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the Set C rowans

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treeblog update: the Set C(r) rowans (May 2012)

I’ve left it a stupidly long time since the last one, but here’s the latest update on all thirteen Set C(r) rowans (excluding the tricots, which I haven’t shown on treeblog in an even looonger time, but which will make an appearance soon). I took the photos on Tuesday – Day 1113 – just over three years since I planted the rowans as seeds. The last update was in May of last year on Day 720.

There are four ‘U’s, which are the offspring of a tree that grew near Upper Midhope, and nine ‘W’s. which are the offpring of a tree that still grows on Whitwell Moor. On the whole, the Ws are doing far better, but the tallest Set C(r) rowan is a U.

U2 – Tiny. Along with U7, this seedling has the same mildew-type affliction that affected the majority of the Set C(r) rowans last year.

U5 – healthy but tiny.

U7 – tiny and suffering from the mildew-type disease.

U14 – the tallest tree in the set, measuring a whopping 67 cm tall.

W2 – another tall one.

W6 – kind of average.

W7 – I think the the two little branches sprouting from near the base have died.

W11 – another tall one, with a suppressed second stem.

W12 – a little smaller than average.

W15 – pleasing to look at.

W17 – has the leafiest stem.

W18 – kind of average.

W19 – doesn’t look very sturdy, and one tiny branch has a bit of that mildewy stuff, but otherwise looks healthy.

* * * * *

I also measured the heights of all thirteen rowans. They are ranked in descending order in the table below:

Tree Height (cm)
May 2012
U14 67
W2 61
W11 60
W17 53
W7 42
W15 42
W6 39
W18 37
W19 36
W12 33
U7 13
U2 11
U5 10

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog update: the Set C(r) rowans (Day 720)

’Upper Midhope’ rowans No. 2 (approx. 11 cm tall) & No. 5 (the shortest of the set at 7 cm).

It’s been a looong time since the Set C(r) rowans featured in a treeblog update. Since that time, the size of the set has been significantly reduced by the loss of identifying flags (read about it in the census). Here are the current lot, before I beef up the numbers by dipping into the reserves.

All of the rowans are suffering from some kind of disease – mildew? – to a varying extent, which has formed a white powder on their leaves. The two rowans in the photo above have it the worst (U2 & U5). W2 & W18 are also badly affected. So far it doesn’t appear to be having much of an impact on the overall health of the seedlings.

These photos were taken on the 2nd of May (Day 720); the height measurements were taken today (Day 738).

’Upper Midhope’ rowan No. 7 (12 cm).

’Upper Midhope’ rowan No. 14 (51 cm) & ‘Whitwell Moor’ rowan No. 2 (44 cm).

‘Whitwell Moor’ rowans No. 6 (33 cm) & No. 7 (36 cm).

‘Whitwell Moor’ rowans No. 11 (the tallest of the set at 52 cm) & No. 12 (26 cm – has had its top bitten off since this photo was taken).

‘Whitwell Moor’ rowans No. 15 (37 cm) & No. 17 (46 cm).

‘Whitwell Moor’ rowans No. 18 (34 cm) & No. 19 (22 cm).

* * * * *

Sometime last week downy birch No. 13 from Set C was uprooted, probably by one of the grey squirrels that frequent our garden. I’m pretty sure it’s a goner.

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(r), Day 479): the Upper Midhope rowans

’Upper Midhope’ rowans Nos. 1 to 4.

As I said in the last post, I planted the Set C(r) Whitwell Moor rowans in individual pots at the end of June. Unfortunately I never got around to planting their peers, the Set C(r) Upper Midhope rowans, until the 30th of August – two months later. This means that the Whitwell Moor (W) rowans have a massive advantage over their Upper Midhope (U) buddies. I mean, there’s a big difference in size. But while this sucks for the U rowans, it’ll be interesting to see how quickly they catch up to the W rowans.

Photos taken on the 3rd of September – Day 479. The last treeblog update for the Set C(r) rowans was back in mid-May: Day 369.

U rowans Nos. 5 to 8.

U rowans Nos. 9 to 12.

U rowans Nos. 13 to 16.

U rowans Nos. 17 to 20.

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog update (Set C(r), Day 479): the Whitwell Moor rowans

’Whitwell Moor’ rowan No. 1.

I’m afraid it’s been almost four months since the Set C(r) rowans were last seen on treeblog, which is too long an absence for these fantastic seedlings. The speed with which the Whitwell Moor (W) rowans have grown since I planted them out in individual pots on the 26th of June is really quite amazing.

