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the Set A grey alders
Posted on February 2, 2015 by Ash
Grey alder No. 3 on the 5th of January 2015.
It’s now been just over a year since I last wrote an update on the Treeblog trees. That post reported on a visit my father and I made to the grey alders on the 28th of December 2013. The next time either of us saw the alders was a year later on the 5th of January 2015 (Set A Day 2,840) – nearly eight years since I planted them as seeds with my own hands. This post has the photos and measurements we took on that most recent visit, plus three tables and two graphs which gather together for the first time ever all of the height and stem circumference data we’ve recorded over the years.
For comparison, this is the same tree a year ago on the 28th of December 2013. Perhaps it’s just the different angles the two photographs were taken from, but doesn’t there appear to have been a significant improvement in form over the last year?
It’s not all good news for No. 3, however. Just when all the old stem wounds had about sealed over, fresh damage has been dealt by those troublesome herbivores. Whether the culprit was a sheep, rabbit, or something else, I don’t ken.
A perfect branch-bark ridge and branch collar. I’ve grown some real trees!
Here’s grey alder No. 2 on the 5th of January, the second-tallest of the alders at approximately 4.6 metres. Like No. 3, which grows but a stone’s throw away, it too is thriving and has fine form. Its stem has a girth of 23 cm at the base, and a girth of 15 cm at 1.5 m.
And to compare – this is No. 2 on the 28th of December 2013 (sorry about the dark picture).
No. 2 currently sports a mixture of male and (both mature and immature) female catkins, just like it did the previous winter.
Unlike the rest of the grey alders, No. 2 had managed to avoid any stem damage… until now. This fresh wound near the base of the stem has ended its lucky streak, but it’s nothing serious.
Last and I’m afraid least, this terrible photo shows grey alder No. 1 on the 5th of January. The poor devil is easily the lowest quality alder these days. It is in quite a different location to its two old nursery-mates, and the elements appear to be giving it a far harder time of things. Not only is it the shortest alder at 3.8 metres tall (although the stem is longer than that if we disregard the tree’s pronounced lean), it also has a significantly thinner stem than the other two. I measured the stem circumference as 18 cm at its base and 10 cm at 1.5 m. This winter I only counted mature female catkins on No. 1, but last year it had both male and (mature and immature) female catkins.
For comparison, grey alder No. 1 on the 28th of December 2013 with my father for scale – a much brighter picture!
As evident in this photo, No. 1 has the most wounded lower stem. It is also much slower in ‘healing’ these wounds than the other two alders, simply because it is growing that much more slowly and not laying down as much new wood – its annual rings will be closer together.
Graph 1. The heights of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders.
The graph illustrates that No. 1 was actually the tallest alder in early 2010, when I transplanted them all into the wild – its poor location has clearly had an adverse affect on its growth, allowing it to be overtaken by both Nos. 2 & 3. No. 3 itself actually suffered a major setback in April 2011 when it somehow had its top broken off, allowing No. 2 to reign briefly as the tallest alder. It didn’t take long for No. 3 to recover, but a kink half-way up its stem (noticeable in the first photo in this update) still marks this breakage today. Graph 1 also shows the sorry end of No. 4, which gradually shrinks as it is destroyed by sheep.
Graph 2. The girths of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders.
This graph shows two sets of data for each alder; the larger girths are the measurements taken at the base of the stem, and the smaller girths are the measurements taken at a height of 1.5 m from the ground (about breast height). The story is similar to the heights – Nos. 2 & 3 are performing well but No. 1 is lagging behind. No. 3 is pulling away from No. 2 in basal girth, but both are performing more or less equally in girth at 1.5 m.
Posted on January 8, 2014 by Ash
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…
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:
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 on July 7, 2013 by Ash
I have been very lax for a while now in keeping Treeblog updated with the development of the Treeblog trees. I intend to make amends in the coming weeks by posting updates on all the grey alders, Scots pines, downy birches, rowans and beeches in the Treeblog stable – starting now with the Set A grey alders, which last appeared on these pages over fifteen months ago in this update from March 2012. But before I go into an standard update, please take a couple of moments to watch Treeblog’s first ever video which provides a brief overview of the life of my grey alders so far!
This is grey alder No. 1 on the 9th of June 2013 (Set A Day 2265), the same day as we filmed the video. The tree is alive and well; the sheep haven’t been back to finish it off.
This is grey alder No. 1 a few months earlier on the 19th of October 2012 (Set A Day 2032), back when I made a pre-winter tour of the alders with my father.
