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the Set C downy birches

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treeblog update: the Set C downy birches (May 2012)

Here’s a quick update on the progress of the Set C downy birches. I took the photographs this evening (Day 1160). All twelve trees are looking healthy and they’ve all come nicely into leaf.

No. 1.

No. 2.

No. 4.

No. 5.

No. 10.

No. 14.

No. 15.

No. 21.

No. 22.

No. 23.

No. 25.

No. 27.

I didn’t measure the trees this time around because they’ve not really started this year’s growth yet. To see how they looked in November, and to see a list of all their heights then, check out the last Set C downy birch update.

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog update: the Set C downy birches (November 2011)

Downy birch No. 1: too branchy!

This is the first update of the Set C downy birches (Betula pubescens) since May! There are now twelve Set C birches altogether: Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 14, 15, 21, 22, 23, 25 & 27; No. 13 has unluckily died since May. I took the photos this afternoon – 970 days or 2 years & 8 months since I planted them all as seeds.

Downy birch No. 2: lovely form and the tallest of the lot at 47 cm.

No. 4: almost-straight stem (apart from that one kink).

No. 5: the second shortest at 22 cm tall.

No. 10: super-straight stem.

No. 14: average.

No. 15: nice, straight stem and the second tallest at 43 cm.

No. 21: doesn’t want to let go of those leaves.

No. 22: nice, straight stem with a strangely disproportionate branch.

No. 23: decent stem above the kink.

No. 25: the runt of the litter; very poor form and by far the shortest at 6 cm tall.

No. 27 – good stem.

* * * * *

The table below displays the approximate heights of all twelve surviving downy birches ranked in descending order. The measurements were made last Sunday – the 30th of October.

Birch No. Height (cm)
Oct 30, 2011
2 47
15 43
4 41
10 38
21 32
22 32
1 27
14 24
27 24
23 23
5 22
25 6

* * * * *

The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees initiative

The Nature Conservancy is raising money to restore a million acres of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil by planting a billion trees by 2015. The initiative is very close to passing the 10 million mark. If you’d like to make a donation, one dollar will see one tree planted. To find out more and donate, visit plantabillion.org

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog update: the Set C downy birches (Part Two)

Downy birch No. 21.

This post continues from Part One, which featured the other eight downy birches. All photos were taken on Monday (May 2nd) (Day 782).

Downy birch No. 22 – forking?

Downy birch No. 23 – very small.

Downy birch No. 25 – not looking good at all. Last August it had two main stems, but one has died and fallen off.

Downy birch No. 27.

The next two trees – Nos. 16 & 30 – are, I believe, dead. A couple of weeks ago when I carried out the treeblog census I hoped that they were just late flushing, as the buds looked to be OK – but I was mistaken. I don’t think they made it through the winter. Set C is down to thirteen downy birches.

Downy birch No. 16 – funnily enough, I thought this one had died last year (winter 2009/2010) but I turned out to be wrong. I hope I’m wrong for a second time!

Downy birch No. 30, deceased.

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog update: the Set C downy birches (Part One)

Downy birch No. 1 – looking grand!

Here we go with the first look at the Set C downy birches since mid-August 2010 (Day 522). In this two-part treeblog update you can see for yourself how well each of the wee fellas are getting on. Thirteen remain alive – and two are recently deceased. I took the photos on Monday (May 2nd), 782 days after I planted them all as seeds. As you can see, some are doing better than others…

Downy birch No. 2.

Downy birch No. 4.

Downy birch No. 5 – very small.

Downy birch No. 10.

Downy birch No. 13.

Downy birch No. 14.

Downy birch No. 15 – it’s put on a lot of new growth already this spring!

* * * * *

The rest of the downy birches will follow in Part Two (to be posted on Saturday.) This post and the next one are ‘pre-written’ and will ‘upload automatically’ because I’m off to France for a week – so I won’t be able to respond to emails or moderate comments until the 10th!

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog census: April 2011

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 :

Set A
Set A was planted on the 28th of March 2007 (1,480 days ago)

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??)

Of the four grey alders, No. 4 is now dead but Nos. 1, 2 & 3 were alive the last time I saw them (I last visited Nos. 1 & 4 on the 12th of March and Nos. 2 & 3 on the 12th of February). They last appeared in an update last month.

In the last cider gum update (in May 2010!!), Nos. 1 & 15 were reported dead, but Nos. 2 – 14 were all alive. Alas, after the very harsh winter of 2010/2011, only one cider gum now remains alive: No. 14. Terrible news!

post-Set A willow

The PSAUS is alive and coming nicely into leaf.

Set C
Set C was planted on the 11th of March 2009 (766 days ago)

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).

Set C(r)
Set C(r) was planted/replanted on the 12th of May 2009 (704 days ago)

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.

