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Posted on December 9, 2013 by Ash
Autumn is once again a receding memory, growing dimmer everyday as we continue the inexorable slide into the darkest depths of winter… But try hard enough and it’s still possible to cast our minds back to a time when the trees still had leaves; when warm shades of gold, orange and red coloured the landscape; when the mercury didn’t sit so low in the thermometer.
This towering deodar (Cedrus deodara) grows close to the East Gate. It is a beautiful and imposing tree, one of the finest in the gardens.
Looking up into the hefty crown of the deodar - how many branches? How many growth points? What tonnage of timber?
A neighbouring big, old sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) seems sadly to be in serious decline. The tree was rather sparsely foliated at the time of this visit, but at that point in the autumn natural leaf loss would have been premature. It’s a shame because it’s another fine tree. A major branch has a few old wounds on it, one of which sported a nice bit of fungus. It’ll be interesting to see how the tree looks in spring.
I came across these Pholiota squarrosa mushrooms growing at the base of a big European beech (Fagus sylvatica). They were also growing around the base of a nearby heartnut, a variant of the Japanese walnut (Juglans ailantifolia var. cordiformis). P. squarrosa is a parasitic white-rot fungus that attacks a wide range of host trees.
This mushroom was growing under a pine tree… …along with its wee pal.
This dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) in the Chinese Hillside part of the gardens was positively radiant. The needles - here so vibrantly illuminated - are now long gone, this being a deciduous species.
This oak really stood out from the crowd!
A nice cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii) growing in front of the 1960s glasshouses. At least this tree will keep its leaves all winter long.
Autumnal maple leaves.
On this visit I was quite keen to get some photos of the mushroom population. There weren’t so many of a big enough size to stand out as I strolled along, but if I just stopped for a moment to study the mulch that surrounds the base of every tree, there were far more mushrooms to be seen than most people would have realised. Perhaps these are waxcaps of some sort?
The distinctive spiny cupules of sweet chestnut. Apparently the nuts can’t attain their full size in the British climate, so the roasting chestnuts that appear in the shops for winter are imported from the continent. I had a bag of roast chestnuts at Edinburgh’s European Christmas Market last week – they were enormous and very tasty!
I’m fairly sure this is a hare’s foot inkcap (Coprinus lagopus). This mushroom is quite interesting; according to Wikipedia, “As the mushroom matures, the shape of the cap becomes more conical or convex, and finally flattens out, with edges curved upward. The veil is initially whitish, then turns to a silvery grey or grey-brown; it eventually splits up, becoming hairy (fibrillose). ... In maturity the gill edges dissolve (deliquesce) into a black liquid. These mushrooms are evanescent, lasting only last a few hours before death…”
Posted on August 6, 2013 by Ash
A couple of panthercaps (Amanita pantherina) in Millstones Wood.
I went for a walk with my camera through Millstones Wood at the weekend to get some shots of the panthercaps which are presently abundant beneath the beeches (Fagus sylvatica) in the north-eastern part of the wood. I’d walked through the wood earlier in the week and seen all of the mushrooms but I didn’t have my camera on me, so a repeat visit was called for!
A very young mushroom – an ‘Amanita egg’. At this stage the developing mushroom is still completely contained within the unbroken veil.
This young mushroom has fully emerged from its veil, but the cap has yet to open completely. Fragments of the veil remain attached to the cap forming the distinctive ‘warts’ which are a defining feature of many Amanita species.
According to my copy of Roger Phillips’ Mushrooms, the panthercap’s habitat is “in coniferous or deciduous woodland, especially with beech; summer to autumn. Occasional to frequent.” My mushrooms were found in an area of almost exclusively beech woodland with the occasional oak thrown in. Indeed, I saw one panthercap growing right at the very foot of a mature oak, but all the others were growing from the ground litter typical of beech woodland: old rotten beechnut cupules, old rotten beech leaves, beech twigs – and precious little else. The beech and the panthercap are obviously in mycorrhizal cahoots.
The cap is “finely striate at the margin”...
The panthercap is poisonous, by the way; “may be deadly” according to Phillips.
Exiting Millstones Wood onto the grassy hilltop that commands views of the Little Don and Ewden valleys, marked on the map as The Height, another sort of fungus was common. I counted well over a dozen of these small puffballs dotted about – perhaps the mosaic puffball (Handkea utriformis)? I’m not really sure!
Posted on March 17, 2012 by Ash
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 on March 13, 2012 by Ash
Impressive ash on the way to Dale Dike Dam.
