28 posts tagged with

rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)

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Summer's outrider: to Devil's Cave and Wind Hill Wood

Friday and Saturday were incredible days, real shorts-and-t-shirts weather; beautiful blue skies, and temperatures March will be proud of. On Saturday I went on a walk that took me down Ewden and along the edge of Broomhead Moor to the furthest point I’ve ever been up the Ewden Valley: the shooting lodge at SK 222 956 (check it out, Google Maps-style). It wasn’t challenging to get there – a Landrover track leads to the lodge – but it was pleasingly remote for a shortish walk. On Friday I didn’t stray so far, walking to Wind Hill Wood and the craggy outcropping of millstone grit I know by the name Devil’s Cave. I was annoyed to see that some morons had been littering, but don’t let that negative image tarnish the goodtime spring vibes I hope the following photos (taken Friday) are emitting.

The view NNW over Wind Hill Wood towards Midhope. The woods in the distance are coniferous forestry plantations around Midhope Reservoir

A rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) bud: big and softly, silvery furry. I’ve noticed that rowan twigs tend to be rather thicker than those of our other tree species.

A strikingly wind-swept beech (Fagus sylvatica) near Devil’s Cave… and from below:

One of the bigger blocks of grit making up the Devil’s Cave formation, dappled with lichens, mosses, bilberries, birches, and the shadows of trees.

One of the many tiny birches growing from cracks in the rocks. Their persistent roots pry open the cracks and split apart these vast boulders.

I chanced upon this rusty horseshoe hanging in a young rowan and was concerned that it wouldn’t catch much luck this way up. The beech on the right in the background is interesting in that on it’s other side a huge old wound stretches from the ground to the first branches; the tree is doing a good job of closing the wound with new wood and bark, but it still has a few inches to grow before the two edges meet.

On the return leg of the journey, I made a little detour to see a special birch.

Posted in Gone for a walk

treeblog Set C planted today!

Day 0 (Set C).

One hundred and one weeks since the planting of Set A and fifty-one weeks since the planting of failed Set B, I planted treeblog’s Set C today in a private garden ceremony. This latest set is represented by three species: rowan (Sorbus aucuparia L.), sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.), and birch (either silver (Betula pendula Roth) or downy (Betula pubescens Ehrh.)). Whereas a single tree provided me with all my chestnuts, and another with all my birch seeds, my rowan berries were collected from two different trees.

I collected these rowan berries from a tree at the edge of Whitwell Moor. I’ve been acquainted with this tree for a decade now and remember climbing in it during my days at high school. Here it is on the day of berry collection (26th September 2008):

This second lot of rowan berries, which are slightly smaller and more orange than the others, come from a tree near Upper Midhope. I collected them on the 15th of last August, soon after it had sadly collapsed. I paid the fallen tree a visit three weeks ago and was glad to see it still in place and with live buds. Fingers crossed it can go on to see out a few more years. Here’s the rowan as it was on the 24th of August 2006, in all its former glory:

The birch seeds - which kept trying to blow away as I took this photo - were collected on the same day as the berries from the rowan on Whitwell Moor. The bulk of the seed, by the way, is still in the catkins in this photo. They were a pleasure to break up. The seed was produced by a great tree of amazing girth which is either a silver birch or a downy birch. I can’t quite make up my mind seeing as how it appears to have characteristics of both species. My suspicions are that it’s a silver birch that has been roughed up by the elements thanks to its exposed location at the edge of a wood on Whitwell Moor. If only I was in North America… From Wikipedia: “Many North American texts treat the two species as conspecific… but they are regarded as distinct species throughout Europe”.

The great silver/downy birch (26th September 2008):

My sweet chestnuts, the quantity of which gives me deep joy. These bad boys were collected from the Wigtwizzle Chestnut on not one, not two, but on three separate expeditions on the 5th, 9th, and 17th of last October. Primo! The Wigtwizzle Chestnut (seen below on the 7th of July 2007) is one of the most impressive trees in my local area. When you get close, the sheer size of this veteran’s trunk grabs hold of you and slaps your mind. It’s quite literally awesome. Chestnuts from this tree were also planted for last year’s Set B, but none of them germinated. However, I didn’t have that many, and they’d been kept in the house over winter which had probably dried them out beyond the realms of viability. This year the nuts were kept in a garden shed and I’ve got quite a few more.