Also - the five Whitwell Moor tricot rowans (Nos. WT1 – WT5) are all alive, but they are still in the plug tray. They need putting in pots.

The Whitwell Moor rowans last appeared in an update in September; the Upper Midhope rowans appeared in a separate update at the same time. The tricots haven’t appeared in an update since May!

Set D(b)
Set D(b) was planted on the 30th of September 2009 (563 days ago)

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.

Set D(r)
Set D(r) was planted/replanted on the 11th of April 2010 (371 days ago)

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).]

This number will be bumped up when I draw on the rowan reserves, but as you may have noticed I haven’t planted a Set E this year. Maybe next year? Right now I’m going to try and photograph all of these trees and bring the series of updates bang up to date. It’s about time!

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog update (Set C, Day 522): the downy birches (Part 2)

Downy birch No. 16.

This post continues from Sunday’s Part 1, which featured the other eight seedlings.

Downy birch No. 21.

Downy birch No. 22.

Downy birch No. 23. In the last Set C downy birch update (Day 426 – 11th May), I was in some doubt as to whether No. 23 was actually alive. In an even earlier update (Day 389 – 4th April), I really did think it had died (along with No. 16). Evidently that was not the case!

Downy birch No. 25: a near-death experience has turned it into treeblog’s only forked birch seedling.

Downy birch No. 27.

Downy birch No. 28: the shortest of the cohort at approx. 2 cm. A few dead leaves suggest the poor chap has had a brush with death.

Downy birch No. 30.

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog update (Set C, Day 522): the downy birches (Part 1)

Downy birch No. 1 – the tallest of the birches.

It’s been three months since the last treeblog update on the Set C downy birches. They’ve made decent progress since then. See them as they are today (522 days after I planted them as seeds) in this update and see them as they were 96 days ago in the last update on Day 426. Since then downy birch No. 12 has died. That leaves us with sixteen seedlings - Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 25, 27, 28 and 30 – the tallest (No. 1) and shortest (No. 28) of which are about 12 cm and 2 cm tall respectively.

I repotted all the remaining downy birches this afternoon. They were long overdue; many of the seedlings had been paired together in their tiny plant pots since last year, and over the summer loads of self-seeded silver birches had sprung up in the pots. While I was at it I repotted Set A cider gum No. 3 (the Runt), which has been living in the same tiny pot since summer 2007!

Downy birch No. 2 – there was a caterpillar on the stem today, which I relocated onto a mature silver birch. The leading shoot has recently been eaten, probably by the caterpillar!

Downy birch No. 4.

Downy birch No. 5.

Some of the seedlings have tiny yellow spots on their leaves, like No. 10 below. I think these are birch rust (Melampsoridium betulinum), a fungus that causes premature defoliation. The fungi produces spores in the spring from last year’s infected leaves that over-wintered in the leaf litter; these spores infect larch needles, and later in the year the larch fungi produce different spores that infect birch leaves. According to Diagnosis of Ill-health in Trees by Strouts & Winter, “This alternation of the fungus between two unrelated host plants is the classic ‘text-book’, full life cycle of a rust fungus.”

Downy birch No. 10.

Downy birch No. 13.

Downy birch No. 14.

Downy birch No. 15.

* * * * *

That was the first eight seedlings; for the other eight you’ll have to see Part 2!

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog update (Set C, Day 426): the downy birches

Downy birch No. 1 – one of the very best in class. Notice that the leaves have many lobes.

It’s been over five weeks since the last Set C downy birch update. The last we saw of our little birchy friends, they were mere matchsticks. But throw a little spring into the mix and we’ve got leaves! A wee bit of bad news and a couple of bits of good news: No. 26, alive in the last update, is now dead; No. 16, “dead” in the last update, is now alive; No. 23, “dead” in the last update, might actually be alive… or it might really be dead.

Now before we plough on with the rest of the photos (taken today, 426 days after I planted the Set C birch seeds), I heartily recommend that you take a quick look at the last update – Day 389 - so that you can really appreciate the difference a month makes. Progress may have been a little slow thus far, but once summer kicks in these bad boys should be sizzling.

No. 2 – another one of the finest performers.

Nos. 4 and 10 – both decent little seedlings.

No. 14 – another birch in the cream of the crop.

Nos. 12, 13, 15 and 21 – all sort of common or garden, nothing special, middle-of-the-road seedlings. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Nos. 22, 23, 27 and 28 – again, all Johnny Averages.

No. 30 – one of the better-off middling birches – but notice how few lobes its leaves have compared with the better performers’, like No. 1’s.

The underperformers: Nos. 5, 16 (back from the dead!), 23 (back from the dead?), and 25. New growth (or in the case of No. 23, possible new growth) has been circled.

Coming soon… updates for the Set A Scots pines and cider gums, the goat willow formerly known as PSAUS, the Set D(b) cut-leaved beech, and the Set C(r) and Set D(r) rowans – the Set C(r) rowans are looking awesome!