I took the majority of these photos a couple of Fridays ago on the 3rd of September – Day 479 – but three of the photos turned out blurry so I retook them yesterday – Day 486. Rowan No. 16 unfortunately disappeared within a few weeks of being planted out, so only nineteen WM rowans now remain in Set C(r).

W rowans Nos. 2 and 3.

W rowans Nos. 4 and 5.

W rowans Nos. 6 and 7.

W rowans Nos. 8 and 9.

W rowans Nos. 10 and 11.

W rowans Nos. 12 and 13.

W rowans Nos. 14 and 15.

W rowans Nos. 17 and 18.

W rowans Nos. 19 and 20.

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog update (Set C(r), Day 369): the rowans

Whitwell Moor rowan No. 1 (W1).

Well, it’s not the most fun job in the world, but someone’s got to do it. It’s a labour of love. It’s another treeblog Set C(r) update (photos taken this afternoon – Day 369).

Happily the Set C(r) rowans (Sorbus aucuparia), last paraded before the world five weeks ago, are all healthy and vigorous. They’ve all got their first true leaf and the majority are showing off their second. Their progress is a pleasure to behold!

Rowans W2 to W5.

Rowans W6 to W9.

Rowans W10 to W13.

Rowans W14 to W17.

Rowans W18 to W20 and Upper Midhope rowan No. 2 (U2).

Rowan U1.

Rowans U3 to U6.

Rowans U7 to U10.

Rowans U11 to U14.

Rowans U15 to U18.

Rowans U19 and U20 and Whitwell Moor tricot rowans Nos. 1 and 2 (WT1 and WT2).

Rowans WT3 to WT6. The sixth tricot is still in the seed tray with all its feral brethren, awaiting transplantation.

Posted in The treeblog trees

Set C(r) rowans transplanted. Six rowan tricots. Set D rowans planted. The fate of the Set D beeches and sweet chestnuts.

The transplanted Set C(r) rowans (Sorbus aucuparia) yesterday, minus the tricots.

Yesterday was a busy day for treeblog

1. Set C(r) rowans transplanted

(Set C(r), Day 334) I transplanted forty of the Set C(r) rowan seedlings - U1 to U20 (the progeny of the Upper Midhope rowan) and W1 to W20 (the progeny of the Whitwell Moor rowan) - from the unordered, overcrowded seed tray to a regimented ‘plug’ tray, where each seedling gets its own little space to breathe. There they all are in the photo above, happy as Larry.

The first five Upper Midhope rowan seedlings, U1 to U5, en route to the plug tray.

The plug tray as a bird would see it. May they live long and prosper.

2. Six rowan tricots

Set C(r) has produced six tricots so far! They are all progeny of the Whitwell Moor rowan. The sixth one I only discovered today, but the other five were transplanted into a plug tray just like their cohorts. I’ve labelled them as ‘WTn’, where WT stands for Whitwell Moor tricot. This is an exciting development for treeblog! I’ve previously found two tricot sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) seedlings; both died. I’ve also grown a tricot downy birch seedling (Betula pendula) in Set C; I lost it. Not a good track record then, but how can I lose with six rowan tricots?

The first five tricots, WT1 to WT5, en route to their plug tray.

A closer look at WT1…

…and WT2 and WT3 and WT4 and WT5. Marvellous.

3. Set D rowans planted

I collected more rowan berries last September, again from the Whitwell Moor tree, but also from a gigantic, ancient, collapsed rowan growing up on the moors near a tiny valley going by the name of Oaken Clough. Once I’d extracted the seeds from the berries, I pretreated them over the winter before planting them yesterday - (Set D(r), Day 0). I planned to use three different methods of pretreatment, outlined in this post from October, but I ended up only following one of the methods accurately: the easy one, where all you do is bung your seeds in a pot of soil and leave them outside over the winter.

So yesterday I gathered up all of the Set D rowan seeds to check for any germination. Sure enough, several of the seeds pretreated the easy way had germinated. I planted them into the same plug tray as the Set C(r) tricots. After a couple of casualties injured when extracting the germinated seedlings from the pretreatment plant pot, there remained nine Oaken Clough seedlings and twenty-two Whitwell Moor seedlings. I planted all of the ungerminated seeds in a couple of seed trays.

The germinated Oaken Clough seedlings, freshly removed from the pretreatment plant pot and ready for planting.

4. The fate of the Set D beeches and sweet chestnuts

(Set D(b), Day 193 / Set D(c), Day 183) I had a feeling that none of the beechnuts I planted in September or the sweet chestnuts I planted in October were going to germinate, so I went on a major rummage. I emptied fifty percent of the sweet chestnut seed trays (actually plug trays – to make room for the rowans!) and found that fully one hundred percent of the chestnuts were dead. I have yet to check the remaining half, but I am resolutely pessimistic with regards to the outcome.

