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Posted on November 27, 2011 by Ash
I recently spent a fantastic week on my own in Scotland making pilgrimages to big trees and climbing a couple of Munros. At the beginning of my week I walked around the Birks of Aberfeldy on a rather dank and overcast day. The Birks is a small, wooded valley through which flows the Moness Burn. It was originally known as the Den of Moness but the name was changed after Robert Burns visited and wrote the song ’The Birks of Aberfeldy’ in 1787 (‘birks’ is Scots for ‘birches’).
This is a European beech (Fagus sylvatica), although you can’t tell from the moss-covered trunk. Down here in the countryside on the edge of the Peak District, beech trees have beautiful silvery trunks more or less free of moss and lichen. I know our trees would probably have been dripping with lichens before the Industrial Revolution, but I reckon a beechwood is better-looking with its silverware on display.
A statue of Rabbie has been seated by the burn. Someone had attached a Remembrance Day poppy to his lapel.
An oak leaf amongst beech leaves.
I passed a few small waterfalls as I walked up the valley. There was a fair bit of water going over them – it had rained like billyo in the night.
The waterfall on the left drops into the burn just upstream of a wee gorge.
It’s funny how this oak burr is made up of segments that are trying to be hexagonal, as if it has formed like a big, wooden crystal. It kind of looks a bit like a turtle-shell.
Another oak tree – an overgrown coppice.
Eventually I reached the big waterfall, the star attraction of the Birks. This photo doesn’t really do justice to its size and power, but I assure you it was quite impressive in the flesh. There’s a really tall Scots pine growing from the bottom of the braes – you can see part of the trunk running up the left of the photo.
A footbridge over the top of the fall allows for a closer look at the action and the opportunity to walk back down the valley on the other side of the river.
The oaks in their winter coats of lichen really stood out from the bare birks.
A giant old stump exhibited fantastical patterning and had pretty groovy colouration to boot.
If you’re going to encircle a young tree with a metal bench, the tree would probably appreciate if you removed it before… this.
The Birks of Aberfeldy, by Robert Burns
Posted on March 5, 2011 by Ash
Lichens are just amazing. This one was growing on a detached rowan branch. I’m pretty sure it’s a Xanthoria parietina - one of Britain’s commonest lichens.
This big rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) is interesting because it is surrounded by hundreds of stick-like suckers, many of them dead, that have been sent up from the roots. I’ve never seen a rowan behave like this before, and I wonder why this one should.
The tree had a decent girth for a rowan but it wasn’t particularly tall and looked easy to climb, so I jumped up it.
I couldn’t really have gotten much higher; there were only twigs above me.
On the way home I found this old puffball growing on the moor. It’s definitely a Lycoperdon species - probably L. perlatum, the pearl-studded puffball (I’ve seen these before). Jordan’s Fungi states that L. perlatum has “short pyramidal warts which fall off to reveal endoperidium decorated with a reticulate pattern” (according to the glossary ‘reticulate’ means ‘having a net-like pattern of ornamentation’). Much of the endoperidium does have a net-like pattern.
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Posted on October 3, 2010 by Ash
I went for a wander with my father last week. Here he is, taking a photograph in Oaken Clough. You can tell it’s autumn now. [See this photo in black and white?]
Oaken Clough is a small valley surrounded by moorland. It’s a wonderful and pristine world of beauty.
The stream flowing down the valley is dotted with tiny cascades. [See this photo in black and white?]
This birch was growing out of an exposed rock-face at a brave angle.
Those leaves on the right are proof that Oaken Clough does actually have an oak tree in it! I’ve found two so far...
A fungal selection box. I think the top two belong to the same species, but are at different stages of development. The bottom right mushroom was a big ‘un!
A section of gnarly, lichen-encrusted rowan stem.
This spinning foam cake was freshly baked by the stream.
Posted on April 30, 2010 by Ash
A European larch (Larix decidua) female flower. The larch roses have arrived later than they did last year, but they were out in force last weekend when I went to check on the progress of the Set A grey alders.
A mature birch polypore a.k.a. razor strop (Piptoporus betulinus) bracket on a fallen downy birch (Betula pubescens). Razor strop fruiting bodies are annual; this is one of 2009’s.
Wee mushrooms growing on another fallen birch.
A gnarly, lichen-encrusted rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) twig with unfurling leaves.
A pair of sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) seedlings growing in the fork of a mature sycamore.
Posted on March 14, 2010 by Ash
The imposing Derwent Dam. When the reservoir is full, as it was on Saturday, water pours from between the two towers to cascade foamily down the mighty stone wall.