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog update (Set C, Day 389): the downy birches

Grand news tree fans! Most of the Set C downy birches (Betula pubescens) have made it through the harsh winter and are now beginning to unfurl their first leaves of the year. The last time I posted a Set C birch update, in September, there were twenty-two seedlings left to follow. Today, that number is down to seventeen. Seventeen tiny birches, and you can see photos of each of them below. But first, a little bit of clarification on the current status of each seedling:

Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 & 30 - These are the seventeen seedlings that are alive and well today, all nicely labelled up in little plant pots, and all on display below for your inspection.
Nos. 3, 6, 7, 9, 11, 16, 17 & 23 - These eight seedlings are all dead – but just in case you are morbidly curious as to what dead one-year old downy birch seedlings look like, there are photos of most these below as well. Sick. (No. 7 died sometime between the 25th of May 2009 / Day 75 and the 14th of June 2009 / Day 95; Nos. 6 and 17 died sometime between the 9th of July 2009 / Day 120 and the 19th of September / Day 192; Nos. 3, 9, 11, 16 and 23 all died sometime between Day 192 and Day 389.)
Nos. 8, 18, 19 & 20 - As I’ve decided that treeblog will only follow the first twenty Upper Midhope and Whitwell Moor rowans in Set C(r), so I decided that treeblog would only follow the first thirty birches that had germinated in Set C. When I came to transplant the lucky thirty (marked with little flags) from the horde of anonymous seedlings in the seed tray, some of the thirty (Nos. 8, 15, 19, & 20) could no longer be distinguished from their anonymous brethren. They were… left behind.
No. 29 - When I transplanted the rest of the thirty from the seed tray to plant pots, I left No. 29 behind because it was special and I was fearful of killing it by transplanting it at such an early stage. It was special because it was a rare genetic mutant: a tricotyledonous downy birch, i.e. instead of having two cotyledons it had three. Unfortunately, while it was easy to spot as a tricot when it only had cotyledons, it wasn’t as easy to tell it apart from the rest when it grew its first real leaves. And then it too was lost in the raging horde, sometime between Day 120 and Day 192: perhaps my biggest treeblog regret. Like the other seedlings left behind in the seed tray, it may since have died. Or it could still be alive and well. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this year it will once again stand out from the horde and claim its rightful place by my side!

Now for le photos – taken on Sunday (Day 389).

Who’s this, then? It’s downy birch No. 1!

Downy birches Nos. 2 and 4.

Downy birches Nos. 5 and 10.

Downy birches Nos. 12 to 15.

Downy birches Nos. 21 and 22.

Downy birches Nos. 24 to 26 and No. 30.

Downy birches Nos. 27 and 28 - disappointingly prostrate.

And now for the dead ones. At least, they certainly have the appearance of being dead. But you never know… Maybe one or two of them will stage an unlikely comeback? Trust no-one!

Dead downy birches Nos. 3, 11, 16 and 23.

Dead downy birch No. 6.

Dead downy birch No. 9 – photographed yesterday (Day 392), a few days after its fellow cadavers. I, uh, missed it the first time around or something. The blue slug pellets should tell you two things. 1) No. 9 is exceedingly tiny; and 2) Now that winter is over, the slugs and the snails are oot and aboot again so I’m getting Vietnam flashbacks to June 2007, when the Set A seedlings where mullered by slugs. You ain’t getting your 27,000 teeth on my seedlings this time, you malevolent molluscs!

* * * * *

Set C(r) news: On Tuesday (Day 329), three new Upper Midhope rowan seedlings appeared: U3, U4 and U5. Yesterday, (Day 330), a further two Upper Midhope rowan seedlings appeared: U6 and U7. I think I’ll have to transplant the Set C(r) seedlings from the seed tray into plant pots rather soon…

Posted in The treeblog trees

First signs of spring: alder and hazel catkins. A brief update on the treeblog trees.

Male catkins on hazel (Corylus avellana).

Winter’s grip on the countryside is finally loosening! The weather may still be nasty, but the days are getting longer and the local alders and hazels have been blasting out their male catkins. The hazels in particular look rather spiffing, their pale yellow lambs’ tails creating welcome splashes of colour in an otherwise bleak treescape.

More male hazel catkins, or lambs’ tails. These photos were taken beside Broomhead Reservoir on Tuesday.

This year’s developing male catkins (cigar-shaped) and last year’s woody female catkins (egg-shaped) on an overhead alder (Alnus glutinosa) branch.

* * * * *

And now for a brief update on the treeblog trees, neglected on this blog for far too long. Sad face.

