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Set A update: grey alders (December 2013)

While I was back down in Yorkshire for Christmas my father and I went off to check up on the Treeblog Set A grey alders, which have now been fending for themselves in the wild since April 2010. I am pleased to report that on the day of our visit - the 28th of December (Set A Day 2467) - all three trees were alive and looking as healthy as they possibly could be for deciduous trees in the middle of winter. I last visited my alders in June with a couple of friends, when we filmed this video outlining their story so far…


So what has changed in the intervening six months?

Grey alder No. 1 on the 28th of December with my father for scale. Despite being solidly stuck into the ground, No. 1 leans significantly to the north. I think this lean has become more pronounced since my last visit, presumably because of the lack of shelter from wind funnelling down the wee valley No. 1 calls home.

I’m not particularly bothered by the lean. Who knows? Perhaps it will correct itself. The neighbouring rowans hardly seem to have been bothered too much by the wind.

Mature female catkins on grey alder No. 1.

On this visit I counted two clusters of mixed immature male and female catkins and five clusters of mature female catkins, or ‘cones’. I first noticed catkins on No. 1 in March 2012 – back then it was a single cluster of immature female catkins (with the attached remains of a solitary flowering male catkin). On a visit in October 2012 these female catkins had progressed to near-enough full size but were still green; I also noticed a couple of clusters of immature male catkins (preparing to flower in spring 2013). On my last visit, in June 2013, I saw a few clusters of immature female catkins – these are now matured into the woody cones I saw a couple of weeks ago.

The nasty grazing wounds inflicted on No. 1’s lower stem soon after planting out are continuing to close up as more woundwood is laid down. It looks like a rabbit has left droppings here too, although why it needed to leave them so close up against my tree is unclear.

You may or may not know this but alder No. 1 stands about 2 km away from Nos. 2 & 3. A fortnight after planting Nos. 2 & 3, my father and I planted Nos. 1 & 4* on the 14th of April 2010 and afterwards, for whatever reason, we left a record of our passing by on my preferred route between the two spots. We scrawled a message on a piece of papery downy birch bark and hid it in a nook beside an ancient stream crossing point. Rather surprisingly, that piece of bark remains in a remarkably well-preserved state in that very nook to this day! Here it is on the 28th of December…

* Grey alder No. 4 was sadly eaten to death by sheep within a year of being planted out.

…and here it is on the day we left it there, almost four years ago!

Grey alder No. 2 on the 28th of December. Still the best of the alders - it has the straightest stem, no stem damage from sheep, and by far the most catkins.

Silhouetted against the sky at twilight, three woody cones (2013’s female catkins) take centre stage while multiple clusters of immature male catkins hang in the background, biding their time until spring arrives.* Besides the three cones in this photo there was another one on its own, three clusters of female-only immature catkins, and 18 clusters of mixed male/female immature catkins. No. 2 had no catkins at all in 2012, but on my visit in June 2013 I counted at least six clusters of immature female catkins (no male catkins though).

* Interestingly, while walking around Drummond Hill up near Loch Tay on the 3rd of January I noticed an alder (probably common alder, Alnus glutinosa) and a couple of hazels (Corylus avellana) that were already unfurling their male catkins into spring mode! A bit early, surely? And yesterday, in Edinburgh, I noticed a couple of hazels by the Water of Leith that were doing exactly the same thing. Is this because of an unusually mild winter? Back in Sheffield I wouldn’t expect to see alder or hazel catkins flowering until February.

This bark on the stem of alder No. 2 caught my eye – there’s something snakeish about it.

Grey alder No. 3 – very tall and sturdy.

No. 3 had its top broken out in April 2011. I don’t know what happened to cause that, but it recovered quickly and all that remains to tell of that distant event is a slight kink in the stem, plus a fragment of the old broken leader. The kink is apparent in the full-tree photo above and shows that No. 3 has roughly doubled in height over the last two-and-a-half years.

I couldn’t find any cones or catkins on No. 3 on this visit, nor could I find any in June 2012. In October 2011 however, I spotted at least six clusters of immature male catkins.