A spot of super weather was forecast for Saturday so in the morning I headed off to Fairholmes, the visitor hub for the Derwent Valley. The weather didn’t live up to my high expectations, but it wasn’t too bad. At least it’s spring now; winter seems to have been abruptly switched off on the 28th of Feb. From Fairholmes I headed north along the western shores of Derwent and Howden reservoirs, before turning west and climbing up onto the moors to reach the spectacular Alport Castles. Following the high ground south-east, I eventually ended up back at Fairholmes. (Have a go at sussing it out on Google Maps!)
Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) buds are amazingly sticky. This one has glued itself to a few stray conifer needles.
This brave young alder (Alnus glutinosa) was growing part-submerged in the reservoir.
The road running up the side of the reservoir is bordered for a few hundred metres by a hawthorn hedge. It has been recently savaged along most of its length, probably by rabbits. They have stripped the bark from most of the stems an inch or less in diameter; anything larger was left unharmed.
Illuminated fruticose lichens (and unilluminated foliose lichens) growing on sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) bark on the site of Tin Town. (For the fascinating history of Tin Town, or Birchinlee, see here and here.)
A fine beech (Fagus sylvatica) growing on the site of Tin Town – so it can’t be any older than a hundred years.
This is another beech, but instead of having the lovely, smooth, silver bark typical of its species, this tree was all over disfigured by cankers.
This is the tip of the westwards-pointing spur of Howden Reservoir where it is joined by the River Westend – and look! There is still ice on the surface in the middle of March!
Looking back at Howden, having attained the lofty heights of the moors. There were still plenty of snow pockets around up on the tops. It hasn’t snowed for weeks!
Almost back at Fairholmes – this is the view across the northern tip of Ladybower Reservoir.
Next month’s edition of the Festival of the Trees will be hosted by Vanessa of Vannessa’s Trees and Shrubs Blog. Send in your submissions to treesandshrubs [dot] guide [at] about [dot] com. The deadline is the 29th of March. (The optional theme, in honour of April’s Fools Day, is humourous trees.)
Posted on February 21, 2010 by Ash
Hawthorn (Crataegus, probably monogyna).
Not much snow on Ewden Height.
Snow on a rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) branch.
Linear shadows cast by a cluster of stick-like junior rowans growing around the trunk of their parent.
A stunted larch (Larix, probably decidua) surrounded by rowan saplings. This part of the moor is fenced off, presumably to prevent sheep grazing and thus promote tree regeneration (although one sheep had somehow gotten into the enclosure). Aside from this larch, the trees were mostly young rowans (berries, dispersed by birds), with several birches (tiny seeds, wind-dispersed). I also saw a holly (berries, dispersed by birds) and an oak (acorns, ???!).
This picture brought to you by the nineteenth century. Well, it could be!
Hey Paul, your hat’s falling off. That’s Millstones Wood in the background.
A wee lichen growing on a wee hawthorn. None of the buds on the trees I saw yesterday were showing signs of opening just yet. Give it a month…
Posted on November 16, 2009 by Ash
These rubbery-looking mushrooms were growing out of a dead part of the split oak on Whitwell Moor. The split oak is an English oak (Quercus robur).
Photos taken yesterday.
Lichen growing on a nearby oak that is still managing to hold on to its leaves.
The wee mushroom here was growing from a dead branch overhead. Unusual place for a stalked mushroom, I thought.
A lovely turquoise lichen with bonus pinky-red bits. The dark green crust growing all around the big lichen is lichen too.
These tiny orange brackets were growing out of a dead branch on the ground beneath the oak. Their undersides look sort of bristly.
These two bigger shrooms were growing close by…
As usual when I put up photos of mushrooms, I’ll tell you I’m pants at identifying mushrooms and then ask for your help.
Posted on July 25, 2009 by Ash
I was out walking on the moors last Saturday, and in Part One of this two-part post I’d just walked across Whitwell Moor, through Millstones Wood, and over Broomhead Moor to Pike Lowe...
After a bit of a dinner stop at that ancient cairn, I headed south to intercept the upper course of the Ewden Beck, I almost perfectly landed upon what I’d come looking for. Right next to the confluence of the beck with an unnamed (on the map) tributary from Stainery Clough, there is an impressive waterfall. (A second, smaller waterfall is to the left of the main fall, where the Stainery Clough stream drops into the beck, but it’s hidden by bracken in my photo.) Two things about this fine waterfall: 1. It is orange! - a consequence of the very peaty water. 2. It is bigger than it looks in this photo, which was taken zoomed in from the top of a steep bank overlooking the river. I reckon the face of the fall to be about three metres tall. There is an excellent photograph on Flickr by Peter Bell, taken on May 30th this year, that gives a much better idea of the true height of the waterfall. It also shows a much denuded flow; my photo was taken after a prolonged rainy spell, so the Ewden Beck was in full flow, and judging by the flattened vegetation along the river edge the water had been a foot higher in places after a big storm during the night. The waterfall isn’t named on the map – it isn’t even on the map (1:25,000 OS) – so I’m calling it Ewden Force. I’m sure some locals have a name for it already. I wonder what?
