37 posts in the category

Holidays and field trips

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Habitat restoration in Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve

Flowers of the harebell (Campanula rotundifolia).

I recently returned from a week in the Highlands where I stayed in a cottage in Glen Lyon, just over an hour’s drive from Killin and Loch Tay. On Sunday the 2nd I walked up Beinn Ghlas (1103 m / 3620 ft) and Ben Lawers (1214 m / 3984 ft), two of the local Munros (mountains over 3000 feet). Most of the main path is within the Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve, a 4,722 ha area of land encompassing the southern slopes of the Lawers and Tarmachan ranges owned and cared for by the National Trust for Scotland.

Adapted from the National Trust for Scotland’s Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve page:

… [The] Reserve [is] especially important for the arctic-alpine flora, and is also of international importance. We manage it in collaboration with Scottish Natural Heritage, to achieve a wide range of conservation objectives [including] the long-term survival of the native species of plant and animal and their habitats… some of the habitats are now so rare and vulnerable that extinction is either imminent of inevitable if we do not act to prevent it. Much of our work is designed to reverse such a process, with ‘species recovery’ and ‘habitat restoration’. For example, you can se the first British attempt to restore montane willow scrub, a rare and declining habitat in Scotland, as part of a continuum also including herb-rich birchwood. [A] Nature Trail is mostly within an ‘enclosure’ fence, within which the vegetation is recovering from the heavily grazed condition still seen outside the fence. Many of the trees and shrubs have been planted during the 1990s, but some of them, and the herbaceous plants, have regenerated without such intervention.

This photo shows the enclosed area mentioned in the above passage – it’s the reddish-brown patch in the centre of all that green. The green is mainly grass and low-growing herbs that are tolerant of being grazed by sheep and deer. The enclosed area is a different colour because a more natural flora has been allowed to regenerate thanks to the deer fencing – it appears reddish-brown from a distance because a lot of the ground cover is currently made up of heathers and flowering grasses. The mountain in the background is Beinn Ghlas; it obscures Ben Lawers.

The concentrated sheep grazing since the 18th century, and increasingly large deer populations now [deer have no natural predators since the wolf was hunted to extinction in the 17th or 18th century], have had a profound effect on the vegetation. Trees, shrubs and tall herbaceous plants cannot survive and regenerate and are now confined to cliff ledges. Farmers have rights to graze their sheep on Trust land on the Ben Lawers range, but the red deer is a native of the hills and its presence is important to the land. However, numbers are such that seedling trees cannot escape the many hungry mouths, so culling of deer is carried out on the reserve.

[Taken from a leaflet available to download from the National Trust for Scotland’s Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve page.]

Several birch (Betula) saplings and a rowan sapling (Sorbus aucuparia) – far right – growing amongst heather, ferns and lichen (the creamy-white patches) inside the enclosure. Much nicer than a vast, monotonous expanse of overgrazed grassland, innit. As well as birch and rowan, I saw plenty of willow growing; the Burn of Edramucky flows through the enclosure and you know how willow loves its water.

A wee rowan rising above tall, flowering grass; something you just don’t see outside of the enclosure.

The view south over the beautiful Loch Tay from the enclosure. I ♥ the Highlands.

This horsetail (Equisetum sp.) – a “living fossil” - is also benefiting from the habitat restoration scheme. I found this one growing with its friends by a waterfall.

Looking back through the enclosure towards Beinn Ghlas. The day started off overcast and drizzly, but by late afternoon the weather turned lovely for the ascent.

* * * * *

Featuring in the next few posts: photos of the Set A and Set C trees; a huge spruce and a money tree; a huge ash and a hoary rowan; & some big mushrooms and a big bracket fungus!

Posted in Gone for a walk + Holidays and field trips

Photos from a camping trip in the Highlands

A few weeks ago a couple of buddies and myself set off on a camping trip. We caught a train from Edinburgh to Blair Atholl early on the morning of Monday the 19th of May. And after four days of walking and four nights of camping, we ended up in Aviemore early the following Friday. We didn't take a direct route; from Blair Atholl we headed over the Minigaig Pass before heading eastwards for a day. Then we turned north and eventually headed back west towards Aviemore through Glenmore Forest Park. This route took us in and out of the Cairngorms National Park a couple of times, and altogether we walked about 100 km. Much of the journey was devoid of trees as we traversed many a mile o' desolate moorland. We saw the odd bit of plantation forestry (spruce-larch-pine), the odd willow or birch nestled in a wee valley... but the real treet came in the form of seeing some Caledonian pinewood remnants, particularly in and around the Glenmore Forest Park.

big conifers in Blair Castle’s Diana’s Grove

Almost immediately after leaving Blair Atholl station, we found ourselves in Blair Castle's Diana's Grove, where huge conifers are all around.