As you can see by this shot of its base, No. 3 is now almost totally ‘recovered’ from the early sheep damage. Hopefully 2014 will see all of the stem wounds nicely sealed up.

Now then, if you’re desperate for some stats I’m afraid I don’t have any up-to-date height measurements… but please feast your eyes on these stem girth measurements taken at both ground level and 1.5 metres from the ground:

Grey alder Stem circ. at base (cm)
Oct 2012
Stem circ. at base (cm)
Jun 2013
Stem circ. at base (cm)
Dec 2013
Oct ’12 – Dec ’13 Increase (cm)
No. 1 15 14 15 0
No. 2 18 18 19 1
No. 3 18 19 21 3
Grey alder Stem circ. at 1.5 m (cm)
Oct 2012
Stem circ. at 1.5 m (cm)
Jun 2013
Stem circ. at 1.5 m (cm)
Dec 2013
Oct ’12 – Dec ’13 Increase (cm)
No. 1 7 8 8 1
No. 2 9 10 11 2
No. 3 9 10 12 3

No. 3 is doing well for itself, isn’t it? I’ll be back to visit the alders again in the summer, when I’ll try to get some height measurements. Will we be seeing a five metre tall Treeblog tree in 2014?


Posted in The treeblog trees





A beech at the height of its powers

They don’t come much better than this: an enormous beech (Fagus sylvatica) at the top of its game, yet net showing any sign of decline. It is one of a long row of mature beeches running mysteriously through the middle of Spout House Wood in the in delightful Ewden Valley. Who planted them, and when, and why?

In the bottom of the valley More Hall Reservoir is so full it’s overflowing. We’ve had a hell of a lot of rain recently, but the local reservoirs already filled in a short period in the autumn after spending most of last year half empty. It’s been so long since they’ve been properly full that it’s weird seeing them like this. I’d gotten used to seeing More Hall Reservoir as I photographed it in these posts from January and September 2011!

Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa), an ancient woodland indicator species, in Morehall Reservoir Plantation. I confess I hadn’t a clue what it was until I looked it up. I need to work on my herb ident!

Much of the plantation was clear-felled at the end of 2010 but it has since been replanted. I had a look inside a fair few of the tree guards and they all contained baby hazels (Corylus avellana).

This is one herb I do know: wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), another indicator of ancient woodland.

Downy birch (Betula pubescens) catkins. The drooping yellowish catkins are made up of male flowers and will soon be dispensing pollen. The upright green catkins are made up of female flowers, and will dispense seeds later in the year when they too will be hanging downwards.

The view north across Ewden, taken with my back to Spout House Wood. The hand of spring has given the landscape a welcome boost of greenery.

Back to that sublime beech…

A mind-boggling number of branches!


Posted in Gone for a walk





Summer in March: A walk on the moors

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.

Birch.

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 in Gone for a walk





Perfect Sunday walk around Dale Dike and Strines Reservoirs (Part 2)

This post continues from Part 1.

Razor strop (Piptoporus betulinus) on a dead birch.

Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) on the wing over Strines Reservoir.

Male catkins on a common alder (Alnus glutinosa).

Male catkins with immature female catkins, the purplish ‘match heads’ attached to the twig above the male catkins which will mature into woody cones that remain on the tree the year round.

Common toad (Bufo bufo) doing the breast stroke in a wee streamlet (in Pears House Clough* I think) that flows into Strines Reservoir from the south. [* Apparently Boot’s Folly was built from stone taken from the disused Bents Farm and Pear House Farm when they were demolished.]

Looking north-east from tussocky Broad Carr.

The view across Strines Reservoir to Boot’s Folly (post ice-&-a-slice-enhanced refreshment at the ancient Strines Inn). Sugworth Hall, the home of Charles Boot, is hidden by the eminence on which his folly stands.

A long-dead tree that improbably remains standing, propped up by a birch.

Continued in Part 3.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Farewell, horse chestnut 32, thou sufferer of bleeding canker

Horse chestnut No. 32 on the first day of May.