On Sunday I went walking with a couple of buddies in perfect weather through some beautiful countryside. Even though we’re not yet halfway through March it was a very good impression of summer: hot and cloudless and lovely. We set out from Lower Bradfield in the morning and walked along the south-eastern shore of Dale Dike Reservoir, looped around Strines reservoir via Boot’s Folly and the Strines Inn, then followed the north-western shore of Dale Dike back to Lower Bradfield, before climbing the hill to Upper Bradfield where we enjoyed a pint and some pub grub in the afternoon sun. It was a great way to spend a Sunday.
I’m 99% sure that this is Daldinia concentrica, a fungus going by the common names of King Alfred’s cakes, carbon balls, and cramp balls. There were a few of them growing on a dead tree by the dam wall at Dale Dike Reservoir.
This is a seriously ancient oak. It grows between the two reservoirs and when I first spotted it I was amazed – amazed because this is the first veteran oak of this class I have found in my local area. Then I was excited. It looks smaller it really is in this photograph – my photos never seem to do big trees justice – but you can see it is a tree of great antiquity; an old pollard, from the look of it. 400 years old? 500? I look forward to putting it to the tape measure!
A nice little hawthorn.
A pause on the climb up to the folly for a look back over Dale Dike Reservoir.
Boot’s Folly! This 45 foot high tower was built in 1927 by Charles Boot of nearby Sugworth Hall (son of Henry Boot, founder of the eponymous LSE-listed company) to keep his workmen occupied during the Great Depression. There are stairs inside the tower but only at the very top – the story goes that they were mostly removed in the 1970s after a cow got itself stuck up there. The folly is a well-known local landmark that can be seen from much of the surrounding country, to which it adds character. It’s my opinion that it looks most impressive when viewed from up close, with the countryside as a backdrop.
This big ash grows just south of Strines Reservoir. The two branches on the left sure reach a good distance from the stem.
Another ancient oak pollard! This one is more squat and not so tall as the oak already passed, but it’s still a reverential veteran that has witnessed the passing of more than a couple of centuries. It’s part of a line of old trees that follow the stone wall on the left.
Posted on February 28, 2012 by Ash
A fantastic avenue of lime trees running towards Blair Castle from the front gates.
The day after I walked around the Hermitage at Dunkeld I climbed Cairn Gorm - my sixth Munro - on a beautifully clear but cold day, and the day after that I set off on the long drive home. My great Scottish excursion had just about come to an end, but I still had something left to look forward to in Blair Atholl.
Many of the trees in the grove are numbered. On the left in this photo: No. 47 – a grand fir (Abies grandis), which was 62.7 metres tall with a diameter at breast height (dbh) of 180 cm when climbed by a team of arborists in February 2009, making it one of the tallest trees in Britain. Champion Trees of Britain & Ireland by Owen Johnson (The Tree Register Handbook – published 2011) gives the grand fir national champion for height as a tree at Ardkinglas, Argyll, which measured 64.3 m tall with a dbh of 210 cm in 2010 (it was planted in 1875).
Unfortunately a storm in March 2010 blew the top out of the grand fir. I think it still has a far more impressive trunk than the Douglas fir it now has to look up to.
The statue of Diana, Roman goddess of hunting. A small plaque on the plinth states that the original statue by John Cheere was erected by the second Duke of Atholl in 1737. It was replaced (by the seventh Duke) in 1893 after the ‘Great Storm’; the replacement was restored in 1997.
Champion Trees lists a giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) growing in Diana’s Grove, on a mound of earth called Mount Strange, as the national champion of its species for height; it was 54.5 m tall with a dbh of 151 cm in 2007. (A few days earlier in my trip I’d visited Britain’s widest conifer, another giant sequoia at Cluny House Gardens near Aberfeldy - Champion Trees lists that one as being just 41 m tall but having a massive dbh of 360 cm!) I did see the Mount Strange sequoia but I didn’t take a decent photo so you’ll have to make do with the mushroom.
This is the national champion Japanese larch for height. According to Champion Trees it was planted in 1886, and in 2007 was measured at 44 m tall with a dbh of 97 cm. There is, however, a Japanese larch with a greater girth at Barton House, Warwickshire – that tree is listed as having a dbh of 115 cm in 2007.
This excellent noble fir (Abies procera) was growing in the castle grounds outside of Diana’s grove. It’s neither the tallest nor the broadest of its species, but it is nevertheless an imposing beast.
Fungi growing from the base of one the limes on the grand avenue.