Britain's tallest Japanese larch

Diana's Grove is home to Britain's tallest Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi). This giant is 44 metres (approx. 144 feet) tall!

Other giant trees in the Grove include Britain's tallest red fir (Abies magnifica) - 39 metres (approx. 128 feet) - and Britain's fifth-tallest Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), the tallest tree in the Grove at 59 metres (approx. 193½ feet). An information board at the entrance to the Grove reads:

This Grove or Wilderness, set out in 1737, takes its name from a statue of Diana the Roman goddess of hunting...

The grove is renowned for its exotic conifers, introduced from all over the world, particularly America, many now among the tallest examples of their kind in Britain.

Some of the first European Larch to grow in this country were planted here by the second Duke of Atholl in the 1730s, the seventh Duke continued the tradition by introducing the Japanese Larch in 1884...

forestry machine

After not seeing another soul for a whole day, we descended from the moors early on Tuesday afternoon to be greeted by a bit of forestry work. Some trees were being felled to soften up the edges of a plantation.

stack of timber

This is one of two stacks of timber resulting from said operation.

junipers in front of a scree slope

In the foreground are common junipers (Juniperus communis), one of Britain's three native conifers. Nice to see it thriving up here, as I hear it's declined in some parts of the country.

the River Dee

Looking up the River Dee from the bridge at the Linn of Dee, a short section of rapids. This link opens a page showing a cubic panorama (uses QuickTime) of the Linn of Dee (the Dee must have been running lower when we walked by, as the river was at the bottom of a ravine).

Scots pines on a ridge, silhouetted against the sky

Scots pines in their natural habitat.

Caledonian pine woodland

This photo was taken within the Glenmore Forest Park. Proper Scots pine country.

dead Scots pine silhouetted against the sky

A Scots pine skeleton.

Posted in Holidays and field trips + Notable trees

Photos from Aira Force & Center Parcs

In the last post I showed you the money tree at Aira Force in the Lake District. Well, the fun didn't stop there! Besides Aira Force itself, there were further items of interest to be seen further up the trail.

lush countryside view

View over Ullswater from the footpath leading to Aira Force.

sunny oak woodland

Typical view of the oak woodland around Aira Force.

stony woodland river

Aira Beck upstream of Aira Force. The river looked to be a little low in its flow. Old alders were plentiful - a sort of naturally copiced alder is in the middle of the river in this photograph.

large bracket fungus

This large bracket fungus was growing on a poorly-looking alder growing above Aira Beck.

gigantic birch

Check out this behemoth of a birch! It was so big it was barely recognisable! There were a few similar birches reaching the kind of size most birches never even come close to.

massive spruce

And if the giant birches weren't enough, there was this gigantic Sitka spruce, the like of which I ain't ever seen before! This photo does not do it justice, because in the flesh this tree is a jaw-dropping spectacle. That massive branch alone is as big as your standard ready-for-harvesting forestry Sitka!

tall pines against a blue sky

This is the view from just outside our chalet back at Center Parcs, 69 Seven Pines: some lovely pine. Not bad, eh?

weird spruce root growing over another spruce

And finally, this slice of weirdness was just around the corner from our chalet. The Sitka spruce once growing on the right had grown roots over the left Sitka, and the two trees' roots had merged together a bit. Freakish.

Posted in Holidays and field trips + Notable trees

Aira Force Money Tree

coins in wood

I stayed with fifteen ecology buddies at the Whinfell Forest Center Parcs village in the Lake District from Monday to Friday. We had a right good time! Sun, swimming, beer, BBQs, badgers, and beer. On Wednesday, nine of us went on a bit of a day trip to Aira Force, a waterfall near Ullswater. The footpath to the fall runs through some woodland and along the way we saw an unusual sight. A fallen tree (beech I presume) covered in hammered-in coinage: the Aira Force Money Tree! I've heard about money trees before but I think this is the first one I've seen in the flesh. Did I hammer a coin in? No, and I kind of regret that.

coins in wood: the Aira Force Money Tree

Coins and ecologists.

twenty euro cents coin embedded in wood

€0.20. Foreign currencies are represented too!