Right at the very beginning of this year, by Broomhead Reservoir in Ewden Valley, I discovered a horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) with several Daedaleopsis confragosa (blushing bracket / thin walled maze polypore) brackets poking from its trunk. The tree obviously wasn’t in good health; it had recently shed a large branch and much of the tree was dead. I realised that it was suffering from bleeding canker, the bacterial disease which has stormed Britain and now infects roughly half of all our horse chestnuts.

I went to check up on the tree again on the 1st of May and noticed that a number had been painted on it. A few other bleeding canker-infected horse chestnuts nearby had also been labelled. I guessed that these trees were going to be felled soon. Someone else had noticed that these chestnuts were infected!

Maze-like gills on the underside of one of the D. confragosa brackets.

A different type of fungus had appeared a little further around the trunk. I think these are Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster mushrooms).

Here’s the wound where the largish branch had dropped off. I’ve noticed that while bleeding canker doesn’t have a noticeable impact on leaf growth – from a distance diseased trees look pretty normal – infected chestnuts are highly prone to losing whole limbs. The bleeding canker infection must seriously weaken the structure of the tree.

The most noticeable symptoms of bleeding canker are massive bark cracks on the trunk or major branches; these can lead to whole sections of bark breaking away from the tree. I suppose this is how the disease can eventually kill its host. Bleeding cankers like this one are (surprise, surprise) another symptom of… bleeding canker.

Anyway - despite its troubles, No. 32 was still putting on a brave face! It was just beginning to flower at the start of May.


* * * * *

I drove past at the weekend and noticed that the numbered trees had all been felled, so I returned with my camera on Tuesday (May 24th). There isn’t much left of No. 32. A section of the trunk has been left in situ, along with the stump, but there is no trace of the rest of the tree. Everything (branches, twigs, leaves, the lot) has been taken off-site – perhaps to be disposed of in accordance with whatever regulations apply regarding trees infected by bleeding canker.

The stump. It looks like there was some decay in the centre. Was the whole right-hand side of the tree dead? It’s hard to say from the stump.

The stump and the stem, with some of the D. congragosa brackets still attached.

The other end of the stem (top end). Decay is apparent in the bottom-right quarter.

Some of the D. confragosa brackets had broken off and were lying on the floor, where they have begun to go mouldy. I pulled the best remaining specimen off the trunk to take home as a keepsake.


Posted in Pests and diseases





A summery walk in spring (Part One)

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 in Gone for a walk





Spring is sprung

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

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

What a tangle!

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

Hole in the bole.

Looking down into Ewden Valley from Heads Lane.

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

The bluebells are out in Yew Trees Wood!

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

* * * * *

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


Posted in Gone for a walk





Lambs’ tails & other signs of spring

Lambs’ tails - the all-male catkins of hazel (Corylus avellana). I took the photographs in this post today in the rural Ewden Valley, but I saw hazels with their catkins already fully unfurled in the middle of January in Sheffield.

This is a female flower, which will hopefully grow into a hazelnut one day. Both male and female parts are found on the same individual, i.e. hazel is a monoecious species.

This hazel growing at Carr House Meadows (a nature reserve in the care of the Sheffield Wildlife Trust) was absolutely covered with golden catkins!

I only found out about the flowers of hazel a couple of years ago, but I now know them as a most welcome sign of approaching spring. How could I ever have missed them?

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) buds are almost ready to open...

…and these beech (Fagus sylvatica) buds have certainly grown in size, tiny cigars no longer.

What a display!

Hazel catkins have been out in force for a few weeks now and many of them are now past their best, turning brown and dry.

More of the female flowers. Is it just me or do they bear a slight resemblance to tiny cuttlefish?


Posted in Gone for a walk





Spring and decay (24th April 2010)

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 in Gone for a walk





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

A twin-stemmed beech (Fagus sylvatica).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted in Gone for a walk





BudWatch (21st March 2010)

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

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

Birch (probably downy birch, Betula pubescens).

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

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

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

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

Hawthorn (probably the common hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna).

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

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

Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa). Unassuming, eh?

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


Posted in Gone for a walk





Birch catkins. FotT #45.

Closed male catkins on a leafless birch yesterday.

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The forty-fifth edition of the Festival of the Trees, Voice, is now online at The Voltage Gate. Go and enjoy it!

