up it.
I couldn’t really have gotten much higher; there were only twigs above me.
On the way home I found this old puffball growing on the moor. It’s definitely a Lycoperdon species - probably L. perlatum, the pearl-studded puffball (I’ve seen these before). Jordan’s Fungi states that L. perlatum has “short pyramidal warts which fall off to reveal endoperidium decorated with a reticulate pattern” (according to the glossary ‘reticulate’ means ‘having a net-like pattern of ornamentation’). Much of the endoperidium does have a net-like pattern.
* * * * *
Posted on October 3, 2010 by Ash
I went for a wander with my father last week. Here he is, taking a photograph in Oaken Clough. You can tell it’s autumn now. [See this photo in black and white?]
Oaken Clough is a small valley surrounded by moorland. It’s a wonderful and pristine world of beauty.
The stream flowing down the valley is dotted with tiny cascades. [See this photo in black and white?]
This birch was growing out of an exposed rock-face at a brave angle.
Those leaves on the right are proof that Oaken Clough does actually have an oak tree in it! I’ve found two so far...
A fungal selection box. I think the top two belong to the same species, but are at different stages of development. The bottom right mushroom was a big ‘un!
A section of gnarly, lichen-encrusted rowan stem.
This spinning foam cake was freshly baked by the stream.
Posted on June 8, 2010 by Ash
Team Seatle wake up to a beautiful morning on Day 3.
Last week I walked the Skye Trail over seven days with a couple of friends from uni. Skye is a beautiful island, even though 90% of its surface seems to be bog. We were mega lucky with the weather; apart from a couple of occasions when it rained at night and we were kept dry by the tent, we were only rained on for about an hour for the whole week! Day 2 (Bank Holiday Monday) was an absolutely perfect hot summer’s day.
Day 2 (30th May) – Peering over the edge of the mighty Trotternish Ridge at the trees and rocks a couple of hundred metres below.
Day 3 (31st May) – Looking out over the Sound of Raasay to the Isles of Rona and / or Raasay, separated from the mainland by Inner Sound. The mountains of Torridon on the mainland are far away in the distance.
Looking in the same direction as the previous photo, but from further south along the coast (near Holm).
From the same spot, looking north over Bearreraig Bay with its hydro-electric power station to the wooded cliffs at Rubha Sùghar.
Here’s the view looking west towards the rocky face of the Storr (719 m), which towers over a chunk of forestry and Loch Leathan, the outlet of which is damned for the hydro station.
Loch Portree, or the natural harbour of Portree (Port Righ) - the capital settlement of Skye – seen from the bridge spanning the River Chracaig.
Day 4 (1st June) – Standing on Allt Dubh’s waterfall facing south-west towards the brooding Cuillin Hills. In the middle distance, the River Sligachan flows lazily towards Loch Sligachan, just out of shot on the left. If you take a microscope to this photo you may discern the Sligachan Hotel (the Slig), whose bar kept us hydrated on our fourth night.
Day 5 (2nd June) – A luscious rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) radiates greenness in the late afternoon, posing in front of Loch Slapin off the eastern coast of the Elgol peninsula.
Above the 60th parallel in Canada you feel that nobody but God has been there before you, but in a deserted Highland glen you feel that everyone who ever mattered is dead and gone.
Posted on April 30, 2010 by Ash
A European larch (Larix decidua) female flower. The larch roses have arrived later than they did last year, but they were out in force last weekend when I went to check on the progress of the Set A grey alders.
A mature birch polypore a.k.a. razor strop (Piptoporus betulinus) bracket on a fallen downy birch (Betula pubescens). Razor strop fruiting bodies are annual; this is one of 2009’s.
Wee mushrooms growing on another fallen birch.
A gnarly, lichen-encrusted rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) twig with unfurling leaves.
A pair of sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) seedlings growing in the fork of a mature sycamore.
Posted on April 5, 2010 by Ash
Excellent news! The rowans (Sorbus aucuparia) that I planted 328 days ago are sprouting in droves! This afternoon I counted around forty seedlings growing where I planted seeds from the Whitwell Moor rowan and two seedlings growing where I planted seeds from the Upper Midhope rowan. That’s a lot of seedlings, and treeblog can really only follow so many – so I’ve picked twenty of the Whitwell Moor seedlings to follow, along with as many Upper Midhope seedlings that germinate (up to twenty). That’s still a lot of rowans, and I’ve yet to even plant the Set D rowan seeds I collected last year (which I’m going to go ahead and plant anyway to see which of the three methods of pre-treatment used worked best).