Aira Force Money Tree

The Aira Force Money Tree. The stump is also covered in coins!

I wonder how long ago the tree was cut down. And I wonder if the coin-hammering started while the tree was still alive.

Posted in Holidays and field trips

Silver birch provenance trials: satellite photos

Why hello there. This post harnesses the power of Google Maps to bring you satellite photographs of the Thetford (posts here and here) and Drummond Hill (post here) silver birch provenance trials I collected data from for my dissertation. If the little Maps windows below don't work in your browser, perhaps you'll have better luck on Google's own Maps pages for Thetford and Drummond Hill. Two things. One, the satellite photos are a few years old. Obviously older than the Thetford trial, created in 2003, which is not yet in existance according to the satellite images. And two, as for the Drummond Hill photos... well, the resolution is so low that you can't make out where exactly the trial is anyway.

See that triangle-shaped patchy area in the centre? Well, go there today and you'll find Thetford's silver birch provenance trial. I guess the sat image shows the previous land use, which I reckon was a Scots pine plantation.

See that dark patch with white stipes in the centre? Well that is the wood at Drummond Hill in which the birch provenance trial can be found. The really big black / very dark blue patch is Loch Tay.

Posted in Holidays and field trips

Drummond Hill silver birch provenance trial

I spent the last week up in the Highlands by Loch Tay, collecting data from the Drummond Hill silver birch provenance trial at Boreland (Drummond 34). About three weeks previous to my Highlands trip, I'd been down in Thetford for a week at another silver birch provenance trial (see this post and this post). Whereas the Thetford site was a model provenance trial, all perfect neat rows and level ground, the Drummond Hill trial was a bit of a 'mare. Not as bad as the provenance trial in Ormsary (Kintyre 20) that I visited in September, but still a bit of trouble. The site was split in two by a forest road, and the lower portion was a right weird shape. The ground was all stoney and uneven, and holes made during mounding were often hidden by dead vegetation. It was a pain to traverse, and was real ankle-spraining country. Luckily no injuries were sustained, and I was accompanied at all times by my assisstant forester in case any such sprainage should have ocurred. The upper section of the site was less stoney, but was still full of stumps and holes. And the trees were planted all higgledy-piggledy! Some of this was understandable because of all the stumps and stones and whatnot, but some of it seemed a bit unnecessary. As a result, whilst in some parts of the trial clear rows of birches could be seen and we knew exactly where we were, in other parts we were a bit lost, especially when trees were missing, out of line, or just plain not planted in a nice five-by-five square!

Nevertheless, these difficulties were overcome and I now have all the data I require for my dissertation!

the provenance trial from afar

The provenance trial from afar (viewed from the other side of Loch Tay).

Drummond Hill silver birch provenance trial

Drummond Hill silver birch provenance trial from a much closer perspective. The birches are behind the deer fence, and in the background you can see a spruce plantation.

view over Loch Tay from the trial

A typical view over Loch Tay from the trial (only typical when the Sun was shining!) - isn't it beautiful?

an old shieling within the trial

I think this is part of a ruined old shieling. There were a few ruins in the lower portion of the trial site, and I think they were all once shielings. The OS map for the Loch Tay area shows an abundance of old shielings all over the place, but the ones in the provenance trial aren't marked on. I wonder whether or not these ruins are known to archaeologists? This page at 'Comunn Eachdraidh Nis' has a good description of what shielings were.

Loch Tay at sunset

Loch Tay. This pleasant scene was seen as we were leaving the trial site at half six on the second day, Tuesday the 18th of March.

fallen ash

When all the hard work was done, it was time for a little sight-seeing. The map showed an incised cross very close to the provenance trial, so I went to look at that. A plaque on the back identified it as the Fernan (or Fearnan) Fair or Market Cross. Right next to the cross a huge ash tree had fallen over, its upper branches reaching over the cross.

wooded isle

In Killin, on an island in the middle of the River Dochart just below the impressive Falls of Dochart, is the Clan Macnab Burial Ground. There was a nice spot of woodland on the island.

farm with snowy mountain in distance

And finally, a view of the farm complex on the Kinnell Estate where I stayed for the duration of my visit.