Set A

The two Scots pines look fine. The four grey alders are covered in buds; the top of grey alder No. 4 is dead, as suspected in September. Most of the cider gums look alright, although a few of them have picked up a bit of a lean. Cider gums Nos. 1 and 15 look like they have suffered some serious frost damage. Will they survive? No. 15 took a lot of frost damage last year and survived… The post-Set A goat willow (the seedling formerly known as PSAUS) has some nice big buds.

Set C

Most of the downy birches have just started opening their tiny little buds. A few of them may have died, and some of them look to have had their roots exposed over the winter, so some replanting may be in order this weekend.

Set C’s downy birch No. 2 on Tuesday (16th February – 342 days after planting), standing a fine one-inch tall.

Set D

None of the sweet chestnuts or beechnuts, planted in the autumn, have sprouted yet. I’m aiming to plant my rowan seeds, the other component of Set D, in March. They are currently undergoing pretreatment.

* * * * *

P.S. It was treeblog’s third anniversary on Sunday!

Posted in Gone for a walk + The treeblog trees

treeblog update (Set C, Day 192): the downy birches

Downy birch No. 1 – one of the best.

It‘s been a long time coming, but it’s finally here: the treeblog Set C update that you’ve been missing! Take a gander at the surviving downy birches as they were yesterday, 192 days after I planted them as seeds. Actually, there is no photo of downy birch No. 29 – the tricot – because I no longer know which seedling is No. 29. I presume it’s still alive, but the seed tray where it yet resides is chock-a-block with wee birch seedlings and No. 29 is lost in the horde. That is a problem needing solving.

Going back in time, I decided that treeblog would only follow the first thirty birches to germinate, seeing how so bloody many did. The lucky few would be Nos. 1 to 30 with the exception of Nos. 8, 18, 19 and 20 (who were lost in the horde as far back as May). Downy birch No. 7 then died around the beginning of June, and since the last update on the 9th of July (Day 120) a further two have kicked the bucket: Nos. 6 and 17.

So twenty-three of the seedlings are still going (but No. 29 is lost for the moment). Nos. 9 and 11 appear to be on their way out: they are looking very sickly. Nos. 1, 2 and 25 are looking like the best of the bunch at the moment, and Nos. 3, 23, 27, 28 and 30 are looking fairly poor. In general, the downy birches have not grown very much at all over the last two and a half months.

Downy birches Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5. No. 2 is one of the better performers.

Downy birches Nos. 9, 10, 11 and 12. Nos. 9 and 11 appear to be in their death throes.

Downy birches Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 16.

Downy birches Nos. 21, 22, 23 and 24.

Downy birch No. 25 – another one of the top performers.

Downy birches Nos. 26, 27, 28 and 30.

* * * * *

A wee bit of bonus Set A news now. The last fortnight has been very dry, and while the treeblog trees have been kept supplied with water, grey alder No. 4 appears to have been sunburned. The new leaves on the leading shoots are either dead or with dead patches, and the leading shoot itself appears to have died – it feels stiffer than it ought to and is looking more brown than green. This would be the third alder to lose its leader this year; only No. 1 would be left with a perfect main stem.

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog update (Set C, Day 120): the downy birches; Grey alder No. 3 beheaded

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 in The treeblog trees

treeblog update (Set C, Day 95): twenty-five downy birches

Downy birch No. 1 yesterday (Day 95).

Yesterday – June 14th – was the ninety-fifth day since I planted birch seeds, sweet chestnuts and rowan berries as treeblog’s Set C. To date, it appears that only the birches have met with any success. Back on the 10th of May (Day 60), I transplanted twenty-five of the birch seedlings from their seed tray into small pots. These lucky few – plus a tricotyledonous birch seedling I left in the seed tray – are all the birch seedlings treeblog will follow. Many, many more birches germinated besides, but I don’t have the room to grow on all of those!

Five weeks on from the transplanting, and only one of the transplantees has died – No. 7. It wasn’t looking very good at the time of the last birch update (Day 75 / May 25th). Back then, I still wasn’t completely sure whether these birches were downy or silver. I’ve since been back to look at the parent tree again, and I’m now confident that it is a downy birch (Betula pubescens). There might be a post to be made out of that!

Downy birches Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Downy birches Nos. 6, 9, 10 and 11. No. 9. Poor old No. 9 is the least developed of the lot – it’s hardly changed in three weeks! No. 6 has also been unfortunate. It had fallen over, hence its vertically-aligned leaf.

Downy birches Nos. 12, 13, 14 and 15.

Downy birches Nos. 16, 17, 21 and 22.

Downy birches Nos. 23, 24, 25 and 26. No. 24 had also fallen over; No. 23 is another poor developer.

Downy birches Nos. 27, 28, 29 and 30. No. 29 is the super-special tricot!

The Set C birch seed tray and the anonymous horde! No. 29 is in there, just right of centre. You’ll probably need to click on the photo and look at the bigger version to better make out the seedlings.