I also rummaged through both of the beech seed trays – one containing standard European beech (Fagus sylvatica) nuts, the other containing cut- or fern-leaved beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Aspleniifolia’) nuts – and this is what I found:

F1: one germinating cut-leaved beech nut. Yes!!!
F2: a second germinating cut-leaved beech nut, trapped inside its rock-hard cupule. How the hell is it ever going to get out of there?
W1: how’s this for a total tragedy. Out of the all the standard beechnuts I planted, only one germinated and I bloody accidentally snapped its root off when I was looking through the seed tray. How crushingly depressing is that? I feel really, really terrible about it. What an idiotic mistake to make.

These three germinated beechnuts I planted in pots. The damaged beech will just shrivel and die; it has expended all of its energy on a root that is now not there. The cut-leaved beech trapped in the cupule will probably die from being unable to escape its prison. Now all of treeblog’s beech hopes and dreams rest on the shoulders of one cut-leaved beech. No pressure or anything.

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

A potted history of the Set C(r) rowans to date. treeblog update (Set C(r), Day 327).

Excellent news! The rowans (Sorbus aucuparia) that I planted 328 days ago are sprouting in droves! This afternoon I counted around forty seedlings growing where I planted seeds from the Whitwell Moor rowan and two seedlings growing where I planted seeds from the Upper Midhope rowan. That’s a lot of seedlings, and treeblog can really only follow so many – so I’ve picked twenty of the Whitwell Moor seedlings to follow, along with as many Upper Midhope seedlings that germinate (up to twenty). That’s still a lot of rowans, and I’ve yet to even plant the Set D rowan seeds I collected last year (which I’m going to go ahead and plant anyway to see which of the three methods of pre-treatment used worked best).

There are photos of the chosen twenty-two seedlings later in this post (taken yesterday – Day 327). But first here’s a potted history of the Set C / Set C(r) rowans, starting right from the beginning…

On the 15th of August 2008 I went to collect berries for treeblog Set C (to be planted spring 2009) from this rowan near the hamlet of Upper Midhope:

The skeletal Upper Midhope rowan, seen here on the 24th of August 2006.

But when I reached the spot where the rowan grew, it had sadly fallen over!

It must have collapsed fairly recently as, luckily for both me and the tree, there were a few clusters of ripe berries hanging in the canopy. These berries I collected, and they were last fruits this amazing tree every produced, for it was cleared away sometime between mid-February and late May 2009.

On the 26th of September 2008 I collected berries from this rowan growing on Whitwell Moor:

The Whitwell Moor rowan on the day of berry collection.

Along with some downy birch seeds and some sweet chestnuts, I planted both lots of rowan berries as treeblog Set C on the 11th of March 2009. I mistakenly planted the berries whole – but apparently you’re supposed to remove the seeds from the berries before planting.

On the day of planting. The Upper Midhope berries occupy the upper third of the top-left tray; the Whitwell Moor berries occupy the bottom-right tray.

After realising my mistake, I exhumed the berries and removed the seeds on the 10th & 11th of May 2009 - what a messy procedure! I replanted the cleaned-up seeds on the 12th of May, calling them Set C(r) (r for rowan) to distinguish them from the rest of Set C, which didn’t need replanting. [11th March 2009 = Set C Day 0 / 12th May 2009 = Set C(r) Day 0.]

The Whitwell Moor seeds after cleaning, prior to replanting.

A month later, in mid-June, several seedlings appeared in the Set C(r) seed tray, but they turned out to be self-set willows, not rowans. (Some of the willows are now dead; the rest I tried to kill by ‘coppicing’ them so that they wouldn’t compete with any future-sprouting rowans - I couldn’t just pull them up because their roots were so extensive I’d have messed up the whole seed tray. Of course, these tiny willow stumps survived and are now budding up!)

So no rowans germinated in 2009, but the long wait has turned out to have been well worth it! Just look at these bad boys (notice how some of the seedlings still have their seed coat attached):

The two Upper Midhope seedlings (designated by ‘U’): U1 & U2.

…And the twenty Whitwell Moor seedlings (designated by ‘W’):

W1 to W5.

W6 to W10.

W11 to W15.

W16 to W20.


Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog update (Set A, Day 1102): cider gums. Set C(r) rowans are sprouting!