One last thing. We also made a visit to the nearby Fortingall Yew, the oldest tree in Europe, which is estimated to be between two and five thousand years old! The Wikipedia page gives a basic description.

Posted in Holidays and field trips + Notable trees

Thetford silver birch provenance trial (Part 2)

A follow-up post to this one all about my time at the Thetford Forest silver birch provenance trial, replete with photos of trees and bark and twigs and stuff like that.

common or pearl-studded puffballs

The trial was rife with these little horrors: common or pearl-studded puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum), well past their prime. These little bags are full of spores, so mind you don't step on them. The spores are spikey and will irritate the lungs if enough are inhaled, causing lycoperdonosis.

red bryophyte

A normally-green-but-for-some-reason-red bryophyte. Isn't it pretty?

silver birch seed catkins

A pair of female silver birch catkins. These will be packed with tiny winged seeds!

twisting twig

This is very strange. A twig coming in from the right has made contact with a twig from a different tree and has coiled around it like a vine tendril. Why has it done this? Is it some freakish genetic mutation? Can we cultivate vine birches???

sweet chestnut

A sweet chestnut. There were a couple of big sweet chestnuts and a few big oaks around the edge of the provenance trial. These probably grew up when the land was in its previous use as a pine plantation and were retained when the pines were felled. There were loads of chestnuts covering the ground beneath this tree. I hereby conclude that this part of the forest has a squirrel shortage, and that rabbits don't like chestnuts (there were a lot of signs of rabbit activity).

bark on a Scots pine stump

Looking down at bark on a pine stump. A few of these stumps were scattered about the trial, remnants of the old plantation. Most of the stumps had been removed and were piled outside the trial. I guess the ground was then rotovated to level it off again.

young pines

These young pines, probably Scots pines, were growing right next to the birch trial. One day they might look like...

mature Scots pine

... this. A mature Scots pine plantation, just a couple of hundred metres from the birch trial. These can't be far from being harvested now.

And today I am fresh back from another silver birch provenance trial, this one overlooking Loch Tay up in the Highlands. I shall tell you all about it in the next post!

Posted in Holidays and field trips

Thetford silver birch provenance trial (Part 1)

For my Honours dissertation, I am assessing variation within and between two silver birch provenance trials; one in Thetford, Nofolk, England, and the other at Drummond Hill near Loch Tay, Scotland. For an excellent explanation of what these trials are all about, see this page by BIHIP (British and Irish Hardwoods Improvement Programme), the people who set up the trials. Provenance is essentially the area of seed origin, so for example birches of provenance 'Eastern Moors, Sheffield' are from seed collected from Eastern Moors, Sheffield. Different provenances vary in attributes such as growth rate. Essentially, the provenance trials aim to determine which provenances are most suitable for timber production.

For my dissertation I am collecting data on 32 different silver birch provenances from England, Scotland, Wales, Denmark and Norway (plus 8 from France) at two trials, Thetford 312 and Drummond 34. I will then assess variation between provenances within each trial and within each provenance between the two trials. Each trial contains three 'blocks', and each block contains square plots of 25 trees for every provenance; thus each provenance is represented by 75 trees at each trial. This replication helps ensure a fair trial. My data collection involves assessing the following attributes: height; girth at breast height; number of main stems; and number of bends in main stems. I am sampling the middle 9 trees of each plot of the 32 provenances I am interested in, which means I will be sampling a total of (9 x 3 x 32) 864 trees (plus some French ones that I am doing separate because they were planted later).

Trees best suited for timber production will be fast growing (tall and large girthed) with a single straight stem. You can't get a good, long piece of wood out of a tree that is bending all over the place!