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog update (Set C, Day 75): twenty-six birches

I mentioned a few posts back that I’d photographed the potted Set C birches. A lot of those pictures were out of focus so I tried again on Monday and met with rather more success. There are twenty-six Set C birch seedlings I’m keeping track of for treeblog at the moment: Nos. 1 to 7, 9 to 17, and 21 to 30. No. 29 - the tricot - is still in the seed tray along with about a hundred more or less anonymous other birch seedlings; the rest were plucked out and popped into pots on the 10th of May (two to a pot, except No. 21 which is on its own). Take a look at these lovely little seedlings, most of which are now progressing well with the development of their first true leaves:

Birch No. 1...

…and birch No. 4 – two of the best specimens so far.

Birches Nos. 2, 3, 5 and 6.

Birches Nos. 7, 9, 10 and 11.

Birches Nos. 12 to 15.

Birches Nos. 16, 17, 21 and 22.

Birches Nos. 23 to 26.

Birches Nos. 27 to 30. It’s an honour to have a tricot on board!

Recent Set C / Set C(r) news

Day 74 / 24th May ‘09 - Sweet chestnuts Nos. 10 to 14 make an appearance.

Day 75 / 26th May ‘09 - Sweet chestnut No. 15 appears.

Day 77 / 27th May ‘09 - Sweet chestnuts Nos. 16 and 17 appear – No. 17 has three cotyledons – another tricot! - plus WM5 (‘Whitwell Moor’ rowan No. 5).

I’m not excited by any of this because I can’t see them being actual sweet chestnuts or rowans; they’re probably weeds or other birch seedlings germinated from self-sown seed. There are quite a few seedlings popping up in the Set C seed trays and Set A pots that look very similar to those in the birch tray – those in the birch tray are almost certainly birches, something I deduce from the high density of seedlings in that tray alone. So are these similar-to-birch seedlings really birches? If they are, then they are self-sown, probably from the very close-by mature trees. I’m not bothered if there are birch seedlings in the non-birch seed trays and pots as they will eventually get sussed out. But what if some of the Set C birch seedlings that I thought I had planted are actually self-sown? I may be being fooled, but there’s be no way of telling!

* * * * *

It is my pleasure to call your attention to a brand new website from the people behind Woodlands.co.uk and WoodlandsTV.co.uk. An excellent coppice resource, Coppice.co.uk provides information on sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) and hazel (Corylus avellana) as well as the products of coppicing and the biodiversity of woodlands managed for coppice. There is also a coppicing forum, and I’m sure new content will be added in the future.

* * * * *

I have moved grey alder No. 4 - who has been so cruelly savaged by some invertebrate fiends of late, despite numerous applications of pesticide – to a different part of the garden in an apparently failed bid to hide it from its attackers. Whatever it / they are that are chewing through No. 4’s stems and petioles (wasps?) still seems to be at it, while the rest of the alders remain bizarrely unscathed. I keep searching the alder but I’ve yet to glimpse one of the perpetrators. So infuriating!

Posted in The treeblog trees

Set C: 25 birches are transplanted & rowan berries are exhumed

I spent some time yesterday transplanting twenty-five birch seedlings out of the seed tray and into small plant pots, two per pot. Which twenty-five? All of the birches from No. 1 to No 30 except No. 29 – the tricot – and Nos. 8, 18, 19 and 20. Why those twenty-five? I decided to transplant just the first thirty birches for reasons of time, space, and their delicate nature. I’m not sure transplanting them at so an early stage is such a good idea, which is why I’ve left tricotyledonous No. 29 in situ for now – I don’t dare risk disturbing it. Nos. 8, 18, 19 and 20 I can no longer tell apart from each other and surrounding seedlings, so they’ve been left behind in the seed tray, lost in their own tiny forest. All the other seedlings in the birch tray, for the time being, will be left to their own devices.

Birches Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 7, mid-transplant (all to the same scale). These four had particularly long roots which were fairly free of soil.

I also sifted through the ‘Whitwell Moor’ rowan tray and removed all of the berries (sixty days after I planted them on the 11th of March), a course of action explained in this post from a week and a half ago. Before doing this I had to transplant the only seedling in the tray into a pot. It was very tiny and I’m quite sure it wasn’t a rowan. Still, it might be interesting finding out what it is.

Once I’d exhumed all of the berries, I rinsed them in a bowl of water and embarked on the long and tedious task of squishing them between my fingers and removing the seeds. Some of these decaying berries held no seeds; a couple held five seeds; most contained two or three seeds. Once all of the seeds were removed, I gave them another rinse. They have now been dried off and later on today I intend to give them a good cleaning to remove any clinging traces of berry. Then they’ll be replanted! The whole process needs repeating for the ‘Upper Midhope’ rowan berries, but there aren’t nearly so many of those.

A handful of exhumed berries before rinsing. There were way more than the few seen here!