This is No. 1 on the 9th of June again, taken from a similar angle.
When I visited in October I noticed that alder No. 1 had a cluster of maturing female catkins…
…as well as a couple of clusters of immature male catkins, ready to open up and release pollen in spring.
I also visited the alders on the 30th of December 2012, minus my camera. My notes from that day record No. 1 having some mature female catkins and a few male catkins, No. 3 having many male catkins but no female catkins, and No. 2 having no catkins at all.
On my June visit, No. 1 again had two or three clusters of immature female catkins. I didn’t see any sign of last year’s catkins.
This is grey alder No. 2 in October with yours truly for scale...
…and here’s No. 2 again on the 9th of June. It is still the best of the three grey alders in my opinion.
No. 2 had no catkins at all last year, but on my June visit I counted at least six clusters of immature female catkins (but no male catkins).
Here’s grey alder No. 3 in October…
…and here it is again in June.
In October, No. 3 had at least six clusters of male catkins but I didn’t notice any catkins at all on my June visit.
Now for some tree stats. I made measurements of height, stem circumference at base, and stem circumference at breast height (approx. 1.5 m) on my October and June visits, but made no measurements in December. Previously I estimated height by hanging a tape measure off a stick held up to the height of the trees, but (as seen in the video!) in June I took my bespoke measuring stick, fashioned by my father in 2008 and originally used during my dissertation fieldwork! Heights are approximate to the nearest 0.1 m and circumferences are approximate to the nearest centimetre.
* This only goes to show the potential errors hidden in these measurements!
And here is the base of alder No. 1. It has a much more slender stem than Nos. 2 and 3 and still shows severe wounding caused by grazing sheep. The tree seems to be struggling to compartmentalise this damage by growing ‘wound’ wood.
In stark contrast, the base of alder No. 2 is in pristine condition!
The base of No. 3 still shows sign of sheep damage but the wounds are rapidly being covered over with new wood and should hopefully be undetectable in a few years.
Posted on July 16, 2012 by Ash
It’s only the middle of July but the PSAUS, a willow (Salix) has already lost most of its leaves…
Nope, autumn hasn’t come early. It has been munched to destruction by these hungry fellas: lesser willow sawfly (Nematus pavidus) larvae.
I recognised them straightaway as sawfly larvae, rather than caterpillars, after the Set A grey alders played host a similar species a few years ago.
This photograph shows a birch sawfly aka hazel sawfly (Croesus septentrionalis) larva on grey alder No. 3 in October 2009...
…and on the same day I took this photograph of an alder sawfly (Eriocampa ovata) larva on grey alder No. 2.
Little wonder the PSAUS has been almost entirely defoliated – there are dozens and dozens of larvae! I’ve decided to leave them to do what they do best, and wait and see whether or not the PSAUS can weather the storm.
In this photo the second-right larva is caught in a classic pose while the furthest-right larva has an injury halfway along its body.
Posted on March 28, 2012 by Ash
Grey alder No. 1 on Saturday.
Five years ago today, on the 28th of March 2007, I planted three kinds of seeds: grey alder (Alnus incana), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), and cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii) as treeblog’s Set A. Today, all of the cider gums are dead, but on the fifth anniversary of their planting, three grey alders and two Scots pines are alive and well. On Saturday (March 24th – Day 1823) I paid the surviving grey alders a visit.
Grey alder No. 1 looks rather spindly and the sheep damage at the base of the stem is still nasty. Ne’ertheless, it still lives and what’s more…
…there are catkins! Only one clump, but No. 1 actually has catkins and it’s only five years old! The yellowish part is the top of a male catkin (not sure where the rest is); the fuzzy, reddish (out-of-focus) parts are the female flowers, which will develop into woody seed-bearing ‘cones’. I do not know if grey alders are able to self-pollinate; if not then it is extremely unlikely to produce fertile seed.
Grey alder No. 2: the best of the bunch, despite being the worst performer for a long time. No. 2 and No. 3 grow close together, while No. 1 (and the dead No. 4) are at a different location.
No. 2 and the late afternoon sun.
Grey alder No. 3. While not quite as strong as No. 2, it is far sturdier than No. 1.
The stem could hardly be called spindly, and good progress is being made in sealing the old sheep grazing wounds.
No. 3 was the most advanced of the three in terms of bud-burst or flushing. Lots of the buds were already showing green, with tiny leaves just starting to unfurl from some.
No. 3 from a different angle.