The skeletal Upper Midhope rowan, seen here on the 24th of August 2006.
But when I reached the spot where the rowan grew, it had sadly fallen over!
The Whitwell Moor rowan on the day of berry collection.
Along with some downy birch seeds and some sweet chestnuts, I planted both lots of rowan berries as treeblog Set C on the 11th of March 2009. I mistakenly planted the berries whole – but apparently you’re supposed to remove the seeds from the berries before planting.
On the day of planting. The Upper Midhope berries occupy the upper third of the top-left tray; the Whitwell Moor berries occupy the bottom-right tray.
After realising my mistake, I exhumed the berries and removed the seeds on the 10th & 11th of May 2009 - what a messy procedure! I replanted the cleaned-up seeds on the 12th of May, calling them Set C(r) (r for rowan) to distinguish them from the rest of Set C, which didn’t need replanting. [11th March 2009 = Set C Day 0 / 12th May 2009 = Set C(r) Day 0.]
The Whitwell Moor seeds after cleaning, prior to replanting.
A month later, in mid-June, several seedlings appeared in the Set C(r) seed tray, but they turned out to be self-set willows, not rowans. (Some of the willows are now dead; the rest I tried to kill by ‘coppicing’ them so that they wouldn’t compete with any future-sprouting rowans - I couldn’t just pull them up because their roots were so extensive I’d have messed up the whole seed tray. Of course, these tiny willow stumps survived and are now budding up!)
The two Upper Midhope seedlings (designated by ‘U’): U1 & U2.
…And the twenty Whitwell Moor seedlings (designated by ‘W’):
W1 to W5.
W6 to W10.
W11 to W15.
W16 to W20.
Posted on February 21, 2010 by Ash
Hawthorn (Crataegus, probably monogyna).
Not much snow on Ewden Height.
Snow on a rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) branch.
Linear shadows cast by a cluster of stick-like junior rowans growing around the trunk of their parent.
A stunted larch (Larix, probably decidua) surrounded by rowan saplings. This part of the moor is fenced off, presumably to prevent sheep grazing and thus promote tree regeneration (although one sheep had somehow gotten into the enclosure). Aside from this larch, the trees were mostly young rowans (berries, dispersed by birds), with several birches (tiny seeds, wind-dispersed). I also saw a holly (berries, dispersed by birds) and an oak (acorns, ???!).
This picture brought to you by the nineteenth century. Well, it could be!
Hey Paul, your hat’s falling off. That’s Millstones Wood in the background.
A wee lichen growing on a wee hawthorn. None of the buds on the trees I saw yesterday were showing signs of opening just yet. Give it a month…
Posted on October 13, 2009 by Ash
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].
A. “Easy: natural (outdoor) pretreatment / sowing with medium”
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”
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”
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 on October 3, 2009 by Ash
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!
Posted on September 17, 2009 by Ash
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
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 on September 6, 2009 by Ash
3rd August ‘09. Looking down on Loch Tay from the Drummond Hill silver birch provenance trial. I collected data for my dissertation there in March 2008.
3rd August ’09. Me and my father were skimming pebbles on Loch Tay from a little jetty at Fearnan. This is one of his that hit the water at too steep an angle.
5th August ’09. A hoary old rowan in Glen Lyon with a massive, hollow trunk.
5th August ’09. A complete wreck of a rowan. The only sign of life was a handful of dying leaves out on that snapped limb. A tree crossing the very threshold of death.
5th August ’09. A characterfully windswept Scots pine below Loch an Daimh...
… and nearby, a bit of old Caledonian pinewood.
21st March ’08. Three logs near the silver birch provenance trial, taken on my phone during a snow shower when I was up there collecting dissertation data.
3rd August ’09. The same logs a year and a half later. See how they’re decomposing, and see how the surrounding vegetation has changed.