In my last post I wrote that the tallest tree in Britain was the Stronardron Douglas fir near Dunans Castle, Argyll, which was measured by a team of tree surgeons in February 2009 and found to be 63.79 m tall. You may however have noticed that in this post I have mentioned a 64.3 metre tall grand fir at Ardkinglas, Argyll, but this tree was measured more recently, in 2010. Champion Trees of Britain & Ireland was only published last year, and it is a definitive guide (and well worth investing in). I give it the last word:
The Ardkinglas grand fir grows in a fairly exposed spot beside Loch Fyne and, since 1991, has died back twice but regrown vigorously. In April 2010, it was climbed by a team of tree surgeons led by Iain Campbell Duncan and found to be 64.3 m tall. Its closest rival was a Douglas fir at Stronardron, Argyll, which was climbed in 2009 and was 63.8 m tall (and growing steadily); a Douglas fir of identical height at Lake Vyrnwy, Powys, split and was felled in 2011. Heights of 64 m have been claimed for ‘Dughal Mor’, a Douglas fir in Reelig Glen Wood near Inverness, Highland, but it is probably nearer 62 m. Another Douglas fir at the Hermitage, Dunkeld, Perthshire, grows on the steep bank of the Braan burn and is 65 m from its tip to the lowest exposed roots, but only 61.3 m to the ground on the top side when climbed in 2009.
…And that, I promise, was the last post from my November trip!
Posted on February 16, 2012 by Ash
A feisty River Braan flowing through the Hermitage.
More from my Scotland trip in November! The day after my tarriance in the Caledonian pinewood at Glenmore, I drove south to Dunkeld and met up with a good friend from university who I’d not seen in almost a year. Things worked out well because I wanted to visit the Hermitage to see one of Britain’s tallest trees, and he used to work in Dunkeld and was familiar with the area.
Just before the supertall tree I wished to see was this fine Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), itself an impressive enough sight with its towering, ramrod-straight stem.
The tree I came to see – the supertall tree – is the one on the right. In February 2009, a team of arborists from Sparsholt College in Hampshire were tasked with making official measurements for the Tree Register, who pointed them at four candidates for Britain’s tallest tree. The tallest was the Stronardron Douglas fir near Dunans Castle, Argyll, which measured 63.79 m (209 ft). Second place went to the grand fir in Diana’s Grove at Blair Castle, Blair Atholl (62.70 m) – which I visited at the end of my trip – while third place went to the Dughall Mor Douglas fir at Inverness (62.02 m). The fourth tallest tree was the supertall Douglas fir in my photograph, which was found to be 61.31 m tall. It is now the third tallest tree since the Blair Castle tree came a cropper in 2010 (which I’ll cover in the next post!), assuming no other reshuffling of the champs, which are raising the bar all the time.
The tallest Douglas firs in the world are found in their native range in North America. They are about the 100-metre mark! The only other species of tree with individuals taller than 100 m is Sequoia sempervirens - the California or coast redwood. The world’s tallest known living organism is a coast redwood called Hyperion – it was discovered in 2006 and has been measured at a whopping 115.6 m (379.3)!
The Black Linn Falls – seen under the bridge in the first photo - were fair roaring. I remember my mate telling me he’d seen salmon leaping up the falls before. I was well jel!
After crossing the bridge and checking out Ossian’s Hall and Ossian’s Cave we walked upstream...
We crossed back over the Braan at the Rumbling Bridge, where there are more falls, and looped back to where we started, on the way passing these mushrooms sprouting from a heavily decayed birch. Then back to Dunkeld for dinner in the Atholl Arms Hotel!
Posted on January 31, 2012 by Ash
Upstream of Brook House Bridge, the Porter or Little Don meanders beneath a landslip of its own making.
On Saturday I went for a walk with a couple of friends, fellow natives of the area who were both back for the weekend. We received a light fall of snow on Friday evening, and there was still a dusting up on the moors in the morning. I drove us to Langsett, and we set off walking anti-clockwise around the reservoir until we reached Brook House Bridge. From there we followed the Little Don upstream, keeping on the left, squelching through bogs and making scrambley diversions around little landslips. At the confluence with Mickleden Beck – where I spied several yews and what looked like three or four ancient alders on the opposite bank, which I’ll be back to take account of soon - we followed this tributary of the Little Don for a bit before clambering up the heathery valley side to meet with the Cut Gate path. At sign No. 50 we took the “path to the right” and walked back to Langsett via North America and the dam wall, arriving in time to eat a little dinner at the Wagon and Horses.
A look back after descending to the flood plain from negotiating one of the landslips.