My last visit to the alders was in September. While they have now been in the wild since April 2010, the Scots pines remain in our garden for the time being. I took their picture yesterday (Day 1826):
Scots pine Alpha. It can’t be long now before its buds begin stretching out into candles.
Scots pine Gamma.
And finally, even though I didn’t plant it (it’s a self-set), here’s honorary Set A member PSAUS - some kind of willow, perhaps a goat willow (Salix caprea).
Posted on October 1, 2011 by Ash
Grey alder No. 1 last week.
On Thursday I visited the grey alders (Alnus incana) with my father (Day 1646 – 4 years, 6 months since I planted them as seeds). The weather was the epitome of perfection. This autumn heatwave / Indian summer we are having is incredible. All three surviving alders are doing well, and I’d say that Nos. 2 & 3 are actually thriving despite their past hardships.
No. 1 again from a different angle, showing how leant over it has become in its exposed location. Taking account of the lean it is now 2.5 metres tall but the full length of the tree from base to tip is 3.3 m. No new sheep damage, but the stem is an ugly, scaly mess to 85 cm from the ground thanks to past injuries.
Here’s No. 1 back on the 27th of April (Day 1491 – 4 years, 1 month since planting). Apparently I never put the photos from that visit on Treeblog and I’m not sure why. Back then it was just coming into leaf and retained a more upright posture.
Here’s a look at some of that sheep damage to the lower stem. Nasty.
This is grey alder No. 2 on Thursday, looking shorter than it really is because of the bracken. I reckon it’s the best of the three at the moment, which is quite a departure from the early days when No. 2 was always the smallest. (No. 4 was always the biggest, R.I.P.)
No new sheep damage; excellent condition.
No. 2 in April, before this year’s crop of bracken had grown up.
There had been a little bit of fresh sheep damage in April, but I don’t think there’s been any since.
Grey alder No. 3 last week. It sure has put on a lot of crown growth since my last visit, when it had just suffered a catastrophe – the top had broken out!
A new leader is now growing from 2 inches below the stump.
No. 3 in April. The top must have broken only just before my visit, but I have no idea how it could have happened. Surely wind wouldn’t have been able to snap the top of a supple little sapling, but a couple of pieces of bracken hanging from its branches maybe do point to a powerful wind. Bizarre.
What a shame.
Now then you lot, I’ve prepared thee a treat of three tables containing height and girth measurements of the three alders collected on various visits. The trees were planted out at the beginning of April 2010, so the first height measurements were made when they were still in the back garden. These figures are not super-accurate, but we do our best!
Table 1. The approximate heights of grey alders Nos. 1, 2 & 3 in metres.
Table 2. The approximate girths at breast height of grey alders Nos. 1, 2 & 3 in centimetres.
Table 3. The approximate girths at ground level of grey alders Nos. 1, 2 & 3 in centimetres.
Posted on April 16, 2011 by Ash
I’m afraid I have been rather lax of late in sticking to this blog’s original purpose of charting the development of the treeblog trees. There have been some pretty important developments over the winter, yet I’ve hardly mentioned a thing. I badly needed to turn over a new leaf, so I have carried out a full census of the trees to provide a snapshot overview of the treeblog population as it is today. It may send you to sleep. Here goes :
The two Scots pines (Alpha & Gamma) are alive and well. They last appeared in an update in June. (Nearly a whole year ago?? Can that be right??)
post-Set A willow
The PSAUS is alive and coming nicely into leaf.
Fifteen of the downy birches are alive and coming into leaf: Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 25, 27 & 30. Since the last update in August, No. 28 has gone missing from its pot (possibly squirrel-related).
I’ve cocked up big-time with the Set C(r) rowans. At the end of June I planted the nineteen ‘Whitwell Moor’ seedlings (Nos. W1 – W15 & W17 – W20) and twenty ‘Upper Midhope’ seedlings (Nos. U1 – U20) out in individual pots. Each seedling was identified with a little flag made out of sellotape and a cocktail stick. Disastrously, during the winter many of the cocktails sticks have rotted through and these flags have blown away. Which means I have a large number of seedlings that could have come from either the Whitwell Moor rowan or the Upper Midhope rowan. Which kind of defeats the object. I think these identity-less rowans will have to be released from under the treeblog umbrella. The remaining identifiable Set C(r) rowans are Nos. W2, W6, W7, W11, W12, W14, W15, W17, W18, W19, U2, U5, U7 & U14: ten Whitwell Moors and four Upper Midhopes. Doh! I think the Upper Midhope population will have to be topped up from the reserves still in the seed tray.