Anyway, I have now collected all the data I need from the Thetford trial, with my father acting as my assistant. It took us three and a half days, starting on Wednesday the 27th of Feburary and finishing on Saturday the 1st of March. Now I just need to get up to the Highlands and do it all again at Drummond Hill!

thetford silver birch provenance trial

A typical view of Thetford 312 silver birch provenance trial. Look how neat and perfect it all is! I did some smaller scale data collection at the Scottish Kintyre 20 silver birch provenance trial in September 2007 and it was an overgrown pain in the ass, the complete opposite of the Thetford trial.

estimating height with a measuring stick

My paternal assistant with our homemade, 5.6 metre long measuring stick. Each coloured band is 20 centimetres. He would stand with the stick next to the sample tree, and I would stand back to make a good estimate of height to the nearest 10 centimetres. The sample tree in this photo is the champion for height - just over 8 metres tall I believe.

a fighter jet over the trial

The trial is very close to Feltwell Royal Air Force Base so we got fighter jets roaring through the sky all day. At five o'clock they would play music though loudspeakers and on Wednesday it was Reveille.

identification tag

Wooden poles with an identification tag are found at one corner of each plot. Not sure what 'EDC 19' means. I believe 'B 101' is a typo - it should read 'BI 01' which stands for birch, seed collected in 2001. In 'RPN 404', the RP stands for 'region of provenance' and the N probably stands for 'native seed-zone'. This awesome map on the BIHIP site shows regions of provenance and native seed-zones. The tag in my photo is for provenance 'Rushmore Estate, Tollard Royal', just in case you were wondering!

measuring girth

Girth at breast height (about 1.6 metres) was measured to the nearest 5 millimetres with a tape measure. This data will be converted into diameter at breast height (DBH). The tree in this photo doesn't really have a girth in the 40s - the tape measure was cut to begin at 30 centimetres because the first day of intense girth-measuring had worn all the lower numbers off!

the edge of the trial

The edge of the trial. The trial was surrounded on all sides by Scots pine plantations of various age. In this photo one such plantation is on the far left, then moving right there is a forest road, a fence to keep out grazers (which had failed to keep out rabbits), young Scots pine invaders from seed blown in, and furthest right a buffer strip two silver birches wide before the actual trial trees begin.

Now read Thetford silver birch provenance trial (Part 2) !

Posted in Holidays and field trips

Mountain pine for treeblog's Set B

mountain pine cones

Mountain pine cones.

I will be planting some mountain pine seeds as part of treeblog's Set B this spring. Mountain pine, also known as dwarf pine, is a real taxonomic confusion. There is a bewildering tangle of subspecies and variants and even hybrids. Nevertheless, I believe I am correct in identifying the seeds I will plant as being Pinus mugo subsp. mugo Turra; more simply Pinus mugo. See the four pine cones in the photograph above? I hand-picked those on a mountainside in the Italian Alps back on the 23rd of August on a field trip with the University of Edinburgh (see photos of the trip here and here). I picked 'em, and soon, I'm gonna plant 'em.

Posted in Holidays and field trips + The treeblog trees

Photos from a field trip in Ormsary (September 2007)

I was on a field trip for a week at the beginning of September. A bunch of ecological science final year students in a cluster of chalets and a palace-like bungalow near Ormsary, Kintyre, Scotland. Galls, silver birch provenance trials, etc.


Oak overhead! (Photo taken on the 2nd of September 2007).

sample plot in oak woodland

Standing in a sample plot in oak (probably sessile) woodland. Check out all the bracken! The red and white thing is a two metre tall ranging pole and marks one corner of the square plot. (Photo taken on the 2nd of September 2007).

tar spots on sycamore leaves

Tar spots on sycamore leaves. Tar spots are caused by the fungus Rhytisma acerinum and don't really harm the host tree, apart from reducing the photosynthetic area of the host's leaves. (Photo taken on the 3rd of September 2007).

larch and a pine

Larch and a pine at the edge of a grassy area. (Photo taken on the 3rd of September 2007).

mushroom cloud

An interesting cloud. Mushrooms, anyone? (Photo taken on the 3rd of September 2007).

Posted in Holidays and field trips

1939 larch plantation in Aberfoyle

Yesterday morning one of my uni classes, Woodland Management, had a wee field trip to Aberfoyle in southeast Perthshire. We set off from Edinburgh at eight in the morning and arrived at the David Marshall Lodge about an hour and half later. The Lodge is a visitor centre for the Forestry Commission's Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. We met up with a man from Forest Research and learned a little about timber extraction whilst maintaining continuous forest cover (as opposed to clearfelling). It was decided to adopt this more aesthetically pleasing management strategy in the part of the forest we visited due to its high visibility within the local landscape. Experimental plots were set up in 1998 with an aim to determine the best way to maintain continous cover forestry using natural regeneration.