Downy birch laden with witches’ brooms.
Looking down on Mickleden Beck and another wee landslip. This is only a young stream, not so very far from its source.
By the time we reached the Cut Gate path the sun was out and warming us nicely.
Looking across Mickleden. Just below the centre of the picture are the ancient holly and alder I discovered in October, which was the last time I was here.
One half of a pair of MTBers out for a razz.
Mickleden Beck flows away to meet the Little Don where the first trees are… There are actually sixteen wind turbines in this photo, but you’ll need to view it full-size to find them all. They were clearly visible from where I was standing – me just within the Peak District, they just outside – but were they ruining the view? In my opinion, not a bit. They aren’t really much more unnatural than the rest of the landscape
Langsett Reservoir – filled right up, despite having really quite a low amount of water as recently as my last visit in October. The other local reservoirs I pass regularly (Broomhead and Moor Hall) have also filled surprisingly rapidly over the last month – I thought they’d remain low for a long time. At Langsett this means my ‘beach’ where I sat and read a couple of times in late summer is now completely submerged.
A familiar peaceful pool - recorded by the Ordnance Survey but not given a name. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it was created by the Luftwaffe during WWII. There are a few craters in the area from the bombing of Sheffield, but that’s another story.
A happily brimmed Langsett Reservoir, serene and tranquil, peaceful and calm. But is that plantation living on borrowed time...?
Posted on December 16, 2011 by Ash
Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in the Ryvoan Pass, near Glenmore.
At Glenmore, near Aviemore, there is a remnant of the ancient Caledonian Forest. Today, only 180 km² of the Caledonian Forest remain – a pathetic 1% of its estimated maximum extent. As is usually the way, Homo sapiens is to blame for the loss. If you’d like to find out more about the Caledonian Forest, let me point you in the direction of Trees For Life, an inspirational organisation ambitiously dedicated to restoring a 2,300 km² area of the Forest. This description of the Caledonian Forest is taken from their website:
The Caledonian Forest originally covered much of the Highlands of Scotland… the native pinewoods, which formed the westernmost outpost of the boreal forest in Europe, are estimated, at their maximum extent, to have covered 1.5 million hectares as a vast primeval wilderness of Scots pines, birch, rowan, aspen, juniper and other trees. On the west coast, oak and birch trees predominated in a temperate rainforest ecosystem rich in ferns, mosses and lichens. Many species of wildlife flourished in the forest, including the European beaver, wild boar, lynx, moose, brown bear and the wolf, as well as several notable species of birds - the capercaillie, the crested tit, and the endemic Scottish crossbill, which occurs nowhere else in the world apart from the pinewoods.
A large witch’s broom on a large downy birch (Betula pubescens) – a common abnormal growth caused by the fungus Taphrina betulina.
After staying at Fearnan by Loch Tay for a couple of nights, from where I visited the Birks of Aberfeldy and Britain’s widest conifer at Cluny House Gardens, I drove north to Glenmore (climbing Schiehallion – Munro no. 5 - en route) and checked into Cairngorm Lodge, a SYHA hosel, for four nights. The next day (Nov. 20th) I meandered (really meandered) part-way up the Ryvoan Pass to An Lochan Uaine – the Green Lochan. I’d walked down the pass and past the Lochan to camp near Glenmore three years previously with two friends, towards the end of a hike from Blair Atholl to Aviemore, but that’s another story.
Looking up at one of the giant Scots pines of the Caledonian Forest.
To provide you with a very brief history of Glenmore during the past century, I’ve just skimmed through the excellent little book I bought from the Glenmore Forest Shop during my stay. The book is called ‘No rivalry but different’; Glenmore and Rothiemurchus in the 20th Century, the third publication in the Touchwood History series. It was written by Mairi Stewart and first published in 2010.
Pine foliage against a clear, blue sky – it was a lovely day for late November in the Highlands!
One hundred years ago, the estate of Glenmore was owned by the Dukes of Richmond, who used it as a hunting ground. Between 1916 and 1918, during the First World War, just over a hundred thousand trees on the estate were felled to provide timber for the war effort – to make pit props, trench supports, crates, etc. Thankfully, the 7th Duke, Charles Gordon-Lennox, is said to have stipulated that some trees were retained to allow the forest to naturally regenerate – trees to be spared had the Duke’s stamp burned onto them. In 1923, the Duke sold the 12,474 acre estate to the newly-created Forestry Commission. Although the Commission decided that three-quarters of the estate were unsuitable for forestry, it had planted around 1,300 acres by 1934 – favouring the faster-growing but non-native Sitka spruce, Norway spruce and European larch over Scots pine.
