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The treeblog trees

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Set D: sweet chestnuts collected & planted

Three sweet chestnuts sitting in an opened cupule. The dead catkin that held the male flowers, still attached to the base of the cupule (which once was a female flower), can be seen in the background. [Photo: 8 Oct. ‘09]

Last Thursday (the 8th of October) I went on a tree mission to Wigtwizzle with my sister. Mission objective: to collect nuts from the massive sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) there for treeblog Set D.

The Wigtwizzle chestnut. Beast! [Photo: 7 Jul. ‘07]

While a lot of unripe cupules were stillon the tree, a great many ripe ones were lying open on the ground below. While trying to avoid a nettling, I managed to gather a haul of chestnuts with a total fresh weight of 75 g (2 ½ oz). Mission accomplished!

The Set D sweet chestnut haul. Third time lucky?

I collected nuts from the same tree in 2007 and 2008 for Set B and Set C respectively, but I didn’t manage to grow a single seedling. I now know the error of my bad old ways; I erred by waiting until spring before planting, by which time the chestnuts – which lose moisture rapidly and so are unsuited to storage – would have been well and truly dessicated. This time around, with only two days passing between collection and planting, treeblog might finally produce some baby sweet chestnuts.

Come closer…

I planted one hundred of the nuts yesterday in five forty-individual-pockets-to-a-tray seed trays using a special seeds and cuttings compost from B&Q. I ran out of room (and out of compost), so I had about sixty nuts left over. Until I decide what to do with them, I’ve mixed ‘em with some damp compost and popped ‘em in a plastic bag.

One of the seed trays showing forty chestnuts in forty ‘pockets’: a planting action shot.

The final product: five seed trays with one hundred sweet chestnuts carefully picked and planted. This is treeblog Set D(c) - the chestnut part of Set D. Set D(b) – the beech part – was planted on the 30th of September and the rowan seeds – Set D(r) – have just begun pretreatment and are on schedule for a springtime planting.

The 10th of October 2009 = Set D(c) Day 0.


Posted in Notable trees + The treeblog trees





Two species of caterpillar on the grey alders

Earlier this afternoon I noticed several caterpillars on two of the Set A grey alders (Alnus incana). There were a few colourful caterpillars munching away on grey alder No. 3 and there were several white “snowflakey” caterpillars on grey alder No. 2. These snowflake caterpillars have been on the alders since at least mid-August and they seem to have some kind of magic power that can prevent a camera from focussing on them. They eat in random patches to leave the leaves full of holes like a Swiss cheese whereas the colourful, curly caterpillars eat in a more systematic fashion, devouring neat sections between veins. These caterpillars stand with their tails sticking up into the air; when I got close to them they gave them a little wave.

Last year there were two or three other species of caterpillar on the alders. Have a look at all the posts tagged with ‘caterpillars’ if you’re interested!

By the way, I’ve no idea what species either of these caterpillars belong to. Leave a comment or drop me an email if you know what they are, please!

Update (July 2010): The black and yellow ‘caterpillars’ are actually larval forms of the hazel or birch sawfly (Croesus septentrionalis).


Posted in Pests and diseases + The treeblog trees





treeblog Set D: collection and pre-pretreatment of rowan seeds

Looking into the canopy of the Whitwell Moor rowan. [Photo: 12 Sep. ‘09]

On Saturday the 12th of September I went for a late summer’s wander with my father. The weather was beautiful, the scenery was stunning, and our route just happened to pass by a couple of special trees: two rowans from which we collected berries to plant for treeblog’s Set D, one on Whitwell Moor and one overlooking Oaken Clough high up in the Ewden Valley.

Berries on the Whitwell Moor rowan. [Photo: 12 Sep. ‘09]

I previously collected berries from the Whitwell Moor rowan in autumn 2008 which I planted as part of treeblog Set C this spring (along with berries from another rowan, downy birch seeds, and sweet chestnuts), then replanted as Set C-r on the 12th of May. None of those seeds have germinated to date, presumably because I never pretreated them before planting them - something I didn’t realise was necessary. Without the pretreatment they still ought to germinate, but a whole year later rather than in the same year like I expected. So treeblog is expecting rowans from both Set C and Set D to germinate in spring 2010!