The area designated for continous cover forestry was a European larch (Larix decidua) plantation planted in 1939. With a crisp autumn day as a backdrop, it was beautiful.

larch plantation near Aberfoyle

Lovely, lovely larch.

larch and pine (overstorey) and sitka spruce (understorey)

Larch (yellow needles) and a pine species (green needles) in the overstory. Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) in the understorey.

larch trunk with '39' painted on

I'm not sure of the meaning of this number, but I don't think it is the year of planting as other trees in the same area had totally different numbers. 1939 and 39 must just be a coincidence.

Posted in Holidays and field trips

Field trip to the Italian Alps (Part 2)

rockslide in the Dolomites

A rockslide in the beautiful Dolomites. (16th August)

dwarf pine (pinus mugo)

Dwarf pine (Pinus mugo). Might be making an appearance in the treeblog nursery next year... (16th August)

seasoning resonance wood

‘Resonance wood’ from the Paneveggio Forest, stored to season. The wood has special acoustical properties, making it desirable for the production of musical instruments (mainly violins). Of the 6000 cubic metres of wood felled in the Forest each year, only 0.5% is selected as resonance wood. The wood has very narrow growth rings, coming from trees grown in an optimal and unchanging mountain climate. Other qualities include low specific weight, good elasticity, dimensional stability, and a good ratio of resistance to weight. (18th August)

extracted timber

Timber extracted from the Paneveggio Forest. (18th August)

Norway spruce needles suffering from a fungal infection

Norway spruce (Picea abies) needles suffering from a fungal infection. (18th August)

larch in the mist

Lovely, lovely larch (Larix decidua) in the mist. (21st August)

air, rock, wood, water

I was blown away by this view. So stunning, almost surreal! The lake is called Lago di Calaita (Lake Calaita) but I don't know the name of the mountain. (24th August)

stone building and forest

I took this at a goat farm. The farmer told an inspirational tale about how it had taken him and his wife 10 years to get the farm going properly in the face of fierce resistance from the local population and powers-that-be who believed the smell of the farm would impact negatively on tourism. We watched the goats being milked, then bought a couple of bottles and drank it while it was still warm from the udder. The farm didn't even have much of a smell! (24th August)

spider on bark

A biggie! (25th August)

Posted in Holidays and field trips

Field trip to the Italian Alps (Part 1)

The field trip forms a major part of one of my courses (Research Practice in Forest Ecology) for my Honours year at the University of Edinburgh, and it ran from the 15th to the 26th of August. The purpose of the trip was two-fold; we learned about forestry in the Paneveggio Forest and its surrounds, and we also spent time in the field collecting data for a paper we are to write. Eight of us (seven students and one lecturer) flew out to Treviso (near Venice), and from there we drove up into the Dolomites, part of the Alps. We stayed for most of the trip in a big house in San Martino di Castrozza used by foresters, but the last 3 nights we spent in a couple of log cabins partway up a mountainside.

The foresters’ house where we lived for most of the trip. The sign next to the door read:


The discerning Italian forester's vehicle of choice: a Fiat Panda 4x4.

The log cabins where we spent a few nights. The cabin on the left is the cookhouse and the bunkhouse is on the right. The cabins are part of a malga, a seasonal farm typical to this part of the world. In the past, cattle would have been driven here for summer from the winter pastures in the valleys below.

The night sky as seen from the bunkhouse on the 24th of August. The silhouettes probably belong to Norway spruce (Picea abies). Fifteen second exposure.

We spent one day planning and four days collecting raw data as a group, on which we each have to write an individual paper. The rough question that we were asking was "how do capercaillie chose their breeding sites?" The capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) is a large woodland grouse, with a range encompassing much of Northern Europe. It is also a native of Scotland, although it became extinct in 1785, was later successfully reintroduced... but is now facing extinction for a second time. The capercaillie is found in the Italian Dolomites (where we stayed), but it is less abundant than in the northern Alps.

We created a list of characteristics that could be used to quantify both known brood sites (marked and shown to us by local foresters) and random sites in the local area. We collected this raw data without mishap, but have yet to perform any statistical analysis to determine whether or not there are any significant differences in some or all characteristics between brood and non-brood sites.