Looking up at an absolute monster of a Caledonian pine. I have never seen Scots pines like these – they really are jaw-droppingly, breathtakingly, heart-stoppingly awesome.
Glenmore escaped the forester’s axe during the Second World War because it was considered more important for training soldiers than for supplying timber (although neighbouring remnants of the Caledonian Forest, at Abernethy and Rothiemurchus, were not so lucky).
A large fragment of scaly pine bark.
Glenmore was run as both a sporting and forestry estate until 1947, when it was designated a Forest Park. This re-branding officially recognised the popularity of parts of the estate with outdoor activities enthusiasts. Extensive planting continued throughout the Forties, Fifties and Sixties, however. In the 1960s recreation at Glenmore, particularly skiing, really took off, and a lot of new infrastructure was built. By the early Eighties the campsite at Glenmore was accommodating a thousand people at its busiest, and the main focus had shifted from forestry to recreation.
In the foreground – juniper (Juniperus communis). I have never seen so much juniper! In many places it formed an almost continuous shrub layer beneath the pine trees. Very pretty, very necessary for gin, but very prickly when wading through a waist-deep sea of the stuff to get to the next big pine.
During the 1990s the Forestry Commission underwent a significant change in its outlook and policies, with the old approach of “create as much timber as possible” replaced with a more responsible approach to forest stewardship. At Glenmore this meant felling the non-native trees planted in earlier decades, resulting in the decimation of two-thirds of the forest. These areas are being replanted with the native Scots pine.
Huge. Beautiful. Ancient.
Posted on December 1, 2011 by Ash
Britain’s widest conifer.
After I’d been around the Birks o’ Aberfeldy, I drove to the nearby Cluny House Gardens because I’d recently heard that Britain’s biggest-girthed conifer grows there…
…and I wasn’t disappointed. What an impressive tree it is! Not only is the trunk massively massive, it also reaches some pretty lofty heights. This champion tree is, surprise surprise, a giant redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum) a.k.a. a Sierra redwood or giant sequoia or Wellingtonia. An information board in front of the tree informs the eager tourist:
A Perthshire plant collector, John D Matthew, introduced Giant Sequoias into the country from California, in 1853. The two Cluny trees were planted around this time possibly from the original seed collection. This magnificent specimen stands at around 45 m (135 feet) in height, has a girth of 11 m (35 feet) and is the widest conifer in Britain.
A bit of zoom to peer into the canopy.
This is the massive tree at ground level with a human scale. It’s much more impressive in real life. The Tree Register’s excellent handbook, Champion Trees of Britain & Ireland by Owen Johnson, lists the tree as having a diameter at breast height (1.4 m) (dbh) of 360 cm and a height of 41 m in 2009. By comparison, the largest tree in the world (by stem volume) is the giant redwood General Sherman in California – Wikipedia records it as being 83.8 m tall with a maximum basal diameter of 1,110 cm and a dbh of 770 cm – therefore it is more than twice as tall and twice as thick as the British girth champ. There are even taller sequoias - the tallest is 95 m! - and even wider sequoias - General Grant has a dbh of 880 cm! (Wikipedia’s Sequoiadendron page has all the stats.)
A visitor to Cluny House Gardens is bound to see red squirrels. There is a feeder beside the redwood, and while I was marvelling at the tree one of the little fellas was eating its fill. This was my first opportunity to observe red squirrels up close – although I couldn’t class them as ‘being in the wild’. The info board next to the tree says that they have been seen just 2 metres from the top!
The Gardens have a relaxed vibe to them. Mind you, I was the only visitor in there! You can borrow a walking stick as you enter (free entry when I visited, but there’s a donation box), and one of the first things you see is a sign asking you to PLEASE WALK ON THE LAWN - I knew straight away this was a cool place.
There is a second giant redwood, although it isn’t quite as big as its buddy. My Champion Trees of Britain & Ireland gives its height as 33 m and its dbh as 331 cm (although it seemed to me there wasn’t much between the two redwoods’ heights).
This is where the second giant meets the grounds. Incredible.
Looking up at the No. 2 redwood. What a fantastic tree!
Here’s one of the cones. I’d love to collect some seed one day and grow my own redwoods.
Under the second redwood, a delicate mushroom: could it be a pink waxcap (Hygrocybe calyptriformis)? But then wouldn’t it have a split cap, or is this just a young specimen?