Both the single normal beech and the single cut- or fern-leaved beech remain alive and well. They last appeared in an update in June.
In the last update in May, there were nine Oaken Clough rowan seedlings (O1 – O9) and seven Whitwell Moor rowan seedlings (W1 – W7). Today all nine Oaken Clough seedlings are alive, but two of the Whitwell Moor seedlings have died (W3 & W4). There are plenty of reserves still in the seed trays, so these populations can be topped up.
OK… I think I’ve cleared all that up as best I can. Here’s a quick summary of what is currently alive and accounted for in the treeblog stables then: 3 grey alders (Alnus incana); 2 Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris); 1 cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii); 15 downy birches (Betula pubescens); 33 rowans (Sorbus aucuparia); & 2 European beeches (Fagus sylvatica)… which gives a grand total of 56 trees spread over 6 different species. [Plus the honorary treeblog tree, the PSAUS, which is a willow - possibly a goat willow (Salix caprea).]
Posted on March 13, 2011 by Ash
I recently made a couple of trips with my father to the four grey alders (Alnus incana) in treeblog’s Set A. We visited Nos. 2 & 3 four weeks ago on the 12th of February (Day 1417) and Nos. 1 & 4 yesterday, the 12th of March (Day 1445). (I last visited them in September.)
Grey alder No. 1 on a gloomy, overcast Saturday afternoon.
It’s buds aren’t yet showing any signs of opening.
Here’s the base of No. 1’s trunk with its herbivore-inflicted wounds. I’m very worried by the absence of callus wood around these. The tree had most of last summer to start sealing these wounds – Nos. 2 & 3 have made good progress, so why hasn’t No. 1?
At a different time and location, here’s grey alder No. 2.
Here’s an old wound and the associated callus wood.
Again no sign of flushing, but this photo is a month old now.
Just a stone’s throw away stands grey alder No. 3: the best of the alders at present.
More callus wood growing around the sheep damage to its stem. This is what No. 1’s stem should be looking like.
And lastly, grey alder No. 4 (close to No. 1). I feared this would happen - grey alder No. 4 is dead.
As you can see, the bark is easily detached from the stem.
I’m really sad that No. 4 has died. For a few years this tree was much bigger than the other three alders. I fully expected it to grow into a superb tree and was looking forward to seeing it reach maturity. What a shame its life has come to a premature end.
This was No. 4 in better days, back in August 2009.
I planted all four of these alders as seeds on the 28th of March 2007 (the seeds I collected myself a few weeks earlier). I planted Nos. 2 & 3 out in the wild on the 2nd of April 2010; Nos. 1 & 4 were planted out a fortnight later on the 14th. The fourth and first anniversaries respectively of these dates are approaching but grey alder No. 4 won’t be around to witness them, and that’s a real shame.
Posted on September 26, 2010 by Ash
I went to check on the progress of the Set A grey alders yesterday with my father. Five months have passed since we planted them out in the wild and three and a half years have gone by since I planted them as seeds in my back garden in March 2007. How they have grown (time flies).
Here’s grey alder No. 1 looking grand yesterday. Compare this with how it looked three months ago in the photo below (taken from the last update).
Grey alder No. 1 on the 20th of June (Day 1180).
Since then No. 1 has grown taller and leafier. It was (very roughly) 2.4 m tall at the end of June but yesterday it measured approximately 2.8 m. In June its main stem had a basal circumference (C1) of 9 cm and a circumference at breast height (C2) of 4 cm; yesterday it measured 9.5 cm at C1 and 5 cm at C2.
Unfortunately the lower part of No. 1’s stem has been heavily damaged by browsing sheep. The damage is pretty nasty and the tree doesn’t seem to be making any headway in sealing the wounds.
On my last visit in June, No. 1’s main stem had started to fork near the top, so I pruned off one of the co-dominant stems to force the tree into staying as a single-stemmer. Here’s the tiny pruning wound and the nice, straight stem three months on. Success!
Here’s alder No. 2 yesterday…
…and on the 20th of June.
Quite a difference, eh? It had barely any leaves back in June and the tip of its leader had just died. Then it was only about 1.8 m tall; yesterday we measured it as approx. 2.5 m – quite an improvement. On the 20th of June it measured up as C1 = 9 cm, C2 = 2 cm; it now has C1 = 11 cm, C2 = 4.5 cm.
Grey alder No. 3 yesterday.
No. 3 on the 20th of June.