Another (more aesthetically pleasing) view of those chestnuts.

The planting process was straightforward. I half-filled four seed trays with compost. Into one tray went all the birch seeds, into another went the Whitwell Moor rowan berries, into the third went half of the sweet chestnuts, and into the fourth went the rest of the chestnuts and the Upper Midhope rowan berries. All nicely spaced out likes. Then a light covering of more compost and a good watering.

The trays are now safe in the treeblog compound. Let the germination begin!

Posted in The treeblog trees

Bark rubbing

So I went for a walk this afternoon armed with sheets of plain white paper and a blue wax crayon, and I did six bark rubbings. Over moor and under wood, it was a cold day with a clear sky. The temperature must have been close to zero as ice lingered on puddles and the ground was frozen at the top of the hill.

The bark rubbings were taken at about breast to head height on main trunks. The approximate DBH (diameter at breast height) of each tree is noted below each rubbing so as to give an idea of size and age.

Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris). DBH ~ 1.5 ft.

Pedunculate or English oak (Quercus robur). DBH ~ 1 ft.

European larch (Larix decidua). DBH ~ 1.5 ft.

European beech (Fagus sylvatica). DBH ~ 2 ft.

Birch (Betula) – probably downy (pubescens), maybe silver (pendula). DBH ~ 0.5 ft.

Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia). DBH ~ 1 ft.

Posted in Miscellany

A wander in Millstones Wood (24th October 2008)

I went for a wander in the Millstones Wood this afternoon. We’re well and truly into Autumn now. I know, I’ve seen it… and I have evidence:

(The photos in this post can be viewed at a higher resolution – click them to open their Flickr pages, then click the 'All sizes' button.)

The Sun shines through the soon-to-be-bare branches of beeches yet hung with green and gold leaves.

I reckon this burnt-looking thing is some kind of fungus. I’ve seen them in the same woods but in spring-time, so I don’t know if they can appear like this all year round or whether they have some amazing ability to stick around through the winter. I also wonder if they only look like this dead and shrivelled, or if this is how they actually grow. Can you, dear reader, satisfy my queries? Email’s at top o’ page.

A reclining beech.

Another reclining beech. Judging by how its roots haven’t regrown, I’d say it’s either not been down long or it went over quickly.

This beech branch hung so low that its lowest point was covered by earth. It may have then put down roots and become an independent tree – a process known as ‘layering’.

Picturesque larches in front of an outcropping of millstone grit.

Good old semi-natural mixed woodland. I can see pine, oak and beech in this photo and there is larch just out of shot on the right.

This bark around a hollow in the trunk of a massive old fallen rowan is riddled with pellets from an air rifle. Someone’s been doing a lot of shooting.

Posted in Gone for a walk

Collecting rowan berries and downy birch seeds

There’s been a small voice in the back of my head lately and it’s been telling me to go and get the berries and seeds I need for treeblog’s Set C. So today I went on a wander to see what I could do about it. I’m going to be planting three species of tree for Set C: downy birch (Betula pubescens), rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), and sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa).

the rowan

I already have some rowan berries from the fallen rowan that I collected on the 15th of August, six weeks ago to the day. It’s a good job I collected those when I did because the last time I saw the fallen rowan, just over a week ago, there wasn’t a single berry left on it. But there was another rowan I wanted berries from – the one in the photo above - and I’ve paid it a visit today. Its berries were very ripe and quite a lot had been shed. I gathered up a fair few, some from the ground and some still on the tree.

the downy birch

My next port of call was this big old downy birch (probably - it might be a silver birch), only a short walk from the rowan. Whilst not a very tall tree, its short trunk has an impressive girth to about one metre from the floor, where it splits into numerous spreading branches. The approach to this tree is a little bit special. You have to squeeze down a narrow cow-made path through a cluster of young birches and pines, which happen to frame this picturesque tree as it squats in its own little clearing on the edge of open moorland. When I arrived, seeds were collected. Hundreds of them.

a pearl-studded puffball

There were a lot of these pearl-studded puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum) under the big birch. I saw plenty of these looking well past their best at the end of February down in Thetford Forest when I was collecting data from a silver birch provenance trial. My guess is that this species of puffball is associated with birch, perhaps in a mycorrhizal role.