On parade today are all fifteen Set A cider gums, lined up and ready to be inspected for the first time since August! These poor young eucalypts have been ravaged by the harshest winter for many a year, and it looks as though six of our comrades have fallen (and most of the survivors have frost-damaged tips) – yet there may be still be hope. The previous winter (2008-2009) looked to have dealt fatal blows to cider gums Nos. 3 and 15, but they somehow managed to crawl back from the precipice of the grave. Hardy buggers. Can this miracle be repeated in 2010? (Photographs taken yesterday, 1102 days since I planted Set A.)

Cider gum No. 1 – looking very dead. Has it fallen into the endless abyss?

Cider gum No. 2 – one of the tall Class I gums.

Cider gum No. 3 - one of the three Class III runty gums. The dead upper part of No. 3 was killed off by the previous winter, but the winter-just-gone looks to have put paid to its recovery efforts.

Cider gum No. 4.

Cider gum No. 5 – another one of those that may now be At Rest.

Cider gum No. 6 – another Class III, another cadaver?

Cider gum No. 7 – the tallest of all the cider gums. A real Class I über-gum. It now shares its pot with a brassy young sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) that has recently sprouted.

Cider gum No. 7’s new roomie.

Cider gum No. 8.

Cider gum No. 9 also has a new roomie: a wee clump of what look to be rushes.

I hope it’s Juncus effusus!

Cider gum No. 10.

Cider gum No. 11 – another victim of winter.

Cider gum No. 12 - Class I.

Cider gum No. 13 – the only treeblog tree still on crutches. Some of the other gums are looking a bit leany or loose in the soil, so support canes will probably be making a comeback.

Cider gum No. 14 - Class I.

Cider gum No. 15 - Class III. Has this winter managed what the previous one couldn’t? Poor things looks dead as a door-post.

* * * * *

Set C news: There are Set C(r) rowans sprouting by the bucketload! These beauties will be the subject of the next post, but I’ll tell you right here and now that yesterday I counted thirty-three seedlings in the Whitwell Moor section and two in the Upper Midhope section. I photographed them this afternoon, along with the Set C birches, which are just beginning to put out their first leaves of the new year. treeblog is in a good place!

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog update (Set C, Day 95 – Set C(r), Day 33): the “rowans”

We’ve had the birches; now it’s time for the Set C / Set C(r) rowans, or those seedlings that have grown where rowans were planted. They might not be rowans. Nine seedlings have germinated in the ‘Whitwell Moor’ seed tray section, but only one has germinated in the ‘Upper Midhope’ section. ‘Whitwell Moor’ rowan (WMR) No. 1 and ‘Upper Midhope’ rowan (UMR) No. 1 both germinated before I exhumed the Set C rowan berries, removed the seeds, and replanted them as Set C(r) 37 days ago. WMR Nos. 2 to 9 germinated after the replanting, so I’m classifying them as being in Set C(r) whereas I’m classifying WMR No. 1 and UMR No. 1 as being in plain old Set C.

I photographed all ten “rowans” on Sunday – Set C Day 95 or Set C(r) Day 33.

WMR No. 1 (left) and UMR No. 1 (right). The two clearly belong to different species. So which one, if any, is the rowan?

WMR Nos. 2 to 5.

WMR Nos. 6 to 9.

All of the seedlings except UMR No. 1 appear to belong to the same species. This suggests that they are all actual rowans and not self-sown randoms, especially when you bear in mind that no similar looking seedlings have germinated in the birch seed tray. It seems too unlikely that nine seedlings of a single (non-rowan) species could have self-seeded in the rowan seed tray without any self-seeding in the birch tray. So: all of the seedlings from the birch tray appear to be the same species – downy birch; and all of the WMR seedlings appear to be the same species – presumably rowan. UMR No. 1 is presumably a weed.

HOWEVER… don’t these “rowans” look familiar? Have a look at the PSAUS photo-timeline – specifically the oldest photo. The PSAUS is a goat willow!

Posted in The treeblog trees

Set C rowan seeds replanted. Some Set A trees repotted.

The ‘Whitwell Moor’ rowan seeds after cleaning.

After exhuming the ‘Whitwell Moor’ rowan berries and extracting the seeds on Sunday, I did the same for the ‘Upper Midhope’ rowan berries yesterday. I also removed any trace of berry from all of the seeds, then today I replanted them. FYI kiddo, today is Set C(r) Day 0 / Set C Day 62 / Set A Day 776. It’s hard to keep track sometimes, isn’t it?

The ‘Upper Midhope’ rowan seeds after cleaning.