So after finding a good place to confidently cross the swollen Ewden Beck upstream of the waterfall, and then crossing the Stainery Clough stream, I walked east over the moor (south of and parallel with Ewden Beck) towards the shooting lodge I visited on the 21st of March. Between Stainery Clough and the lodge, I had to cross another two significant cloughs and their swollen streams. One was Oaken Clough, which looks quite meaty on the map, contours-wise; the other, of similar size to Oaken Clough in real life, is unnamed on the map where the contours barely bend for it! Anyway, there are a number of small unnamed streams either side of Oaken Clough, so I couldn’t tell which of the two big cloughs was Oaken Clough because of the dodgy cartography. Either way, all the cloughs were devoid of oaks; a much better name for Oaken Clough would be Rowan Clough.
A wee birch seedling (pendula or pubescens).
Heading down into one of the cloughs. Rowans (Sorbus aucuparia) ahead, stream to the left, grassy ancient path to the right. Bear in mind that this is in the middle of nowhere, with no footpaths anywhere near it. There can’t be many people ever walk here, but sometime in the past, probably hundreds of years ago, there was a way down here that was important enough for someone to go to the trouble of creating a stone-edged path down to the stream, probably to ford it. Perhaps you can make out some of the mossy edging stones on the left side of the path; to the right, off the photograph, is a steep bank that is supported with a sort of stone wall. Very old, very gone-back-to-nature. I almost walked along it without even realising what it was. I really need a GPS device to record the location of these things so that I’ll never forget where they are.
Developing rowan berries. Not ripe just yet, but in another few weeks all of the local rowans will be covered in clusters of bright red berries.
Speaking of rowans, here’s one leaning over the stream.
More rowans! It’s rowan heaven up here in these wee cloughs all surrounded by moorland. Many of the trees were practically dripping with lichens; it was like being up in the Highlands.
Heading down into the other decent-sized clough, this: the biggest-girthed rowan I have ever seen. I knew it was a special one as I eyed it from a distance. A sheep track led straight to it, so our ovine friends use it as a landmark. Well over a metre in diameter (I’ll need to come back for some DBH action), the tree had split in half with its still-healthy branches spanning quite an area. There was also a lot of dead wood scattered around its vicinity; it must have been quite an explosive collapse!
It wasn’t just the tree that was huge. Some of the lichens were beasts, like this monster growing on one of the branches.
In the bottom of a clough, this unusual sight. A rowan and a birch growing hip to hip on the stream bank.
Posted on May 26, 2009 by Ash
Sunday was a real stunner, and after the dire weather of May so far it was even nicer than usual to get out into the countryside. I took the pushbike for a ride over to Langsett, going clockwise around the reservoir via North America before coming through Upper Midhope and heading for home.
Clusters of male catkins dangling from an English oak. The English or pedunculate oak is a monoecious species so individuals produce flowers of both sexes.
This particular oak had pea-sized galls attached to some of the catkins. I’m fairly sure that they are the sexual galls, known as currant galls, of the currant gall wasp (Neuroterus quercusbaccarum). Common spangle galls found on the underside of oak leaves are the agamic galls of the same wasp.
An old friend: the rowan on Whitwell Moor from under which I collected half of my berries for Set C (replanted as Set C(r) a fortnight ago). Rowans are in full bloom at the moment, and this one was no exception. It was absolutely covered with infloresences!
A bit of lovely lichen growing on the rowan.
Get a close-up look at one of the inflorescences.
This young ash grows on the aptly named Long Lane and I’ve developed a habit of taking its picture every time I pass by, which allows for some interesting seasonal juxtapositions. Here it can be seen in the thick of a blizzard on the 2nd of February and also just coming into leaf in happier weather on Sunday. (See the same ash with and without leaves last October and November respectively in this post!)
The other rowan whose seeds comprise Set C(r). This unique and arresting rowan unfortunately blew over last year. It was still lying where it had fallen on the wall the last time I visited on the 14th of February, but since then it has been cleared away.