Posted on August 13, 2009 by Ash
Flowers of the harebell (Campanula rotundifolia).
I recently returned from a week in the Highlands where I stayed in a cottage in Glen Lyon, just over an hour’s drive from Killin and Loch Tay. On Sunday the 2nd I walked up Beinn Ghlas (1103 m / 3620 ft) and Ben Lawers (1214 m / 3984 ft), two of the local Munros (mountains over 3000 feet). Most of the main path is within the Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve, a 4,722 ha area of land encompassing the southern slopes of the Lawers and Tarmachan ranges owned and cared for by the National Trust for Scotland.
… [The] Reserve [is] especially important for the arctic-alpine flora, and is also of international importance. We manage it in collaboration with Scottish Natural Heritage, to achieve a wide range of conservation objectives [including] the long-term survival of the native species of plant and animal and their habitats… some of the habitats are now so rare and vulnerable that extinction is either imminent of inevitable if we do not act to prevent it. Much of our work is designed to reverse such a process, with ‘species recovery’ and ‘habitat restoration’. For example, you can se the first British attempt to restore montane willow scrub, a rare and declining habitat in Scotland, as part of a continuum also including herb-rich birchwood. [A] Nature Trail is mostly within an ‘enclosure’ fence, within which the vegetation is recovering from the heavily grazed condition still seen outside the fence. Many of the trees and shrubs have been planted during the 1990s, but some of them, and the herbaceous plants, have regenerated without such intervention.
This photo shows the enclosed area mentioned in the above passage – it’s the reddish-brown patch in the centre of all that green. The green is mainly grass and low-growing herbs that are tolerant of being grazed by sheep and deer. The enclosed area is a different colour because a more natural flora has been allowed to regenerate thanks to the deer fencing – it appears reddish-brown from a distance because a lot of the ground cover is currently made up of heathers and flowering grasses. The mountain in the background is Beinn Ghlas; it obscures Ben Lawers.
The concentrated sheep grazing since the 18th century, and increasingly large deer populations now [deer have no natural predators since the wolf was hunted to extinction in the 17th or 18th century], have had a profound effect on the vegetation. Trees, shrubs and tall herbaceous plants cannot survive and regenerate and are now confined to cliff ledges. Farmers have rights to graze their sheep on Trust land on the Ben Lawers range, but the red deer is a native of the hills and its presence is important to the land. However, numbers are such that seedling trees cannot escape the many hungry mouths, so culling of deer is carried out on the reserve.
Several birch (Betula) saplings and a rowan sapling (Sorbus aucuparia) – far right – growing amongst heather, ferns and lichen (the creamy-white patches) inside the enclosure. Much nicer than a vast, monotonous expanse of overgrazed grassland, innit. As well as birch and rowan, I saw plenty of willow growing; the Burn of Edramucky flows through the enclosure and you know how willow loves its water.
A wee rowan rising above tall, flowering grass; something you just don’t see outside of the enclosure.
The view south over the beautiful Loch Tay from the enclosure. I ♥ the Highlands.
This horsetail (Equisetum sp.) – a “living fossil” - is also benefiting from the habitat restoration scheme. I found this one growing with its friends by a waterfall.
Looking back through the enclosure towards Beinn Ghlas. The day started off overcast and drizzly, but by late afternoon the weather turned lovely for the ascent.
Featuring in the next few posts: photos of the Set A and Set C trees; a huge spruce and a money tree; a huge ash and a hoary rowan; & some big mushrooms and a big bracket fungus!
Posted on July 25, 2009 by Ash
I was out walking on the moors last Saturday, and in Part One of this two-part post I’d just walked across Whitwell Moor, through Millstones Wood, and over Broomhead Moor to Pike Lowe...