This one has also markedly improved. Three months ago No. 3 was a scraggly mess but today it is a fine specimen of a sapling. I’d say it is now the best of the bunch. In June it was roughly 2.1–2.4 m tall; yesterday it stood at approx. 2.8 m. June’s stem measurements were C1 = 9.5 cm, C2 = 4 cm; yesterday’s were C1 = 11.5 cm, C2 = 5.5 cm.
The horrible gnawing damage inflicted on the lower stem is ‘healing’ nicely, although it doesn’t look pretty. The growth of the fourth wall of CODIT* - the new growth that grows around the wounds and will eventually seal them – is quite pronounced, something worryingly absent from alder No. 1’s stem damage.
Looking up at the top of No. 3.
Grey alder No. 4 yesterday: all that remains is a battered stick without even a single leaf. Once the greatest of all the treeblog trees, it has been eaten almost to nothing by sheep. What a fall from grace!
Even back in June it had taken a complete battering and was already leafless, as this photo attests. Thank-you, sheep. Then it was approx. 1.8 m tall, but today it has been cut down to just 1.35 m.
But even in this pathetic state, No. 4’s stem is still green. It is still alive. There may still be a chance. On my next visit - maybe a couple of months away? - I’m going to dig it up and move it somewhere, perhaps to a ledge on a cliff face away from the sheep. There may still be some hope. I hope.
In other news, I repotted the two Set A Scots pines this afternoon.
Posted on June 22, 2010 by Ash
Grey alder No. 1 – by far the best of the alders these days. Diameter of main stem at base (øα) = 9 cm. Diameter at breast height (øβ) = 4 cm.
Ye be warned: herein there be bad news... I went on a mission to check up on the grey alders (Alnus incana) on Sunday (Set A, Day 1180). It was a pretty warm day but it wasn’t a patch on yesterday and today (27 °C in Sheffield this afternoon!).
Here’s the resulting (neat and tiny) wound at the top of No. 1’s main stem. I removed the left stem at the fork (only about 20 cm long), so the right stem can continue as the main stem, keeping the tree a single-stemmer. I think that’s the first instance of a treeblog tree being pruned!
Grey alder No. 2 – it was the shortest of the alders when I planted them in the wild, being about as tall as I am. It’s still the same height, and it doesn’t really have a whole lot of leaves, but at least the sheep haven’t inflicted any new damage. As with No. 1, No. 2’s lower branches are damaged and leafless, but most of this damage was inflicted in the first couple of weeks after planting. Unfortunately, the tip of its leader has died, but No. 2 has previously had to put up with having its leader nibbled off. øα = 9 cm. øβ = 2 cm.
Grey alder No. 3 – currently the second-tallest of the four, but looking distinctly scraggly. øα = 9.5 cm. øβ = 4 cm. Like Nos. 2 and 4, it is having to compete with quite a bit of bracken (Pteridium aquilinum). It’s also taken quite a mauling from the marauding sheeps:
Here’s a selection of some of the damage inflicted to No. 3’s stem by our ovine friends. The end photos show bark-stripping damage to the lower stem, while the centre photo shows a wound on the upper stem where a branch has been ripped off.
This sorry specimen is grey alder No. 4. Not so very long ago this was miles ahead of its fellow alders and treeblog’s flagship tree. Now it’s just a green stick, stripped of its leaves and dignity by a band of woolly bastards. What a tragedy to befall such a promising young sapling! Its leader is dead too. I have serious doubts that No. 4 will be able to survive in this state for much longer. øα = 9 cm. øβ = 2 cm.
Here’s the very top of No. 4, showing the dead leader on the right and two small and unhealthy leaves (arrowed).
The photo on the left shows bark-stripping damage, along with a few wisps of black wool (evidence). The centre photo shows one of the handful of tiny leaves yet remaining on the tree; as soon as these appear, the sheep must be eating them away. The photo on the right shows a horrible slash on the main stem near its base – could a sheep have done this too?
And there you have it: grey alder No. 4 is totally screwed. Nos. 2 and 3 aren’t doing as well as I hoped. No. 1 is doing fine, but the sheep could strike at any time. Bloody nuisances. I went out of my way to plant these four trees in places where they wouldn’t be touched by the hand of man, but ironically they’re suffering instead at the teeth of sheep. What makes it more frustrating is that Nos. 2 and 3 are in a supposedly sheep-proof enclosure, but I saw three sheep in there! Three sheep that seem to prefer the taste of alder over the abundant and plentiful supply of rowan and birch that’s on offer.