The Whitwell Moor rowan on the day of my Set D berry collection: the 12th of September 2009.

I discovered the Oaken Clough rowan this summer on the 18th of July. When I first lay peepers on it I knew that it had the biggest girth of any rowan I’d ever seen. I measured it on the berry run: 3.4 m (11 ft 2 in.) in circumference at about shin height. That gives a diameter of 1.1 m (3 ft 7 in.). These figures might not sound very impressive, but for a rowan they are well impressive. Unfortunately, this monster of a rowan has suffered a catastrophic collapse. Most of the collapsed boughs nevertheless remain alive, and since this incident the tree has put out a lot of new growth. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t keep on going for many years to come.

The Oaken Clough rowan. Massive yet collapsed. [Photo: 18 Jul. ‘09]

After I’d picked my berries, I sort of forgot about them for a couple of weeks. I just couldn’t stomach the upcoming task…

The Oaken Clough rowan berries. The black ones have gone bad. [Photo: 20 Sep. ‘09].

Then last week I got around to removing the seeds from the berries. This was a long, time-consuming process. I estimate it took me four or five hours, and that was only working with about half of the berries! The other half had gone rotten because I’d waited so long to act. I should have removed all of the seeds when the berries were fresh, but then ten hours of seed extraction would have sent me pathologically insane. Whatever, the outcome is I have plenty of seeds.

The Whitwell Moor rowan berries. [Photo: 20 Sep. ‘09].

This afternoon I removed any bits of husk still attached to the seeds. How nice and clean they look!

The clean extracted rowan seeds earlier today. The Oaken Clough rowan’s seeds appear to be slightly larger than those of the Whitwell Moor rowan.

Right. Now the seeds are all ready for pretreatment. To improve my chances of Set D success, I’ll be trying out not one, not two, but three methods of pretreatment. My two piles of seeds will be split into thirds, and each pair of thirds will undergo a different method of pretreatment. These methods are laid out in a Forestry Commission practice guide, and an upcoming post will detail what they are. The pretreatment has actually already begun for one pair of thirds: they are currently being soaked for 48 hours to rinse off any germination-inhibiting chemicals!

N.B. As each of the three Set D species are being planted on different days, I’m going to describe the rowans as belonging to Set D-r, the beeches – which were planted on Wednesday - as belonging to Set D-b, and the sweet chestnuts – which I have yet to collect – as belonging to Set D-c. That’s just to make things easier when I say blah blah blah Set D-r, Day XX.


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The fortieth edition of the Festival of the Trees is over at local ecologist. Go read!


Posted in Gone for a walk + The treeblog trees





treeblog Set D: Fagus sylvatica & Fagus sylvatica ‘Aspleniifolia’ nuts planted

On the left: a tray full of cut-leaved beech nuts. On the right: a tray full of Wigtwizzle beech nuts. (Photo: today)

Good news treeblog fans! The first part of Set D was planted today – Wednesday the 30th of September, 2009 – in a twofold break with tradition. The last three sets were planted in the spring; this time it’s autumn. All the tree species in the last three sets were planted on the same day; this time, each species will be planted on a different day. Shocker. The three species that will make up Set D are European beech (Fagus sylvatica), sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa), and rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), plus a European beech cultivar: cut- or fern-leaved beech (F. sylvatica ‘Aspleniifolia’).

The cut-leaved beech nuts, just prior to planting this evening.

“Here we go again. Didn’t you already plant beechnuts, like, two years ago?”

Why, yes I did, Negative Voice. For treeblog Set B, on the 14th of March 2008 I planted a small number of beechnuts collected from the same tree that I collected the Set D beechnuts from, as well as a smaller number of nuts collected from a weeping beech (Fagus sylvatica f. pendula) in Edinburgh.

NV: “Right. And just exactly how many of those nuts germinated?”

Precisely zero, which is why I am trying again. And this time I will succeed.

NV: “Your track record isn’t exactly filling me with confidence.”

Aah, but y’see, I’ve learnt from my mistakes. Last time I did it all wrong. I collected the nuts in the summer and kept them in the house all winter before planting them in the spring… by which time they would’ve been well and truly desiccated. Non-viable. Dead. (And the fact that I collected them in the summer meant I was probably collecting the previous year’s nuts – recipe for disaster or what?) This time around I planted my beechnuts just a few days after collection, and in the time between collection and plantage I kept the nuts from dehydrating by storing them in a couple of small bags of moist compost in the garden. I’ve got numbers on my side this time round too; I must have planted at least ten times as many beechnuts for Set D than I planted for Set B. Foolproof!