* * * * *

treeblog has been included in a list of ‘50 Amazing Nature Photography Bloggers’. If that sort of thing floats your boat, go and check it out.


Posted in Miscellany





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





Five favourite photos from 2009

A few weeks ago I had a look back through the photos that have appeared on treeblog over the last year and picked out my favourites. Then I agonised over whittling them down to a final five – my five favourite treeblog photos from 2009.

22nd January 2009 The Lonely Oak on Whitwell Moor at sunset. The Lonely Oak, an English or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur), is very probably the tree that I have photographed the most and very probably the tree that has appeared most on treeblog (excluding those that I’ve planted myself). It stands within a half-hour walk of my house, on one of my favoured walking routes; it has tons of character; and it is highly photogenic: it’s the Lonely Oak. This photo originally appeared in the 32nd edition of the Festival of the Trees (February 2009).

2nd February 2009 We received a pretty heavy snowfall at the beginning of last February. This was the first decent amount of snow we’d had in ages so I went on a walk to make the most of it. Out in the fields, the snow was drifting behind the walls. Walking along a footpath hidden beneath this drift, I was ploughing through waist-high snow in places. It was either that or slide down a gorse-covered hill! The wind blowing through the gaps in the dry stone wall was sculpting fantastic shapes… Millstones Wood can be seen in the left half of the background.

21st March 2009 Larch flowers – probably European larch (Larix decidua). The one on the right is a female flower, known colloquially as larch roses – they take a year to ripen into seed-containing cones. (The flower on the left is too undeveloped for me to tell whether it’s a male or female.) I find it quite humbling to think that that last spring was the first time I ever came across these beautiful little flowers. How did I ever manage to miss them before? Spring 2009 was a fantastic spring - loads of surprisingly warm days with amazing clear blue skies. I was regularly out and about making personal discoveries in the shape of alder catkins, hazel, goat willow, and, of course, larch roses. Saturday the 21st of March was one of those glorious halcyon days.

24th May 2009 The 24th of May was a beautiful day in early summer and I went out for a ride on the pushbike. I was cycling down a firebreak in a conifer plantation next to Langsett Reservoir when I spotted this perfect dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) clock almost glowing in the late afternoon sunlight as it filtered weakly through the trees.

12th September 2009 This whopping great fungus was growing from the base of a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in Millstones Wood. I didn’t know what species it was at the time, but I now think it’s chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus). [Update (July 2010): Wrong! It’s a dyer’s mazegill (Phaeolus schweinitzii).] I took this photograph on a walk with my dad one lovely day at the end of summer. My main aim for the walk was to collect rowan berries - which are scheduled to be planted as treeblog Set D(r) this March - but it also took in Pike Lowe, Ewden Force, and some incredible moorland along the way. Perfect.


* * * * *

You may also be interested in…
Five favourite photos from 2007 & Five favourite photos from 2008


Posted in Miscellany





treeblog update (Set A, Day 875): Scots pines (& grey alders). Eggs & caterpillars. Eucalyptus flowers.

Scots pine Alpha earlier today (Day 875).

Scots pine Gamma.

A bit of an eclectic post is this one, gang! First of all there’s a bit of a treeblog Set A update, but only for the two Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris), the post-Set A goat willow (Salix caprea - formerly the PSAUS), and one of the grey alders (Alnus incana). Normally I’d lump the pines, willow and all the alders together but I haven’t been able to this time because the grey alders are too big. I like to have a nice, clear background on these update photos y’see, and for most of the Set A trees I have a piece of plywood that’s perfect for the job. This summer the grey alders have outgrown it by quite a ways. I had a background trick up my sleeve for the last Scots pine & grey alder update (27th June – Day 822) though: I hung a grey blanket from the washing line. But in the intervening one-and-a-half months (sorry for the wait) the alders have rocketed up and are now so big that even my double-bed sheet hung from the line is too small to make do! What I tried for a background this time around – a wall of conifer – has proved so useless I’ve only bothered putting up one of the photos. A green alder against green conifer scales. It doesn’t exactly stand out from the background…

Grey alder No. 1 (with decreased brightness and increased contrast). Well camouflaged, eh?