Posted on April 27, 2010 by Ash
The Set D(b) cut-leaved beech has appeared above ground! Here it is on Saturday (Day 206), the first time I’d seen it poking up through the soil. A couple of Saturdays previously I was searching through the Set D beech seed trays when I noticed that this wee tree had sprouted a long root – that was Day 193.
Beech seedlings don’t hang around. Here it is a day later, on Sunday….
…here it is yesterday…
…and here it is this evening. Its cotyledons should open up over the next few days. This is the first beech I’ve ever managed to grow!
As well as discovering this young beech, Saturday also saw me off on a long walk to check up on the recently released Set A grey alders – 1123 days after I planted them as seeds. The good news is that they are all still in situ and doing well. The bad news is that three of them have been munched on by sheep! (I planted Nos. 2 and 3 out in the wild on the 2nd of April (Day 1101); Nos. 1 and 4 were planted out on the 14th of April (Day 1113) – see this post for the details.)
Grey alder No. 1 – this one lives next door to No. 4. Some of the lower branches have been cut back by browsing sheep – I know who the culprits are because they left some wool behind. Nevermind. Those lower branches wouldn’t be kept by the tree for long anyway, and I’d already given thought to pruning them off.
Grey alder No. 2 – this one lives next door to No. 3. No. 2 is the only one of the alders to remain unscathed by sheep.
Here’re some of No. 2’s brand spanking new leaves (all of the alders have them now!). They’re perfect.
Grey alder No. 3. (Sorry about the photos of the alders – I couldn’t get any good ones with their superb camouflage for blending in with the background).
Here’s the tip of one of No. 3’s branches after being nibbled down to size by an ovine fiend. Disgraceful.
Grey alder No. 4 – leading the competition in the leaf department.
Taken back home in the garden on Saturday evening, this photo shows how another Set A tree – Scots pine Alpha – has begun expanding its buds. These little brown columns are lengthening noticeably with each passing day; soon they will be great, long candles. Then it won’t be long until they blast out 2010’s needles!
Posted on April 19, 2010 by Ash
It’s been over three years since I planted the Set A grey alders as seeds, and in that time they’ve outgrown the garden where I’ve been keeping them in giant plant pots – the smallest (No. 2) is almost as tall as me; the tallest (No. 1) is a foot or so taller! Something had to be done before the 2010 growing season began – who knows how big they will be by the end of the summer – but what? How do you transport four man-sized trees, and where do you plant them if you don’t own a wood?
Grey alder No. 3 in its new spot. Notice how there is no disturbance around the base? Thanks to careful soil-management and bracken-placement, you wouldn’t be able to tell from a glance that this tree had been planted only minutes previously. Those treemandos were pro-style.
Grey alder No. 2.
Grey alder No. 4
No. 4 was covered in tiny leaves!
Grey alder No. 1.
(I apologise for the lack of clarity and definition in the photos of the alders, but it isn’t easy to capture a small, leafless tree against a busy natural background!)
Will they survive out there in the real world?
Posted on April 2, 2010 by Ash
A dead and rotting birch (Betula). I think the little bracket fungi you may be able to make out are birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus), but they’re pretty poor attempts at fruiting bodies.
This picture is classic Millstones Wood through and through: all rocks and twisty beeches.
This particular beech (Fagus sylvatica) has a splendidly green trunk thanks to a coating of enthusiastic leprose lichen.
I rediscovered this larch (Larix, probs decidua) wound. It hasn’t changed much since the last time I remember seeing it, on the 3rd of January 2008. I first saw the wound on the 4th of April 2007 when it was still very fresh.
Blue sky, shadows, Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris), rocks, and bilberry. What more could you want?
This dead branch reminded me of the chair in ‘Jacob’s’ cabin…
I suppose that to most people this is just a photo of a dirt floor - or more precisely, a photo of a woodland floor covered in old pine needles and bits of pine cone. But I hold a sort of weird fascination for this shining gold-silver pattern.
At one end of Millstones Wood, before it peters out into a grassy, trig-point-topped Salter hill, there grow a few stunted Scots pines and larches. Over the stone wall on the right of this photo there is a field full of gorse (Ulex europaeus) that has recently been completely burned, presumably with a view to control / eradicate it. Whether purposefully or accidentally, the fire spread over the wall where it destroyed several of the stunted pines and seriously singed a few more.
This poor pine is like one giant piece of charcoal now.
Pine cone. Victim.