Posted on November 13, 2011 by Ash
Four weeks ago I went for a walk to Mickleden Beck to see what kind of trees grew there; I’d heard a rumour of aspen. My route took me past Langsett Reservoir, where some pretty big changes have been taking place over the last year or two. Much of the conifer plantation on the south-west side of the reservoir has been clearfelled and subsequently replanted with native species.
According to an information board erected by the owners, Yorkshire Water, the woods are being restructured as part of the East Midlands Woodland Bird Project:
Planted in 1962, comprising approximately 25 hectares of coniferous woodland, the North America plantation including Delf Edge and Mauk Royd is being managed to help native woodland birds… We’re felling most of the coniferous trees whilst saving and protecting key native trees. The area will be re planted with oak and birch trees to develop new upland oak woodland, with woody shrubs like hazel, blackthorn, alder, willow and rowan.
I wrote a post here about the same time last year, while the conifers were still being felled.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the new woodland develops!
Larch. Whether European, Japanese or Dunkeld (hybrid), I wouldn’t like to say. I am not confident telling the three apart.
I failed to find any aspen at Mickleden Beck, but I didn’t search for long. What I did find was this incredible veteran alder (Alnus glutinosa) growing beside the stream. It is truly ancient, and is perhaps an old pollard. And keeping it company through the years is an ancient holly (Ilex aquifolium)! Both trees were in shade by the time I got to them, so I didn’t get any great photos – but I’ll be back!
On the return leg, Langsett Reservoir and the surrounding moors were lit by the late afternoon autumn sunlight.
That’s Hartcliff Hill in the distance there.
A peaceful pool on Midhope Moors. I hope those clouds lend some symmetry!
The reservoir was still illuminated as the day slid into twilight.
A lonely, half-dead birch that had once grown amongst the conifers has been left standing after all the felling. It’s in a bad way, but it is possible that next year it will produce seed and its offspring will be a part of the new wood. The three bracket fungi are Piptoporus betulinus – razor strop or birch polypore.
The birch has managed to outlive the conifers that suppressed it all its life, but for how much longer?
Langsett Reservoir at dusk.
Posted on October 26, 2011 by Ash
A couple of weekends ago I was down at Broomhead Reservoir, taking advantage of the low water level (though it isn’t as low as the neighbouring More Hall Reservoir) to see if I could find any remains of Broomhead Mill. I couldn’t.
In the foreground is the old course of the Ewden Beck, the river that flows into the reservoir. Normally this section is submerged beneath the waters of Broomhead, but while the reservoir is low the old channel gets to remember what it was like to once have been a river.
This old stump and dry stone wall are also normally submerged in the reservoir. The wall runs along the edge of a tiny valley where Allas Lane Dike, a small stream, once ran down to join Ewden Beck.
At the reservoir’s high water mark, a bit of erosion has exposed the roots of two trees. On the left, a common alder (Alnus glutinosa); on the right, an oak (either pedunculate or sessile).
Looking across the reservoir to the northern shore. The water surface was very calm, but it wasn’t quite still enough to produce a perfect mirror image of the trees over there.
As I stood gazing admiringly across the water, I heard a splash and automatically went for the camera. A fish had surfaced and triggered a series of ever increasing circles.
In a bit of woodland next to the reservoir I spotted a couple of huge brackets on a dead birch stem just as the light was beginning to fail.
They were: Piptoporus betulinus - razor strop or birch polypore.
Something – a woodpecker, I presume – had drilled a hole in the rotten stem, and wee flakes of dead wood had rained down upon both brackets. Nature’s brilliant, eh?
Posted on October 20, 2011 by Ash
Posted on October 12, 2011 by Ash
XL European beech (Fagus sylvatica).
Somewhere in the Ewden Valley there is a special piece of woodland full of absolutely enormous beeches. (No, not Spout House Wood. These are bigger…) Beeches with massive-girthed trunks that seem to go up for miles. Beeches with almost ramrod straight stems. Beeches that even though of gargantuan stature are still in the prime of life. No grizzled dotards here; well, maybe a couple. Just beautiful, jaw-droppingly large trees.
I’m pretty confident this one is the biggest of the lot. I’m calling it the King of Ewden. I think that’s suitably grand. It’s a shame my photo really doesn’t do justice to this titan’s size – it’s a hundred times more impressive in the flesh. There is a car-sized wound on the other side of the trunk, seriously! I’m going to have to go back with a tape measure and take some DBHs as proof!
One of the smaller ones?
Another giant. How many are there? I’m not sure. Thirty? Forty?
Imagine climbing that! Imagine the view from the top!