The only extant trace is this stump. The fallen tree was still alive too – I noticed live buds during my February visit. It must still have been connected to the root system. I hope that the roots continue to live and send up new sprouts, but given the stump’s situation in a field oft home to a herd of cattle it may never be able to re-establish anyway. I really hope that the seeds I took from it last year germinate to allow me the pleasure of raising the offspring of a remarkable ex-tree.
I took this photo looking south up-valley while standing on the bridge over Thickwoods Brook where that stream enters Langsett Reservoir. The brook gathers in the wee pond you can see in the bottom right of the photograph before rushing down a little weir into the reservoir.
Still on the bridge, but looking east towards Thickwoods, a coniferous plantation owned (as is the reservoir and much of the surrounding land) by Yorkshire Water. See what I mean about the bilberry being vivid? It’s almost glowing!
Posted on January 16, 2009 by Ash
What is a gall? The British Plant Gall Society’s site has a good definition from Redfern & Shirley’s British Plant Galls:
A gall is an abnormal growth produced by a plant or other host under the influence of another organism. It involves enlargement and/or proliferation of host cells, and provides both shelter and food or nutrients for the invading organism.
British oaks are particularly rich in galls. Here is just a tiny sample.
A pair of oak marble galls (one not fully developed) caused by asexual Andricus kollari larvae. A. kollari is a member of the family Cynipidae, “whose members are of special interest because most of them induce gall formation on plants and many of them display a marked alteration between sexual and parthenogenetic generations. They are called gall wasps… Most of the European species occur on oaks, although some species attack roses and certain herbaceous plants. There are about 90 British species.” - from Chinery’s Insects of Britain & Northern Europe (Collins Field Guide, 1993). This page at hedgerowmobile.com details the life-cycle of A. kollari and has good photos of the wasps and larvae with cross-sections of the gall.
A pair of artichoke galls caused by asexual Andricus fecundator larvae. Another gall wasp, A. fecundator is closely related to A. kollari. I’ve known about marble galls since I was a kid, but my first encounter with an artichoke gall came recently, in September 2007, on a university field trip to Kintyre. How did I ever miss them? hedgerowmobile.com has an A. fecundator page too.
An unknown gall. Perhaps a partially formed marble gall?
An unknown bud gall. If you recognise this gall and can ID the causal agent, please leave a comment.
Enough galls; how about some fungi? This weirdness has taken over the underside of this branch. The top side is covered with leprose lichen.
More leprose lichen. Notice how it only grows on the right side of the branch. There must be a favourable microclimate there, perhaps because of sunlight or exposure.
Another lichen; this one is fruitcose. As for what species it is… I wish I could tell you.
The subjects of all those photographs were found on this one English or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur). Even though it has split in two, both halves continue to grow; in fact, the large branch that goes off to the right is impressively long.
One more thing! A reminder about the next edition of the Festival of the Trees, which treeblog will be hosting. Please submit your blog posts, photographs, poetry, works of art, articles, news pieces, bark rubbings and anything else tree-related to mail [at] treeblog [dot] co [dot] uk, making sure that Festival of the Trees or FOTT is contained in the subject header. Alternatively, you can use the online submission form at blogcarnival.com. You do not need to be the author or artist of the content you submit. Although there is no theme this month, it would make my day if you submit something pertaining to a particular favourite tree of yours! The deadline for submissions is the 30th of January, so that leaves you a fortnight to get them in. Get to it!
Posted on April 27, 2008 by Ash
Being free at last from the bonds of dissertation, yesterday I took a walk in the sunny afternoon to Duddingston Loch, only about ten minutes from my flat.
The yellow sea of gorse covering the foot of Arthur's Seat near Samson's Ribs.
This willow grows at the bottom of a rocky slope, right on the shore of Duddingston Loch.
A few stunted hawthorns are growing on the rocky slope...
... and they are well advanced in putting out their new leaves relative to most deciduous species. Other early flusher I've noticed in Edinburgh include elder, gean, rowan, and certain silver birches and European beeches. The earliest flusher in town is probably the horse chestnut.
Oooh, look: a token lichen photograph! One of the hawthorns can be seen in the background.
Dead and living branches of the willow silhouetted against Sol.
Let's end with a stunning gorse photograph. Doesn't it make you long for summer?
treeblog Set B update (Day 44 - yesterday) According to my father there are still no signs of life in the treeblog seed trays, except for something in the downy birch section that looks like a pine needle or blade of grass - probably a weed.
Posted on April 20, 2007 by Ash
A lovely lichen (possibly a Xanthoria species) growing on an ash (Fraxinus excelsior) near Dungworth (close to Sheffield). Photo taken on the 1st of April, 2007.
treeblog news: Set A (Day 23)
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