Ohhh, by the way, I got out the tape measure and took some heights. I did the same when I did the last update, so now we know how much the trees grown in the last 53 days:

Scots pine Alpha: 27 Jun: 48 cm  //  19 Aug: 50 cm  //  Difference: 2 cm.
Scots pine Gamma: 27 Jun: 27 cm  //  19 Aug: 30 cm  //  Difference: 3 cm.
Grey alder No. 1: 27 Jun: 105 cm  //  19 Aug: 196 cm  //  Difference: 91 cm.
Grey alder No. 2: 27 Jun: 71 cm  //  19 Aug: 150 cm  //  Difference: 79 cm.
Grey alder No. 3: 27 Jun: 109 cm  //  19 Aug: 170 cm  //  Difference: 61 cm.
Grey alder No. 4: 27 Jun: 120 cm  //  19 Aug: 186 cm  //  Difference: 66 cm.
Post-Set A goat willow: 27 Jun: 25 cm  //  19 Aug: 33 cm  //  Difference: 8 cm.

That’s right! Grey alder No. 4 has lost its status as treeblog Champion to grey alder No. 1!!! Sensational!!! Grey alder No. 4 (the Beast) has been the tallest treeblog tree since early June 2007, when it took the crown from Scots pine Alpha. Other changes in the last month and half include grey alder No. 1 nearly doubling in height and grey alder No. 2 more than doubling in height! Some of my trees, that I planted two-and-a-half years ago, are now taller than me!

The post-Set A goat willow. See that bit of yellow on the uppermost leaf on the right-hand branch of the fork?

It looks like some kind of nasty fungus that is killing the leaf and the terminal leaf bud. I think the same thing may have happened last autumn which caused the seedling to fork. Will this branch end up forking again? Why is this happening? Is it something young willows are prone to?

Back to grey alder No. 1. On the underside of one of its leaves, this strange caterpillar that looks a bit like it’s covered in tiny flakes of coconut (like those you get on Tunnock’s Snowballs). No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get the bugger in focus, but I think it’s clear enough for someone out there to make an ID. Anyone?

That was today. I photographed this patch of eggs on one of the alders’ leaves on the 9th of August just as tiny-weeny caterpillars were hatching out.

These insect eggs were spotted on Scots pine Alpha the same day. I don’t know what was in them, but they have all hatched and a new batch has been laid since.

Cider gum No. 14’s flower buds still haven’t opened. Here they are on the 9th, and they look pretty much the same today.

When I was up in the Highlands for the first week of August, the cottage we stayed in had a young eucalyptus (about ten to fifteen foot tall) growing in the garden. This is one of its flowers. I don’t know what kind of eucalyptus it was, but it’s quite possible it was a cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii) like mine.


Posted in The treeblog trees





Habitat restoration in Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve

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.

Adapted from the National Trust for Scotland’s Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve page:

… [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.

[Taken from a leaflet available to download from the National Trust for Scotland’s Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve page.]


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 in Gone for a walk + Holidays and field trips





Cider gum No. 14 on the verge of flowering at age two!


I was moving the treeblog trees out of the way earlier today to make room for lawn mowage, when to my great surprise and delight I noticed flower buds on cider gum No. 14 (not No. 11 as originally reported)! How No. 14 has managed to do this at the tender age of two years old, when it is about as tall as my knee, I have no idea. But this is exciting stuff! Second generation treeblog seedlings in 2010?

Cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii) flower buds on No. 14, which was planted as part of Set A 856 days ago on the 28th of March 2007.


* * * * *

In other Set A news, Scots pine Alpha and cider gum No. 13 are now being stabilised by canes after being blown askew during recent stormy weather. Two or three of the other cider gums also need realigning but I’m all out of canes. Photographic updates of all the Set A and Set C trees will be appearing after next weekend – until then I’m going to be internetless in the Highlands. Speaking of Set C, the downy birch seedlings aren’t looking very healthy these days. I wonder what’s up?


* * * * *

Finally, the Nature Conservancy want their fourth annual photo competition plugging:

We're looking for help illustrating the beauty of our planet and the need for greater conservation of our environment. By participating in our contest, not only will you inspire people to get out into nature, but you'll be helping to produce great photos that we can use to inspire others, as well.