I wish I had more photographs to share, but being under those monster canopies, in the bottom of a valley, late on an autumn afternoon… the light wasn’t great. I’ve got a mind to go back and carry out a more comprehensive study. These are trees worth getting excited about. If only the person / people who planted them could see them now!
Several Piptoporus betulinus (razor strop or birch polypore) fruiting bodies on a dead downy birch (Betula pubescens).
This big oak (probably Quercus robur) looked stunning as it caught the late afternoon sun. I love trees.
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 September 19, 2011 by Ash
…Continued from Part the First.
The black patches on this sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) leaf, known as tar spots, are the fungus Rhytisma acerinum. Those clusters of red spots are galls caused by the mite Aceria macrorhynchus. Neither have any significant impact on the host tree.
A razor strop or birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) juts from a dead downy birch (Betula pubescens).
An immature fungal fruit body begins to emerge from the soil. Maybe an Amanita?
I’m fairly sure this is a Suillus something - perhaps a dried-out slippery jack (S. luteus)?
Another Leccinum, but which one? There is so much variation within the different species, I just can never say with any certainty. Could this be a blushing bolete (L. roseofractum)?
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and a dry stone wall – a lovely combination. At this time of year the hawthorns are covered in little red fruits called haws. I suppose you could make a jam from these (edit: of course you can!).
Looking up into the rather open crown of the same hawthorn (or one of its neighbours).
Posted on September 11, 2011 by Ash
I paid a visit to the woods around Langsett Reservoir yesterday to have a play with my new toy, a Nikon D5100 SLR. I knew there’d be plenty of fungi around and I wasn’t disappointed!
I’ve never seen one of these before. I’m by no means confident I’ve identified it correctly but Cystolepiota seminuda is my best guess.
Here’s a typical scene in the part of the woods where I first set about hunting for mushrooms. It’s Scots pine and spruce plantation, with the odd broadleaf chucked in, probably planted in the early 1960s. There were mushrooms about but I didn’t see nearly as many as when I later moved into a mainly broadleaved, birch-dominated part of the woods.
A spruce cone on a conifer stump left behind after thinning. Some small mammal has been making a meal out of it - probably a squirrel (a mouse would have made a neater job and chosen a more secluded place to have its dinner). Whoever was eating it was disturbed (by me?) before the cone could be fully stripped.
Leaving the plantation behind, a cluster of poppies made for a nice juxtaposition.
The birch-dominated part of the woods was also a conifer plantation in the not too distant past, judging by the old stumps everywhere. Native broadleaved species such as downy birch (Betula pubescens) and rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) have quickly colonised the area, and mushrooms were in abundance!
A couple of small mushrooms at the mossy feet of a young rowan.
An unfortunate incident has befallen this mushroom, providing the opportunity for a good look at its pore tubes.
This spiky little ball definitely belongs in the genus Lycoperdon. I’m fairly sure it’s a L. echinatum.
Posted on August 11, 2011 by Ash
…Continued from the first course.
I went out for a little walk around Whitwell Moor last week. The weather was typical summer 2011 stuff – hot but cloudy. In the middle of the moor there is a little wood which is much longer than it is wide. The upper part of the wood is predominantly downy birch (Betula pubescens) with some English oak (Quercus robur). I would guess that this part of the wood is very old, and it was here that I found lots and lots of mushrooms.
Before we carry on with the fungi, here’s a glimpse of this birchwood to which you have already been introduced. Old, gnarly, many-limbed downy birches abound – this one is a fine example. The ground layer is made up of short grasses and scattered bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) bushes.
It’s a lovely place to linger.
This is a bolete… it’s a Leccinum… and that’s as far as my certainty goes. I’m tentatively going with an ID of Leccinum scabrum (brown birch bolete) because the scabers (stem scales) are black – if they had been buff or fox-coloured I’d have gone with Leccinum quercinum (orange oak bolete). I don’t think it’s a Leccinum versipelle (orange birch bolete) because the cap does not have an overhanging rim.
For the same reasons I think this too is a L. scabrum (brown birch bolete), but an older, more tired specimen.
This mushroom may be an immature Amanita fulva (tawny grisette), a species that favours birch woodland. From Jordan’s Fungi: “usually without cap patches but with volval bag… [cap] occasionally with brownish velar patches” – I believe the creamy covering on the right side of the cap is such a patch (a remnant of the veil). At the bottom of the stem are the remains of the white volval bag.
I fancy this yellow fellow is a Russula claroflava (yellow swamp russula / yellow swamp brittlegill), a species that is found in damp places under birch.