In other treeblog news... (1) I still need to collect sweet chestnuts, but I might not be able to get my hands on them for a while yet; and (2) this blog is well overdue a Set A update.

Posted in Gone for a walk + The treeblog trees

Collecting berries from a favourite rowan, Upper Midhope

It was a nice day on Friday, so I went for a walk around Langsett. I’ve been fancying growing some rowans for treeblog’s Set C (coming 2009), and it just so happened that my route took me past a couple of my favourites. The berries on the first rowan weren’t quite ripe, so I’ll have to go back in a week or so. The second rowan is a tree with plenty of character. Situated at the edge of a country lane a stone’s throw away from the pretty hamlet of Upper Midhope, half of the tree is a bleached silver skeleton. The other half of the tree, which forks in two about a metre from the ground, is also mostly dead but retains enough greenery to keep ticking over. It’s a beautiful tree, as you can see yourself from the photos below, which I took one fine day in the 2006 heatwave – August 24th.

the rowan

the bleached, dead half

looking up at the foliage

Until two days ago, I don’t think I’ve been past this rowan in the two years since I took those photos. Nevertheless, I had this charismatic tree in mind when I set off on my walk and it was my purpose to collect some of its berries for treeblog’s Set C. Imagine my dismay as I crested a ridge and couldn’t see the tree in its usual place. As I got closer, I found out why.

the rowan resting on a dry stone wall, having fallen over

What a shame! I don’t know if it was blown down in a storm, or whether it just collapsed – the base was pretty rotten (see the final photograph). The tree is still alive and its usual canopy is alive and well, complete with several clusters of berries. I guess the tree must have come down this year, judging by the angle of this year’s growth. What I don’t know is how long it has been this way. If it only came down recently – and we had some pretty nasty weather a week or so ago – the foliage may still look healthy even though the tree has no chance of surviving the coming months. Yet I hope that there is still enough vascular tissue connecting the roots to the now-horizontal upper parts for this rowan to continue to live for years to come. I also hope no farmer comes along and clears it away.

I collected a couple of berry clusters, which will be planted for treeblog’s next set. It’ll be a pleasure to raise this tree’s offspring.

the rowan lying on the wall

the rotten base

[Update (14 February 2009): The rowan is still in situ and it is still alive!]

[Update (24th May 2009): I visited today but the fallen tree has been cleared away, leaving just a stump. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that its seeds I planted for Set C germinate.]

Posted in The treeblog trees

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (27th July 2008) Part 1: Sorbus arranensis and Sorbus pseudofennica

Well, I was down at Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Gardens on Sunday (third time that week) and it was a glorious day. I had myself a good time walking around in the sun admiring trees and taking several hundred photographs. My favourite bit of the Gardens is the Highlands area just on the left when you come in at the East Gate. Not because it is particularly well laid out, or that there are any especially interesting specimens in there, but because it is planted with the things that I am most familiar with and fond of: Scots pines, silver and downy birches, gorse, heather, bilberries (blaeberries), rowans, brooms, alders, foxgloves… These kinds of flora are familiar to me from trips to the Highlands, but mainly from living on the edge of the Peak District, where all of the above are abundant.

Anyway, three small trees in the Botanics' Highland bit specially caught hold of my attention after writing this recent post on Arran whitebeams. Two of the trees were Sorbus arranensis (a.k.a. Arran whitebeam); the third was a Sorbus pseudofennica (a.k.a. Arran cut-leaved whitebeam a.k.a. Arran service tree a.k.a. bastard mountain ash). Neither of the two species are found anywhere in the world except the Isle of Arran. Says the Forestry Commission:

Only a few hundred trees of each species exist, clinging perilously to the steep rocky slopes of two remote glens at the north of the island.

The Arran whitebeam was first recorded in 1897...

The other rare hybrid, the Arran cut-leaved whitebeam, was first noted in 1952. [...] Both species were more abundant in the past, but have been forced to retreat to their restricted enclaves as the island was progressively improved for agriculture.

small Sorbus arranensis

This is the smaller of the two S. arranensis trees. As you can see, it is only a young 'un.

leaves on the small Sorbus arranensis

And these are some of the leaves of the small S. arranensis.

larger Sorbus arranensis

This is the larger S. arranensis. A poor photo, but it gives an idea of the form.