The winning photo (selected by a public vote on nature.org this winter) will be seen by millions of nature lovers, and will be featured on both our 2011 nature calendar and on nature.org.

We are looking for your most breathtaking images of nature, including lands, waters, plants, animals or people. Photographers keep full ownership of their photographs but grant us the right to use their image in support of our mission. The contest runs through September 30th.

Full contest details and rules are available at: http://www.nature.org/photo.


Posted in The treeblog trees





A walk in the sun (Part 4): back through Millstones Wood

Three and a half weeks after my walk in the sun on the lovely first of June, in this final post of a quartet, I invite you to once more join me in retracing my steps via the medium of photography. In Part 1 I walked over Whitwell Moor; in Part 2 I set off down the salt path into the Ewden valley; in Part 3 I followed the salt path to Mortimer road; and in Part 4 we shall climb back up the valley-side to Millstones Wood.


BRADFIELD PARISH COUNCIL
PUBLIC
FOOTPATH
TO

BOLSTERSTONE

SHEFFIELD CO-OP RAMBLERS
1921-1973
TO THE MEMORY OF
J.M. BIRKHEAD. J.P.

The body of water to the right is Broomhead Reservoir. Millstones Wood occupies the horizon to the left of the signpost.

A common or English bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), the native bluebell of the British Isles. The English bluebell is threatened by hybridisation on a large scale with the non-native Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica).

Millstones Wood, lying one buttercup-filled field away.

Young master oak - probably an English oak (Quercus robur).

A shaggy-looking European larch (Larix decidua).

The floor of the wood was covered with these: the fallen male catkins of European beech (Fagus sylvatica).

Two catkins still on the tree, along with a developing cupule holding two beechnuts.

The fierce sun beating down through the needles and branches of a pine.

Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris).


Posted in Gone for a walk





A walk in the sun (Part 3): on to Mortimer Road

Continuing this series of photos from a walk in the sun on the glorious first of June… carrying on down the salt path to reach Mortimer Road.

Flowering hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna).

A big old yew tree – in the Ewden valley. Is Ewden a corruption of Yew Dene, dene being an old British word for a wooded valley? There aren’t very many yews in Ewden today at any rate!

Yew (Taxus baccata) leaves.

The green roof overhead.

From woodland the path opens into this sloping grassy field. I bet it would be perfect for cheese rolling.

Which one do you prefer?

Bear in mind that this photo was taken three weeks ago, but look how far behind this ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is lagging in the leaf stakes. Ash is the last tree to come into leaf in these parts, but the majority of the local ashes were by this time halfway through flushing.

Shady woodland on the bank of a tiny stream, a tributary of Ewden Beck

Mortimer Road just above where the path comes out. From Jack Branston’s History of Stocksbridge:

[Mortimer Road] was named after Hans Winthrop Mortimer, Lord of the Manor of Bamford who died in 1807. He had the idea of linking the Peak with the woollen manufacturing districts of the West Riding and so reap a profit from the road-tolls. This road was to run from Penistone Bridge to Grindleford Bridge, starting from Penistone, over Midhope Bridge to Bardike and Agden Bridge, past the Strines Inn and so on. In the wall at [I think he means outside the Strines Inn] you can see a stone built in which reads “Take Off”. This was another of Mortimer’s ideas; whilst wagon horses were resting he used chain horses to pull the wagons to the given point, then took them off and returned for another wagon.

The Sanderson – Bradfield and Beyond site says that the road was built in the 1770s and that Mortimer died in poor circumstances after failing to comply with the Authorising Act of 1770. And from this Flickr page, part of a comment by ‘evissa’, who mentions a small book called Mortimer Road: the turnpike that failed:

[Mortimer] owned property in Essex, Derbyshire and London and was MP for Shaftsbury. Alas he died bankrupt.


Hawthorn flowers in their prime.


Posted in Gone for a walk





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

Delectable hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) flowers.

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

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

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

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

Goat willow leaves.

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

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

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


Posted in Gone for a walk





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