Early this morning, under the cover of fog, treeblog history was made: grey alders Nos. 2 & 3 were released into the wild in a special covert op! Parts 3 & 4 of Operation Alder shall commence next weekend, all being well, and after that I shall produce a post detailing the daring exploits of these guerrilla plantings!
Third Anniversary of the planting of treeblog's Set A. treeblog update (Set A, Day 1096): Scots pines & grey alders.
Posted on March 28, 2010 by Ash
That’s right! A whole three years have passed since I first planted the Set A seeds. I started it all off with a packet of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) seeds that I was given at a careers fair, a packet of cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii) seeds that I borrowed from uni, and a handful of grey alder (Alnus incana) seeds that I collected on a field trip. To demonstrate just how much the Set A trees have changed since I planted them on the 28th of March 2007, I’ve assembled three mini-timelines. The Scots pine and grey alder assemblages of are followed by normal-sized contemporary photographs, taken this afternoon. I haven’t photographed the cider gums yet, but I expect to get them later in the week. I’ll give them a separate treeblog update of their own.
Day 1096 - 28 March 2010
…and here’s the other Scots pine, Gamma. The buds on the Scots pines haven’t started swelling yet, but I’m anticipating another massive growth spurt in May.
To represent Alnus incana, here’s grey alder No. 4:
Day 1096 - 28 March 2010
… and here are the rest of the grey alders. This is No. 1 - the tallest of the bunch. The black bar is to mark the maximum height of the tree, as the leading twig doesn’t really stand out very well from the background. I apologise for the miserable colours (I upped the brightness and contrast), but it was the only available plain(ish) backdrop big enough to do the job!
Grey alder No. 2 – the shortest alder.
Grey alder No. 3. The buds on Nos. 3 and 4 are just beginning to open.
This is one of the very first leaves to make an appearance on alder No. 4.
And here’s a look at the bark on No. 4’s trunk. It’s awesome, isn’t it, the way the outer layer of bark peels back from around the lenticels to form all those little diamonds?
To represent Eucalyptus gunnii, here’s cider gum No. 7 (with some of his cohorts):
(More on the cider gums in the forthcoming update.)
The Artist Formerly Known As PSAUS.
Posted on February 18, 2010 by Ash
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.
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.
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.
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 on October 5, 2009 by Ash
Earlier this afternoon I noticed several caterpillars on two of the Set A grey alders (Alnus incana). There were a few colourful caterpillars munching away on grey alder No. 3 and there were several white “snowflakey” caterpillars on grey alder No. 2. These snowflake caterpillars have been on the alders since at least mid-August and they seem to have some kind of magic power that can prevent a camera from focussing on them. They eat in random patches to leave the leaves full of holes like a Swiss cheese whereas the colourful, curly caterpillars eat in a more systematic fashion, devouring neat sections between veins. These caterpillars stand with their tails sticking up into the air; when I got close to them they gave them a little wave.
Last year there were two or three other species of caterpillar on the alders. Have a look at all the posts tagged with ‘caterpillars’ if you’re interested!
By the way, I’ve no idea what species either of these caterpillars belong to. Leave a comment or drop me an email if you know what they are, please!
Posted on August 23, 2009 by Ash
Everybody loves a good graph. This one ranks the heights of all twenty-one treeblog Set A trees plus the post-Set A goat willow as they were on the 20th of August / Day 876 (cider gums) and the 19th of August / Day 875 (the rest). The lighter section of each bar represents the previous height of each tree, as recorded on the 1st of July / Day 826 (cider gums) and the 27th of June / Day 822 (the rest), so the darker top sections represent height growth in the intervening period. As always, you can access a larger version of the image by clicking on it.
As you can see, the grey alders are now by far and away the tallest trees in Set A. Even the shortest alder, No. 2., is almost half a metre taller at 150 cm than the next highest tree, cider gum No. 7, at 110 cm. Since the end of June, the Scots pines have barely put on any height growth (probably just needle lengthening, actually). Scots pine Gamma is now only taller than the three cider gum runts, Nos. 3, 6 and 15. (Cider gum No. 3 is shown to be 9 cm tall but if its dead top is not counted, its living parts are only 4 cm tall. Runty!) The cider gums have all put on a bit of height growth in the last two months, but the growth of the grey alders has been phenomenal! No. 2 more than doubled in height, No. 1 almost doubled… and No. 1 came from being the third tallest alder at the end of June to being the tallest alder today. Perhaps if grey alder No. 3’s top hadn’t been chewed off by the mystery alder attacker, causing it to fork, it would be even taller than No. 1 is today…
Cider gum No. 1.
Cider gum No. 2.