 Sorbus arranensis leaves

Leaves from the top...

 Sorbus arranensis leaves

...and some from the bottom.

S. pseudofennica

The S. pseudofennica, squeezed in between a rowan and a birch.

S. pseudofennica leaves

S. pseudofennica leaves...

S. pseudofennica leaves

...more leaves...

S. pseudofennica leaves (undersides)

...and the silvery undersides of even more leaves.

I found a paper by Robertson, Newton and Ennos (my dissertation supervisor and one of my old lecturers) - Multiple hybrid origins, genetic diversity and population genetic structure of two endemic Sorbus taxa on the Isle of Arran, Scotland (Molecular Ecology (2004) 13, 123–134) – that clears up the origins of both of these Arran whitebeams. From the abstract:

In this study, we use an array of genetic markers in a population analysis to elucidate the hybrid origins of the Arran whitebeams Sorbus arranensis and S. pseudofennica, two woody plant taxa endemic to the Isle of Arran, Scotland. It has been proposed that S. arranensis was derived by hybridization between S. aucuparia [rowan] and S. rupicola [rock or cliff whitebeam], and that subsequent hybridization between S. arranensis and S. aucuparia gave rise to S. pseudofennica. Analyses of species-specific isozyme, nuclear intron and chloroplast DNA markers confirm the proposed origin of S. arranensis, and indicate that S. aucuparia was the female parent in the hybridization. Analysis of microsatellite markers suggests that there have been at least three origins of S. arranensis on Arran. Microsatellite markers also support the proposed hypothesis for the origin of S. pseudofennica, and indicate at least five hybrid origins of this taxon.

And from the Introduction, an explanation of the origins of S. rupicola, the subject of the last treeblog post:

...S. rupicola... (rock whitebeam), itself an autotetraploid derivative of S. aria [common whitebeam]. It is most likely that S. aucuparia was the female parent involved in this cross because S. rupicola produces seed apomictically, but has significant pollen fertility of 20%.

Being the kind and generous human being that I am, I have attempted to sum up all of that information in the following simplified graphic:

Arran whitebeams family tree (haha!)

Now, I think I'll end the post here. I have more material for a future post about whitebeams in Holyrood Park (again), but I think regular readers must be sick of Sorbi by now so I'll lay off 'em for awhile!

Bonus picture!


When I was photographing the S. pseudofennica this fly accosted my hand. So I took a photograph and was pleased to see what a big fly looks like from so close.

Posted in Miscellany

Derwent Dam tree photographs

alder in front of Derwent Dam

Alders (Alnus glutinosa) in front of Derwent Dam.

Derwent Reservoir, in the center of the Peak District, has quite an unusual style of dam wall. Instead of the grassy embankments used to dam most reservoirs in the vicinity of the Peak District, the dam wall at Derwent (and neighbouring Howden Reservoir) is much steeper and faced with huge stone blocks. Large gothic towers loom at either end of the dam wall, and in wet weather, water overflows between the towers and cascades down the great stone wall in a magnificant spectacle.

elder inflorescence in front of Derwent Dam

Elder (Sambucus nigra) inflorescence in front of Derwent Dam.

During World War II, Derwent Reservoir was used for bombing practice by the RAFs 'Dambusters' (617 Squadron). The dam at Derwent was used as it was of a similar design to those in Germany's Ruhr Valley, which were to be the target of RAF bombing raids; with the dams destroyed and the reservoirs empty, it was hoped that German industry would be seriously impeded and thus their war effort hampered.

rowan (mountain ash) in front of Derwent Dam

Rowan a.k.a. mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia) in front of Derwent Dam.

The barrel-shaped 'bouncing bombs' used by the Dambusters were designed by Barnes Wallis. The bombs were dropped spinning rapidly backwards at a low altitude in order for them to bounce over the reservoir surface to reach the dam wall. They would then spin downwards to the base of the wall before detonating.

Scots pine in front of Derwent Dam

Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in front of Derwent Dam.

I visited Derwent Dam this afternoon and took these photographs. Thanks to the recent very wet weather, the water rushing down the dam wall made for a very impressive sight.

hawthorn above Derwent Dam

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) above Derwent Dam.

Posted in Gone for a walk

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