The Wigtwizzle beech nuts, immediately before planting this evening.

NV: “What about the rowans and sweet chestnuts? Haven’t you planted those before and weren’t those fail---“

All in good time, sir! All in good time. I’ve got foolproof plans for my rowans and sweet chestnuts too, but they’re best saved for future posts. Dudes, Set D is going to be immense.

Branches of the cut-leaved beech. (Photo: Saturday)

I went for a sweet little walk in the sun on Saturday (the 26th) afternoon. Yew Trees Lane Wood was really good, and by a certain bridge in a certain valley I found what I sought: a local oddity, the cut-leaved beech tree. I couldn’t see any on the tree, but the ground below the canopy was littered with fresh beechnuts, some still attached to their open cupules. I collected a fair amount...

A pair of beechnuts sitting in their open cupule, resting on the leaf litter below the cut-leaved beech. (Photo: Saturday)

My next port of call was just up the road, but I just didn’t have the time on Saturday to pay a visit. I returned on Monday (the 28th), to Wigtwizzle! where there doth grow one very ancient and venerable veteran sweet chestnut, and adjacent, one ancient, towering beech. Nuts were collected from both trees in 2007 for Set B and from just the chestnut in 2008 for Set C; neither set managed to produce a single tree. This year will be different! On Monday the sweet chestnut still wasn’t quite ready to relinquish its spike-protected fruits, but the beech was in full flow. The ground beneath the two trees was covered with thousands of beechnuts, all easy, luscious and ripe for the picking...

The beech at Wigtwizzle. (Photo: Saturday 7th July 2007 – the day I collected the Set B beechnuts)

A cut-leaved beech leaf. Nothing like an ordinary European beech leaf, eh? (Photo: Saturday)

This cut-leaved beech then. What’s it all about? I think a future post may warrant a deeper delve into the mysteries of this unusual tree, but until then here’s what the trusty Collins Tree Guide (Johnson, 2004) has to say:

Fern-leaved Beech, ‘Aspleniifolia’ (‘Heterophylla’), is only locally frequent as a tree of great distinctiveness and beauty, to 28 m, generating interest and sometimes bewilderment. The depth of the [leaf] lobbing varies from clone to clone. In the commonest and most feathery form (seldom grafted), the shoot-tip leaves are narrower or even linear [a few of the leaves on my local tree are very linear, reminiscent of the white willow, Salix alba], and the crown is distinctively pale, matt and fluffy even when seen at a distance; it colours early in autumn. This tree is a ‘chimaera’, with inner tissues of typical Beech enveloped by cells of the sport, so that sprouts with normal leaves will often grow from the trunk and branches, especially after an injury; unlike ordinary reversions, these seldom or never take over the whole crown. In winter, the tree is typically broad with a skirt of fine branches almost sweeping the ground, and has very dense, fine, horizontal or slightly rising shoot-systems; the distinctive leaves are very slow to rot.

My local tree fits all of these characteristics. I suppose it must have been planted by human hand, probably when the bridge was built (early- to mid-1930s). But by who and for what reason?

Slow-rotting leaf litter beneath the cut-leaved beech. (Photo: Saturday)


* * * * *

…To be planted as soon as the nuts are ripe: the Set D sweet chestnuts! …To be planted after a few months of pretreatment: the Set D rowans!


Posted in 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





A late summer's wander

Dyer’s mazegill (Phaeolus schweinitzii) at the base of a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris).