The fruits of my labour, or maybe the labour of my fruits: the rowan seeds in submerged. Not one had germinated so far as I could tell.

The waste product heap. This handful of slimy rowan berry mush went in the compost bin.

This big grub or maggot, about four centimetres long, was lurking in the rowan tray’s soil along with a smaller grub, several small earthworms, and a long orange centipede. The surface of each seed tray is also home to numerous springtails.

Posted in The treeblog trees

Set C: the story so far (Days 50 to 59) & a tricotyledonous birch

Birches Nos. 29, 32, 46 and 53 this afternoon (Day 59).

Exciting tidings! One of the birch seedlings has turned out to be a tricot! Birch No. 29 (in the above photo) has three cotyledons, not the normal amount of two. I have previously found two tricotyledonous seedlings (both sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus): one near Edinburgh in spring 2005 and another in the Ewden Valley in spring 2007. The first one died a couple of days after I collected it because I had nowhere to plant it as I was staying away from home. The second one (which appeared on treeblog back in the day) died mysteriously a month or so after I collected it. That was a bit upsetting so I hope it’ll be third time lucky with my birch tricot, the first one I have seen.

Set C: the story so far… (contd)
I was away from Monday to Friday so news from Days 54 to 58 comes courtesy of my father.

Day 50 / 30th Apr. ‘09 - Birches Nos. 25 and 26 appear; also the first non-birch germinations - two seedlings in sweet chestnut territory. These look so much like the birch seedlings, however, that I wonder if they’ve sprouted from self-sown birch seed.

Day 51 / 1st May ‘09 - Thirteen more birches (Nos. 27 to 39), as well as a third seedling in the sweet chestnut zone.

Day 52 / 2nd May ‘09 - A further eight birches (Nos. 40 to 47).

Day 53 / 3rd May ‘09 - Another two birch seedlings (Nos. 48 and 49).

Day 54 / 4th May ‘09 - Birch No. 50.

Day 55 / 5th May ‘09 - Birch No. 51.

Day 56 / 6th May ‘09 - Four more birches (Nos. 52 to 55) and a fourth “sweet chestnut” seedling.

Day 57 / 7th May ‘09 - Another five birches (Nos. 56 to 60).

Day 58 / 8th May ‘09 - At least seven more birches (unflagged) and the first seedling in the ‘Whitwell Moor’ rowan tray. It also looks just like a birch seedling.

Day 59 / 9th May ‘09 - The first seedling in the ‘Upper Midhope’ rowan section; this one actually differs from the birches. But is it a rowan or a self-seeded weed? Only time will tell. On the birch front, I don’t have any exact figures, but there were a lot of unflagged new seedlings in the tray today. The total number of birches must be close to a hundred now, and with so many of them growing close together, and new ones popping up at the base of existing flag-poles, it’s become impossible to keep track of them all. That’s why there hasn’t been any new flags for two days now.

Tomorrow I plan on doing a bit of treeblog work. I want to transplant as many as possible of the earlier-germinating birches into pots to free up some room in the seed tray. I also want to exhume the rowan berries, strip out and clean all of the seeds, then replant them. The Scots pines and most (if not all) of the cider gums would benefit from being repotted, as would the post-Set A unknown seedling (PSAUS). The alders could also do with new pots, but they’d have to be pretty big!

In case you were wondering, this is what a birch (either Betula pendula or Betula pubescens) looks like when it is a few years old. This one was found growing in the garden a couple of years ago by my father.

Any idea what these are? I found a few of them lying on top of the soil in the Set C seed trays today. At first I thought I was seeing some new kind of seedling because of their similarity to a pair of unopened cotyledons, but I was wrong. They also look a bit like anthers, so perhaps they have blown in off some flowering plant. Then again, they don’t appear to have any pollen on them. Another treeblog mystery!

Posted in The treeblog trees

Raising trees from seed: treeblog vs the Forestry Commission, or Set C mistakes

Before we get stuck in to the main course, would Reader like a starter? Another two seedlings were observed in the birch tray yesterday (Day 50), bringing the total to twenty-six. On top of that, a Set C first: two seedlings were discovered in sweet chestnut territory! But are they really sweet chestnut seedlings or just weed impostors? I’ve never seen a sweet chestnut seedling before, but I had a mental image of them being, uh, beefier. At least they’re not nettles

Anyhoo, I was browsing the internet the other day when I came across a Forestry Commission Practice Guide entitled Raising trees and shrubs from seed (Gosling, 2007). “This could be relevant,” I thought, and relevant it is. As hoped, the guide provides advice on raising all three of treeblog Set C’s species from seed. It would seem I’ve not been going about things in quite the right fashion.

The Set C birch seeds. I collected them from an impressive tree on Whitwell Moor. Those catkins (more correctly “strobiles”) were chock-a-block full of seeds too.