I loved collecting the data. We spent all day up a mountain, in the forest. The weather was mostly fine, and it was good fun clambering up and down the ridiculously steep mountainsides. It was my duty to collect data on stand species composition, which meant roaming around each sample plot, counting the large trees and determining their species. The commonest types were Norway spruce, European larch (Larix decidua), European silver fir (Abies alba) and European beech (Fagus sylvatica). Dwarf pine (Pinus mugo) was also common, but this is a shrub rather than a tree. Much less common and a lot smaller were rowan (Sorbus acuparia) and goat willow (Salix caprea). Downy birch (Betula pubescens) and grey alder (Alnus incana) were present but very rare.

Ashley Peace: wannabe forester.

Posted in Holidays and field trips

Red Rose (27th July 2007)

plane tree in Red Rose 'fun pub', Marmaris, Turkey (27th July 2007)

A plane tree at sunset in Red Rose 'fun pub', Marmaris, Turkey.

Posted in Holidays and field trips

The Plane Tree of Hippocrates

the Plane Tree of Hippocrates (June 26th 2006)

On the Greek island of Kos, an ancient plane tree occupies Platanou Square in the capital, Kos Town. Located close to the harbour and the Castle of the Knights, it is under this plane tree that Hippocrates, oft regarded as the 'Father of Medicine', is according to legend said to have taught many of his students some 2400 years ago. Another legend tells of St Paul the Apostle standing beneath the plane tree, speaking to the inhabitants of Kos and spreading the word of Christianity. According to Wikipedia its crown has a diameter of about 12 metres, which is currently supported by a cage of green-painted metal.

the Plane Tree of Hippocrates (June 26th 2006)

Contrary to the legends, the current tree is almost certainly not as old as they require. Yet it is likely that this tree is a descendant of the original tree, or perhaps a new tree that grew from the still-living roots of the original tree once its above-ground parts had expired. Thomas Pakenham, in his Remarkable Trees of the World (2002, Weidenfield & Nicolson), writes:

For centuries people have believed that this is the tree under which the great healer sat when he taught medicine to his disciples in the 5th century BC. I would like nothing more than to share their faith. [...] But kill-joys will point out that the wood of the oriental plane tree, Platanus orientalis, rots relatively quickly. Today the main trunk is a hollow shell like an old gourd. True, there are large branches growing out of the cage from the east side of the gourd; and there is a new trunk, layered from a branch on the west side about a century ago, now forming a delightful dome of young branches. But I doubt whether the original tree, whose trunk is now a shell, is older than 600 or 700 years.

But wait, say the fans of the great healer. Suppose there was a plane tree there in Hippocrates' day. Of course, it didn't live 2500 years. But its roots did. [...] The trunk, this old gourd, may be the fourth generation of the great healer's trees sprung from the roots.

the Plane Tree of Hippocrates (August 3rd 2004)

I have visited the Plane Tree of Hippocrates twice; in August 2004 and again in June 2006. I must confess to being disappointed upon first seeing it, after hearing rumours of this legendary, ancient tree. But after visiting it for a second time, I could imagine its true size, as if its hollow trunk was still solid and whole.

the Plane Tree of Hippocrates (August 3rd 2004)

Posted in Notable trees + Holidays and field trips

The Mother Beech (September 2006)

the Mother Beech (7th September 2006)

I took this photograph from the cosy confines of a rowing boat on the still waters of Loch Tay (less than 2 hours after this one was taken). See the Mother Beech in the centre, her crown raised above the other trees crowding the shoreline. Ain't she a beauty? 35 metres tall with a girth of 3.8 metres at breast height were her measurements. For the record, the trees dwarfed by the big beech are mainly silver birch, alder and some immature oak and ash.

Posted in Holidays and field trips

The Mother Beech

This fine figure of a beech is on the southern shore of Loch Tay in the central Highlands of Scotland. I spent the first week of September 2006 at the Firbush field centre there as part of my Ecological Science course with the University of Edinburgh. It was an awesome time, and we all had good fun. The titular beech was the focus of a project I worked on with three friends. Our field work was aimed at measuring and recording all offspring of the Mother Beech in the surrounding hectare. The diagram below shows the offspring around the parent, which is the centre point of the hectare. Solid dots represent offspring with a height below eye level; hollow dots represent offspring with a height above eye level (where eye level is defined as 160 cm). The upper bold dashed line represents the high-water level of Loch Tay, and the lower bold dashed line represents the northern boundary of a road and conifer plantation.

Posted in Holidays and field trips

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