This post shall send prose to his room and welcome poetry into the drawing room for a brandy. Let me spin thee the tale of last Saturday:


A Late Summer’s Wander

Late summer’s wander Saturday
Into the Peak our path did lay
On Whitwell Moor ‘neath a rowan, halted
To fill a bag wi’ red berries wanted
Through t’ first wood and up we walked
There wa’ no acorns on t’ Lonely Oak

Cresting t’ hill we entered t’ Wood
Where Millstones lie; it were right good
To find at t’ foot of a Scots Pinus
A great and gnarly yellow fungus
Over t’ lane and out on Thorpe’s Brow
T’ sky seemed somehow bigger now

We strode past ruins of t’ last war
Tanks aimed at targets high up on t’ moor
Long out ahead rose Pike Lowe
A cairn for t’ dead, or so I trow
For much of t’ way rose hummocky grasses
Eek heather and bracken and bogs and mosses
It hurt to see the cairn ruined
A wanton act: a villain’s doing

Now heading south across the heath
Our destination: watersmeet
Ewden Force wa’ running low
As fine a sight as in full flow
Where rowans glow wi’ crimson berries
And for a while t’ walker tarries

In Stainery Clough we traced a road
An ancient trail the river fords
O’er Oaken Clough a giant sags
Of berries now two heaving bags
A rowan great but broke asunder
When it tore it must ha’ thundered

Heath and bracken for miles a’ more
Bare shanks soon are feeling sore
Past t’ shooting lodge and Broomhead Hall
The veteran chestnut of Wigtwizzle
Summer’s fading fast and autumn’s near
Here’s hoping t’ rowans grow next year


A holly (Ilex aquifolium): the last tree before Pike Lowe.

A stunning berry-laden rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) near Ewden Force.

And another. The rowans around here, while absolutely covered with berries, had more or less lost all of their leaves already. Rowan berries seem to be much more abundant and redder than usual this year. I’m loving it.

A shady pool in Oaken Clough. Danger! Midges!

Looking across the Ewden Valley to Thorpe’s Brow on our way home.


Posted in Gone for a walk + The treeblog trees





treeblog update (Set A, Day 876): cider gums Nos. 9 to 15

The latest cider gum update continues… Photos taken on Day 876 / 20th of August.

Cider gum No. 9.

Cider gum No. 10.

Cider gum No. 11. The flimsy waver.

Cider gum No. 12. Joint second-tallest cider gum with No. 2.

Cider gum No. 13.

Cider gum No. 14. The very young flowerer.

Cider gum No. 15. Like No. 3, this gum was feared dead after a powerful hoar frost last winter. Look at those new shoots either side of the old dead leader and weep in awe at its determination to get really big.


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I found a brilliant video over at trees, if you please last week: The Lorax, by Dr. Suess. It’s the animated version of the book from the early Seventies, and while quite long at 25 minutes I really can’t recommend enough that you go and watch it if you haven’t seen it before. Karen at trees, if you please enthuses: “One of the best ‘tree books’ EVER is a children’s book. But it’s not really a children’s book… one of the most lovable tree advocates I’ve ever come across happens to be a little guy straight from the brain of Dr. Seuss… our friend, The Lorax.” It is simply an absolutely, brilliantly, amazingly clever little film.


Posted in The treeblog trees





treeblog update (Set A, Day 876): cider gums Nos. 1 to 8

Everybody loves a good graph. This one ranks the heights of all twenty-one treeblog Set A trees plus the post-Set A goat willow as they were on the 20th of August / Day 876 (cider gums) and the 19th of August / Day 875 (the rest). The lighter section of each bar represents the previous height of each tree, as recorded on the 1st of July / Day 826 (cider gums) and the 27th of June / Day 822 (the rest), so the darker top sections represent height growth in the intervening period. As always, you can access a larger version of the image by clicking on it.

As you can see, the grey alders are now by far and away the tallest trees in Set A. Even the shortest alder, No. 2., is almost half a metre taller at 150 cm than the next highest tree, cider gum No. 7, at 110 cm. Since the end of June, the Scots pines have barely put on any height growth (probably just needle lengthening, actually). Scots pine Gamma is now only taller than the three cider gum runts, Nos. 3, 6 and 15. (Cider gum No. 3 is shown to be 9 cm tall but if its dead top is not counted, its living parts are only 4 cm tall. Runty!) The cider gums have all put on a bit of height growth in the last two months, but the growth of the grey alders has been phenomenal! No. 2 more than doubled in height, No. 1 almost doubled… and No. 1 came from being the third tallest alder at the end of June to being the tallest alder today. Perhaps if grey alder No. 3’s top hadn’t been chewed off by the mystery alder attacker, causing it to fork, it would be even taller than No. 1 is today…

If you need to do a bit more obsessing over heights, you can go back and have a look at the similar graph I made for the June 27 / July 1 heights in this post. Otherwise, let’s fire up the cider gum update! Photos taken on Thursday the 20th (Day 876).