According to the guide, birches are fairly easy to germinate. As “orthodox seeds”, birch seeds can be dried and stored for a long period of time. One of the recommended methods of storing birch seed (for no more than one winter) is to “Store in a loosely-tied polythene bag in the main compartment of a refrigerator (approximately +4°C)”. I kept my seeds in a plastic sandwich bag in my bedroom, which is obviously warmer than a fridge. The guide recommends either sowing in Jan-Feb to pretreat naturally or sowing in spring with or without artificial pretreatment. The recommended pretreatment here is to keep the seeds cold (about 4°C) for three to nine weeks (isn’t that just keeping them in the fridge a bit longer?). The guide classes this pretreatment of birch seeds as “Generally effective: a significant proportion of live seeds should germinate

I pretreated my birch seeds by moving them into the shed for a few weeks before planting, and things seem to be going well. Twenty-six seedlings so far, a number I’d be very happy with if I knew for certain they were all birches. I actually sowed several hundred birch seeds, so only twenty-six seedlings looks like a poor rate of germination - but I don’t have anywhere to keep hundreds of birch seedlings!

The Set C sweet chestnuts. I collected them from a magnificent old tree at Wigtwizzle.

Sweet chestnut:
The guide devotes a paragraph to the curious phenomenon of “suicidal” seeds:

…some very small seeds, such as willow and poplar, and some very large fruits, such as oak, sycamore, sweet chestnut and horse chestnut, die quite soon after being shed from the tree – one of the last properties you would normally associate with seeds. The fruits are killed if they dry out and at present there is no known method of doing anything more than slowing down their rate of deterioration. It is therefore only worth collecting seeds of these species if you can sow them fairly quickly, or are prepared to suffer significant losses over, for example, one winter’s storage.

Great. It goes on to describe chestnuts as recalcitrant – highly perishable. One thing you can’t do is to let these things dry out: “if they are frozen or dried, they die”. I didn’t have anywhere humid to store my chestnuts, so I stuck them in the shed all winter. The air in the shed is certainly not as dry as that in the house, but I wouldn’t exactly call it humid. At least I didn’t put them in the freezer.

Still, there is some hope. According to the guide, if you store your freshly-collected chestnuts at low temperatures (3°C to 5°C) – to slow seed deterioration and minimise fungal growth – and high humidity – to retard drying – then you’ll only suffer 60-70% losses over a couple of years. Well, my nuts mightn’t have been kept humid, but they were kept cold (hopefully not too cold) and were only in storage for one winter, so at least some of them ought to still be viable. Later on, the guide warns that “sweet chestnut… will typically decline from 90% to 50% germination over the 10-24 weeks between collection in October/November to spring sowing in March/April”.

The good news is that while they are a pain in the backside to store, sweet chestnut, along with poplars, willows, oaks and horse chestnut, are the “easiest to germinate of all tree species”. No pretreatment is required.

If Set C, like Set B before it, fails to bear treeblog any young sweet chestnuts, then Set D will have to succeed! If it comes to that, then in the autumn, as soon as a new horde is collected, they shall be buried in compost and kept cool and moist all winter.

I collected these, the majority of the Set C rowan berries, from a tree on Whitwell Moor. A further eighty or so berries were collected from a tree near Upper Midhope.

So far it looks like I did okay with the birches, and I might yet scrape through with some sweet chestnuts, but how did I do with the rowans? Ha! terrible!

Rowan berries tend to contain two seeds, although they may hold more. I did not know this when I planted my rowans still in berry form - I thought they only had the one! Something I did think about but failed to act upon is this: rowan berries are eaten by birds; birds digest the berries; birds excrete the undigested seeds; the seeds then grow. How I wished for caged birds to eat my berries in a sort of controlled berry-digesting, seed-cleaning sweatshop. Alas! this just wasn’t practical and I didn’t fancy doing the birds’ job myself (what if I digested both berries and seeds?). In the end I simply planted the berries whole, which was a bit silly:

Fleshy fruits are also some of the most awkward and certainly the messiest to process. …very occasionally a little fermentation can help. However, for seeds such as hawthorn, holly and rowan, fermentation can be significantly harmful or even fatal and is therefore to be avoided. Subsequently, most seeds will need repeated washing not only to remove the clinging remnants of sticky flesh, but also as a means of removing chemicals that have the potential to inhibit germination.

Germination-inhibiting chemicals? Oh no! (At least rowan seeds, like birch seeds, are “orthodox” so can be dried and frozen for storage. My berries experienced the same storage conditions as my birch seeds.) Anyway, once your rowan seeds are nice and clean with no tarrying trace of berry, they can enter pretreatment hell. The guide describes pretreatment as “Only partially effective: even with the longest pretreatment durations and/or several pretreatment cycles”! Still, it recommends 2-4 warm (about 15°C) weeks and 16-30 cold (about 4°C) weeks of pretreatment. Awesome.