Cider gum No. 3. It continues to recover from its frosty near-death experience, but will it be able to survive the upcoming winter?
Cider gum No. 4.
Cider gum No. 5.
Cider gum No. 6. Looks to be suffering from some kind of black mould on some of its leaves, but its health doesn’t seem to be affected.
Cider gum No. 7. The tallest of all the cider gums, and the fifth tallest of all the treeblog trees.
Cider gum No. 8.
treeblog update (Set A, Day 875): Scots pines (& grey alders). Eggs & caterpillars. Eucalyptus flowers.
Posted on August 19, 2009 by Ash
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:
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 on July 10, 2009 by Ash
Downy birch No. 1.
Yesterday afternoon, 120 days after the planting of treeblog Set C, I spent some time photographing the twenty-five downy birches. Since the last update in mid-June (Day 95), most of the seedlings have grown a second proper leaf and are now working on a third. Some of them are outperforming the rest (e.g. No. 21) and some are rather underperforming (e.g. No. 17); some look in rude health (e.g. No. 5) and some look rather sickly (e.g. No. 12); but there have been no losses in the three-and-a-half weeks since the last update. For this, the Day 120 update, Downy birch No. 1 has already got us started (I recommend checking out its photo-timeline) – the rest of the squad have formed ranks below and are standing to attention awaiting your inspection. (Most of the seedlings are sprinkled with sand and soil particles splashed there by heavy rains, but that’s nothing to worry about.)
Downy birches Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5.
Downy birches Nos. 6, 9, 10 and 11. No. 9 has only just developed its first true leaf. Lagger!
Downy birches Nos. 12, 13, 14 and 15.
Downy birches Nos. 16, 17, 21 and 22. No. 17’s another underperformer but No. 21 is doing great.
Downy birches Nos. 23, 24, 25 and 26. No. 24 is doing well here.
Downy birches Nos. 27, 28, 29 and 30. No. 29 – the tricot – is doing well. It’s still in the birch seed tray for the time being.
In other news… Set A’s grey alder No. 3 was beheaded last weekend by these nasty, secretive pests that have been plaguing the alders for weeks. No. 4 was almost beheaded in mid-May, No. 2 was beheaded in mid-June… and now No. 3. The photo below shows the not-quite-fully-severed leading shoot hanging limply to one side. Unbearable.
Grey alder No. 3: demasted.
Posted on July 1, 2009 by Ash
Hot on the heels of the grey alder & Scots pine update (Day 822) comes the first half of the cider gum update of Day 826 – that’s today. But before that, have a gander at this graph that I’ve concocted:
The heights of all the Set A trees (and the PSAUS goat willow) relative to one another, laid out in ascending order. Each bar represents a tree; the colour of the bar denotes the species and the number above the bar identifies the tree (where P = PSAUS, α = alpha, & γ = gamma). The actual heights of the trees are given in centimetres under each bar. The bar representing cider gum No. 3 is in two colours: the lower segment represents the height of the living part of the seedling; the two segments together represent the total height of the seedling including dead parts.
As you can see, the three smallest trees are the three cider gum runts: Nos. 3, 6 and 15 (8 cm, 9 cm* and 22 cm respectively). The tallest three trees are the big grey alders: Nos. 1, 3 and 4. Grey alder No. 4, the Beast, remains the tallest of all the treeblog trees at 120 cm. The tallest cider gum is No. 7 at 97 cm, almost twenty centimetres taller than the second-tallest gum, No. 12. Scots pine Alpha (48 cm) comes in around the middle of the cider gum range, while Scots pine Gamma (27 cm) only manages to be taller than the cider gum runts and the PSAUS goat willow (25 cm).
Cider gum No. 1.
Cider gum No. 2.
Cider gum No. 3, arisen from the grave. The white arrow points to a minute leaf that has recently developed. This is just below the limit of the living tissue at a height of 6 cm. The vast majority of the new growth is much closer to the base, and is shown in close-up in the photo below:
Cider gum No. 4: distressingly wonky at the top.
Cider gum No. 5: nicely symmetrical.
Cider gum No. 6: the only one of the runts realistically capable of achieving non-runt status.
Cider gum No. 7: the tallest of the gums (Top Gum). The photo looks a little stretched or skewed because of the downwards-looking angle I had to take the photo at to get the whole tree against the background-board.
July’s Festival of the Trees – the 37th edition! – is online at TGAW. I haven’t had time to give it more than a perfunctory glance so far but it looks like Vicky has put together a great version. Go read!
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