Set A also saw some replanting, or rather repotting. Both Scots pines received a much-needed pot upgrade, as did the larger cider gums: Nos. 2, 7, 12, 13 and 14. All were repotted in a two-parts compost, one-part sand mixture. The rest of the Set A characters need repotting too but they’ll have to wait a bit: I’m all out of compost and sand now. Looks like a trip to a garden centre or the B&Q is on the cards then, where I’ll also be looking to procure four super-large pots for the grey alders.

The newly potted treelings. From left to right (in the big pots), cider gums Nos. 14, 2, 13, 7 and 12, then Scots pine Beta and Scots pine Alpha on the end. Cider gum No. 10, still in one of the old pots, is included for scale. The rowan seed tray is there too!

treeblog updates for all the trees coming soon!

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

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

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

Collecting rowan berries and downy birch seeds

There’s been a small voice in the back of my head lately and it’s been telling me to go and get the berries and seeds I need for treeblog’s Set C. So today I went on a wander to see what I could do about it. I’m going to be planting three species of tree for Set C: downy birch (Betula pubescens), rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), and sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa).

the rowan

I already have some rowan berries from the fallen rowan that I collected on the 15th of August, six weeks ago to the day. It’s a good job I collected those when I did because the last time I saw the fallen rowan, just over a week ago, there wasn’t a single berry left on it. But there was another rowan I wanted berries from – the one in the photo above - and I’ve paid it a visit today. Its berries were very ripe and quite a lot had been shed. I gathered up a fair few, some from the ground and some still on the tree.

the downy birch

My next port of call was this big old downy birch (probably - it might be a silver birch), only a short walk from the rowan. Whilst not a very tall tree, its short trunk has an impressive girth to about one metre from the floor, where it splits into numerous spreading branches. The approach to this tree is a little bit special. You have to squeeze down a narrow cow-made path through a cluster of young birches and pines, which happen to frame this picturesque tree as it squats in its own little clearing on the edge of open moorland. When I arrived, seeds were collected. Hundreds of them.

a pearl-studded puffball

There were a lot of these pearl-studded puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum) under the big birch. I saw plenty of these looking well past their best at the end of February down in Thetford Forest when I was collecting data from a silver birch provenance trial. My guess is that this species of puffball is associated with birch, perhaps in a mycorrhizal role.

In other treeblog news... (1) I still need to collect sweet chestnuts, but I might not be able to get my hands on them for a while yet; and (2) this blog is well overdue a Set A update.

Posted in Gone for a walk + The treeblog trees

Collecting berries from a favourite rowan, Upper Midhope

It was a nice day on Friday, so I went for a walk around Langsett. I’ve been fancying growing some rowans for treeblog’s Set C (coming 2009), and it just so happened that my route took me past a couple of my favourites. The berries on the first rowan weren’t quite ripe, so I’ll have to go back in a week or so. The second rowan is a tree with plenty of character. Situated at the edge of a country lane a stone’s throw away from the pretty hamlet of Upper Midhope, half of the tree is a bleached silver skeleton. The other half of the tree, which forks in two about a metre from the ground, is also mostly dead but retains enough greenery to keep ticking over. It’s a beautiful tree, as you can see yourself from the photos below, which I took one fine day in the 2006 heatwave – August 24th.

the rowan

the bleached, dead half

looking up at the foliage

Until two days ago, I don’t think I’ve been past this rowan in the two years since I took those photos. Nevertheless, I had this charismatic tree in mind when I set off on my walk and it was my purpose to collect some of its berries for treeblog’s Set C. Imagine my dismay as I crested a ridge and couldn’t see the tree in its usual place. As I got closer, I found out why.

the rowan resting on a dry stone wall, having fallen over

What a shame! I don’t know if it was blown down in a storm, or whether it just collapsed – the base was pretty rotten (see the final photograph). The tree is still alive and its usual canopy is alive and well, complete with several clusters of berries. I guess the tree must have come down this year, judging by the angle of this year’s growth. What I don’t know is how long it has been this way. If it only came down recently – and we had some pretty nasty weather a week or so ago – the foliage may still look healthy even though the tree has no chance of surviving the coming months. Yet I hope that there is still enough vascular tissue connecting the roots to the now-horizontal upper parts for this rowan to continue to live for years to come. I also hope no farmer comes along and clears it away.

I collected a couple of berry clusters, which will be planted for treeblog’s next set. It’ll be a pleasure to raise this tree’s offspring.

the rowan lying on the wall

the rotten base

[Update (14 February 2009): The rowan is still in situ and it is still alive!]

[Update (24th May 2009): I visited today but the fallen tree has been cleared away, leaving just a stump. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that its seeds I planted for Set C germinate.]

Posted in The treeblog trees

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