After a bit of a dinner stop at that ancient cairn, I headed south to intercept the upper course of the Ewden Beck, I almost perfectly landed upon what I’d come looking for. Right next to the confluence of the beck with an unnamed (on the map) tributary from Stainery Clough, there is an impressive waterfall. (A second, smaller waterfall is to the left of the main fall, where the Stainery Clough stream drops into the beck, but it’s hidden by bracken in my photo.) Two things about this fine waterfall: 1. It is orange! - a consequence of the very peaty water. 2. It is bigger than it looks in this photo, which was taken zoomed in from the top of a steep bank overlooking the river. I reckon the face of the fall to be about three metres tall. There is an excellent photograph on Flickr by Peter Bell, taken on May 30th this year, that gives a much better idea of the true height of the waterfall. It also shows a much denuded flow; my photo was taken after a prolonged rainy spell, so the Ewden Beck was in full flow, and judging by the flattened vegetation along the river edge the water had been a foot higher in places after a big storm during the night. The waterfall isn’t named on the map – it isn’t even on the map (1:25,000 OS) – so I’m calling it Ewden Force. I’m sure some locals have a name for it already. I wonder what?
So after finding a good place to confidently cross the swollen Ewden Beck upstream of the waterfall, and then crossing the Stainery Clough stream, I walked east over the moor (south of and parallel with Ewden Beck) towards the shooting lodge I visited on the 21st of March. Between Stainery Clough and the lodge, I had to cross another two significant cloughs and their swollen streams. One was Oaken Clough, which looks quite meaty on the map, contours-wise; the other, of similar size to Oaken Clough in real life, is unnamed on the map where the contours barely bend for it! Anyway, there are a number of small unnamed streams either side of Oaken Clough, so I couldn’t tell which of the two big cloughs was Oaken Clough because of the dodgy cartography. Either way, all the cloughs were devoid of oaks; a much better name for Oaken Clough would be Rowan Clough.
A wee birch seedling (pendula or pubescens).
Heading down into one of the cloughs. Rowans (Sorbus aucuparia) ahead, stream to the left, grassy ancient path to the right. Bear in mind that this is in the middle of nowhere, with no footpaths anywhere near it. There can’t be many people ever walk here, but sometime in the past, probably hundreds of years ago, there was a way down here that was important enough for someone to go to the trouble of creating a stone-edged path down to the stream, probably to ford it. Perhaps you can make out some of the mossy edging stones on the left side of the path; to the right, off the photograph, is a steep bank that is supported with a sort of stone wall. Very old, very gone-back-to-nature. I almost walked along it without even realising what it was. I really need a GPS device to record the location of these things so that I’ll never forget where they are.
Developing rowan berries. Not ripe just yet, but in another few weeks all of the local rowans will be covered in clusters of bright red berries.
Speaking of rowans, here’s one leaning over the stream.
More rowans! It’s rowan heaven up here in these wee cloughs all surrounded by moorland. Many of the trees were practically dripping with lichens; it was like being up in the Highlands.
Heading down into the other decent-sized clough, this: the biggest-girthed rowan I have ever seen. I knew it was a special one as I eyed it from a distance. A sheep track led straight to it, so our ovine friends use it as a landmark. Well over a metre in diameter (I’ll need to come back for some DBH action), the tree had split in half with its still-healthy branches spanning quite an area. There was also a lot of dead wood scattered around its vicinity; it must have been quite an explosive collapse!
It wasn’t just the tree that was huge. Some of the lichens were beasts, like this monster growing on one of the branches.
In the bottom of a clough, this unusual sight. A rowan and a birch growing hip to hip on the stream bank.
Posted on May 26, 2009 by Ash
Sunday was a real stunner, and after the dire weather of May so far it was even nicer than usual to get out into the countryside. I took the pushbike for a ride over to Langsett, going clockwise around the reservoir via North America before coming through Upper Midhope and heading for home.
Clusters of male catkins dangling from an English oak. The English or pedunculate oak is a monoecious species so individuals produce flowers of both sexes.
This particular oak had pea-sized galls attached to some of the catkins. I’m fairly sure that they are the sexual galls, known as currant galls, of the currant gall wasp (Neuroterus quercusbaccarum). Common spangle galls found on the underside of oak leaves are the agamic galls of the same wasp.
An old friend: the rowan on Whitwell Moor from under which I collected half of my berries for Set C (replanted as Set C(r) a fortnight ago). Rowans are in full bloom at the moment, and this one was no exception. It was absolutely covered with infloresences!
A bit of lovely lichen growing on the rowan.
Get a close-up look at one of the inflorescences.