I think I’m going to have to exhume my rowan berries, release the seeds from their fleshy prisons, and replant. No time for pretreatment though. Maybe the next winter can be contracted to perform that job if nothing germinates before then?

Level of shame = high.

* * * * *

Raising trees and shrubs from seed is a great little guide. It provides a host of advice on collecting, preparing, storing and planting seed. You can download it free from here: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/fcpg018.pdf/$FILE/fcpg018.pdf

Posted in The treeblog trees

Twenty-four birches in Set C (Day 49)

At the last count, at half five this afternoon, there were twenty-four seedlings in the birch tray. I think it’s reasonable to assume that at least the majority of these seedlings really are birch, as opposed to self-seeded weeds, considering that there isn’t a thing growing in either of the other three trays (which contain sweet chestnuts, rowan berries, and half sweet chestnuts, half rowan berries respectively). Innovation! I’m keeping track of the seedlings by planting a little numbered flag next to each one; this will allow the future trees to be photographically tracked back to their very earliest days of germination. This might seem (be) pointless or anally retentive, but I regret having not done the same thing with the Set A seedlings. I have photos of cider gum and grey alder seedlings from the early days, and I don’t know whether those seedlings were eaten by slugs/snails* or are still in the treeblog stables today. Which slightly irritates me.

The flags are made of cocktail sticks and Sellotape. I wrote identifying numbers on the sticky sides of lengths of tape then folded the lengths back on themselves around the tops of cocktail sticks, thus sticking the two halves together - with the ID numbers safely weather-proofed between twin layers of tape.

* No seedling massacre this time! Set C is safe within a fortress built of slug pellets!

The birch tray earlier today: lots of flags, lots of blue slug pellets, and lots of birch seedlings (only a few of which are visible).

Set C’s birches: the story so far…

26th Sep. ‘08 - I collected seed from a tree on Whitwell Moor.

Day 0 / 11th Mar. ‘09 - Set C is planted.

Day 40 / 20th Apr. ‘09 - A rooted seedling is discovered lying on top of the soil.

Day 44 / 24th Apr. ‘09 - The first seedlings proper appear – four of them!

Day 45 / 25th Apr. ‘09 - A fifth seedling appears.

Day 47 / 27th Apr. ‘09 - Another five seedlings appear.

Day 48 / 28th Apr. ‘09 - A further eleven seedlings appear! No. 5 is rescued and relocated; it had been growing right at the edge of the tray and had fallen down the gap between the soil and the plastic edge.

Day 49 / 29th Apr. ‘09 - Three more seedlings appear, bringing the grand total to twenty-four.

treeblog’s most pointless image ever? I said I thought it would be good to have photos of all the seedlings from their earliest days, but really? I can make out bugger all from here, and the large version isn’t much cop either.

Nevermind. Here’s a nice big close-up to make it all better again:

Birch No. 1. That red spot between the cotyledons looks like more leaves are on the way!

Posted in The treeblog trees

First Set C seedlings appear! (Day 44)

Great joy! Checking the Set C seed trays yesterday (Day 44) I found what I have long waited for: the first proper seedling! A pair of little green leaves was poking above the soil in the birch seed tray, and upon closer inspection a further two seedlings were partially covered up just an inch away, right at the edge of the tray. And then I noticed a fourth seedling just beginning to poke through an inch from the first. What’s more, when I checked the trays today, I saw what looks like a fifth birch seedling coming through!

Aaw, isn’t it cute? I might be jumping the gun a little (what if it dies / gets eaten / isn’t a birch), but this can be birch No. 1. By the way, I’ll keep these photos labelled as “Betula sp.” until I ID the parent as a silver (B. pendula) or downy (B. pubescens) birch. [Update (5 July 2009): These seedlings are all downy birches!]

And these can be Nos. 2 and 3. No. 1 is just in frame on the right.

Birch No. 4. No 1 is in the photo again, this time in the bottom left.

Now for a bit of history to put the timings of these germinations into perspective. In 2007 Set A was planted on the 28th of March and we had seedlings sprouting in force thirty days later, Day 30 being the 27th of April. In 2008 Set B was planted on the 14th of March but it only produced one seedling, also a birch, which unfortunately died within a couple of months; that seedling was first noticed on the 10th of May, fifty-seven days after planting. So now for 2009: Set C was planted on the 11th of March, and the first seedlings were noticed forty-four days later on the 24th of April. A rooted rowan berry with no stem or leaves has been seen (one and a half weeks ago) – so rowan seedlings shouldn’t be too far away. As for the third Set C species, sweet chestnut, I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that they grow. Sweet chestnut was also a failed Set B species.

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog Set C planted today!

Day 0 (Set C).

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another (more aesthetically pleasing) view of those chestnuts.

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

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

Posted in The treeblog trees

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