I guess these belong in the genus Russula, but I’m stumped again. I give up. They do look nice though.
Let’s end with an old favourite - an immature Piptoporus betulinus (razor strop / birch polypore) bursting in slow motion from the chest of downy birch.
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Posted on August 5, 2011 by Ash
I went out for a little walk around Whitwell Moor yesterday. The weather was typical summer 2011 stuff – hot but cloudy. In the middle of the moor there is a little wood which is much longer than it is wide. The bottom part of the wood is mostly Scots pine and larch, and I would guess that at some time in the distant past it was planted by human hands. The upper part of the wood is predominantly downy birch (Betula pubescens) with some English oak (Quercus robur). I would guess that this part of the wood is very old (who would plant downy birch?), and it was here that I found lots and lots of mushrooms.
A mushroom from the genus Leccinum. My best guess is Leccinum quercinum (orange oak bolete), but I really couldn’t say.
I’m fairly sure this is a Russula nitida (purple swamp brittlegill). This species grows under birch, especially in damp areas.
This one might be an Amanita – are those cap scales? How would you describe that mottling? Snakeskin? Tortoiseshell?
Here’s one I can actually identify. It’s an immature Piptoporus betulinus (razor strop or birch polypore) emerging from a piece of dead birch.
This pair also belong in the genus Leccinum - given away by the scabers on the stalk (which are unfortunately obscured in this photo). Do they belong to the same species as the first mushroom of this post? I don’t know. The caps are a deeper brown, but that might not mean anything.
Posted on July 14, 2011 by Ash
A couple of weeks ago I headed over to Langsett to have a read beside the reservoir (Stephen King’s Four Past Midnight, if you’re asking). At one point as I walked along the path that skirts the reservoir, I chanced to catch sight of these four mushrooms in the bit of birch woodland to my right. I was compelled to take a closer look:
My immediate thought was “birch boletes”. Back home later, using ID books and the internet, I couldn’t really do any better than that. Were they Leccinum scabrum (brown birch bolete) or were they maybe Leccinum versipelle (orange birch bolete)? Or perhaps they were Tylopilus felleus (bitter bolete) (the cap in the photo of T. felleus in my Black’s Nature Guides Mushrooms & Toadstools of Britain and Europe looks strikingly similar to the caps of my mushrooms). Nope, mine can’t be T. felleus because mine had scabers on their stalks – see the photo below.
Scabers – definition from MushroomExpert.Com: “Scabers are little scurfy things that stick up, like the scabers on the stems of Leccinum mushrooms…”
According to the same book, L. versipelle caps have an overhanging rim. Mine didn’t, so can I safely say that they’re L. scabrum? Not exactly, because all of the photos I’ve found in books and online of that species show a much darker brown cap. The Black’s guide says that “There are around 5 scaber stalk species and each is associated with particular species of tree: Red-Capped Scaber Stalk [Leccinum aurantiacum] (Aspen): stipe scales white when young; Orange Oak Bolete [Leccinum quercinum]: stipe scales fox-coloured; Foxy bolete [Leccinum vulpinum] (Scots pine): stipe scales smoky grey” - plus the orange birch bolete (L. versipelle) and the [brown] birch bolete (L. scabrum). So are my mushrooms any of the first three of these five instead? Well, after further research only led to me getting more and more bogged down… I gave up. There’s a large amount of confusion about the Leccinum species out there, even amongst the experts, and I think it’s contagious.
Posted on June 27, 2011 by Ash
About five weeks ago I was driving along the bottom of the Ewden Valley when I caught sight of a big bracket fungus growing eight or nine feet up the trunk of a wild cherry or gean (Prunus avium). I returned later in the week with my camera, but as the fungus was a few feet above my head and it was quite dark under the canopy of trees my photos didn’t turn out very good. I intended to come back with a step-ladder and take some better pictures but for whatever reason I didn’t get back again until yesterday. Over the last month the fungus has degraded somewhat. It’s sadly no longer the fresh specimen it was at the end of May. It has a not-unpleasant, cheesy sort of smell to it. The big brackets were more or less a foot wide.
This is the best of the photos I took when I first discovered the fungus five weeks ago.
This is the host tree: one very tall cherry. Its lower branches are dead, but it’s uppermost branches are still leafy. There is a big, old wound on the stem just below the fungus, and the fungus itself grows from an old wound. A shiny new tag identifies it as ‘0852’. 0852 isn’t a brill tree.
Is this weird? It’s a little weird, right?
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