This young ash grows on the aptly named Long Lane and I’ve developed a habit of taking its picture every time I pass by, which allows for some interesting seasonal juxtapositions. Here it can be seen in the thick of a blizzard on the 2nd of February and also just coming into leaf in happier weather on Sunday. (See the same ash with and without leaves last October and November respectively in this post!)
The other rowan whose seeds comprise Set C(r). This unique and arresting rowan unfortunately blew over last year. It was still lying where it had fallen on the wall the last time I visited on the 14th of February, but since then it has been cleared away.
The only extant trace is this stump. The fallen tree was still alive too – I noticed live buds during my February visit. It must still have been connected to the root system. I hope that the roots continue to live and send up new sprouts, but given the stump’s situation in a field oft home to a herd of cattle it may never be able to re-establish anyway. I really hope that the seeds I took from it last year germinate to allow me the pleasure of raising the offspring of a remarkable ex-tree.
I took this photo looking south up-valley while standing on the bridge over Thickwoods Brook where that stream enters Langsett Reservoir. The brook gathers in the wee pond you can see in the bottom right of the photograph before rushing down a little weir into the reservoir.
Still on the bridge, but looking east towards Thickwoods, a coniferous plantation owned (as is the reservoir and much of the surrounding land) by Yorkshire Water. See what I mean about the bilberry being vivid? It’s almost glowing!
Posted on May 1, 2009 by Ash
Before we get stuck in to the main course, would Reader like a starter? Another two seedlings were observed in the birch tray yesterday (Day 50), bringing the total to twenty-six. On top of that, a Set C first: two seedlings were discovered in sweet chestnut territory! But are they really sweet chestnut seedlings or just weed impostors? I’ve never seen a sweet chestnut seedling before, but I had a mental image of them being, uh, beefier. At least they’re not nettles…
The Set C birch seeds. I collected them from an impressive tree on Whitwell Moor. Those catkins (more correctly “strobiles”) were chock-a-block full of seeds too.
The Set C sweet chestnuts. I collected them from a magnificent old tree at Wigtwizzle.
…some very small seeds, such as willow and poplar, and some very large fruits, such as oak, sycamore, sweet chestnut and horse chestnut, die quite soon after being shed from the tree – one of the last properties you would normally associate with seeds. The fruits are killed if they dry out and at present there is no known method of doing anything more than slowing down their rate of deterioration. It is therefore only worth collecting seeds of these species if you can sow them fairly quickly, or are prepared to suffer significant losses over, for example, one winter’s storage.
Great. It goes on to describe chestnuts as recalcitrant – highly perishable. One thing you can’t do is to let these things dry out: “if they are frozen or dried, they die”. I didn’t have anywhere humid to store my chestnuts, so I stuck them in the shed all winter. The air in the shed is certainly not as dry as that in the house, but I wouldn’t exactly call it humid. At least I didn’t put them in the freezer.
I collected these, the majority of the Set C rowan berries, from a tree on Whitwell Moor. A further eighty or so berries were collected from a tree near Upper Midhope.
Fleshy fruits are also some of the most awkward and certainly the messiest to process. …very occasionally a little fermentation can help. However, for seeds such as hawthorn, holly and rowan, fermentation can be significantly harmful or even fatal and is therefore to be avoided. Subsequently, most seeds will need repeated washing not only to remove the clinging remnants of sticky flesh, but also as a means of removing chemicals that have the potential to inhibit germination.
Germination-inhibiting chemicals? Oh no! (At least rowan seeds, like birch seeds, are “orthodox” so can be dried and frozen for storage. My berries experienced the same storage conditions as my birch seeds.) Anyway, once your rowan seeds are nice and clean with no tarrying trace of berry, they can enter pretreatment hell. The guide describes pretreatment as “Only partially effective: even with the longest pretreatment durations and/or several pretreatment cycles”! Still, it recommends 2-4 warm (about 15°C) weeks and 16-30 cold (about 4°C) weeks of pretreatment. Awesome.
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Raising trees and shrubs from seed is a great little guide. It provides a host of advice on collecting, preparing, storing and planting seed. You can download it free from here: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/fcpg018.pdf/$FILE/fcpg018.pdf
Posted on March 25, 2009 by Ash
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.
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.
Set C update – Day 14 (today): No sign of germination yet.
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