Cider gum No. 1.

Cider gum No. 2.

Cider gum No. 3. It continues to recover from its frosty near-death experience, but will it be able to survive the upcoming winter?

Cider gum No. 4.

Cider gum No. 5.

Cider gum No. 6. Looks to be suffering from some kind of black mould on some of its leaves, but its health doesn’t seem to be affected.

Cider gum No. 7. The tallest of all the cider gums, and the fifth tallest of all the treeblog trees.

Cider gum No. 8.


Posted in The treeblog trees





treeblog update (Set A, Day 875): Scots pines (& grey alders). Eggs & caterpillars. Eucalyptus flowers.

Scots pine Alpha earlier today (Day 875).

Scots pine Gamma.

A bit of an eclectic post is this one, gang! First of all there’s a bit of a treeblog Set A update, but only for the two Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris), the post-Set A goat willow (Salix caprea - formerly the PSAUS), and one of the grey alders (Alnus incana). Normally I’d lump the pines, willow and all the alders together but I haven’t been able to this time because the grey alders are too big. I like to have a nice, clear background on these update photos y’see, and for most of the Set A trees I have a piece of plywood that’s perfect for the job. This summer the grey alders have outgrown it by quite a ways. I had a background trick up my sleeve for the last Scots pine & grey alder update (27th June – Day 822) though: I hung a grey blanket from the washing line. But in the intervening one-and-a-half months (sorry for the wait) the alders have rocketed up and are now so big that even my double-bed sheet hung from the line is too small to make do! What I tried for a background this time around – a wall of conifer – has proved so useless I’ve only bothered putting up one of the photos. A green alder against green conifer scales. It doesn’t exactly stand out from the background…

Grey alder No. 1 (with decreased brightness and increased contrast). Well camouflaged, eh?

Ohhh, by the way, I got out the tape measure and took some heights. I did the same when I did the last update, so now we know how much the trees grown in the last 53 days:

Scots pine Alpha: 27 Jun: 48 cm  //  19 Aug: 50 cm  //  Difference: 2 cm.
Scots pine Gamma: 27 Jun: 27 cm  //  19 Aug: 30 cm  //  Difference: 3 cm.
Grey alder No. 1: 27 Jun: 105 cm  //  19 Aug: 196 cm  //  Difference: 91 cm.
Grey alder No. 2: 27 Jun: 71 cm  //  19 Aug: 150 cm  //  Difference: 79 cm.
Grey alder No. 3: 27 Jun: 109 cm  //  19 Aug: 170 cm  //  Difference: 61 cm.
Grey alder No. 4: 27 Jun: 120 cm  //  19 Aug: 186 cm  //  Difference: 66 cm.
Post-Set A goat willow: 27 Jun: 25 cm  //  19 Aug: 33 cm  //  Difference: 8 cm.

That’s right! Grey alder No. 4 has lost its status as treeblog Champion to grey alder No. 1!!! Sensational!!! Grey alder No. 4 (the Beast) has been the tallest treeblog tree since early June 2007, when it took the crown from Scots pine Alpha. Other changes in the last month and half include grey alder No. 1 nearly doubling in height and grey alder No. 2 more than doubling in height! Some of my trees, that I planted two-and-a-half years ago, are now taller than me!

The post-Set A goat willow. See that bit of yellow on the uppermost leaf on the right-hand branch of the fork?

It looks like some kind of nasty fungus that is killing the leaf and the terminal leaf bud. I think the same thing may have happened last autumn which caused the seedling to fork. Will this branch end up forking again? Why is this happening? Is it something young willows are prone to?

Back to grey alder No. 1. On the underside of one of its leaves, this strange caterpillar that looks a bit like it’s covered in tiny flakes of coconut (like those you get on Tunnock’s Snowballs). No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get the bugger in focus, but I think it’s clear enough for someone out there to make an ID. Anyone?

That was today. I photographed this patch of eggs on one of the alders’ leaves on the 9th of August just as tiny-weeny caterpillars were hatching out.

These insect eggs were spotted on Scots pine Alpha the same day. I don’t know what was in them, but they have all hatched and a new batch has been laid since.

Cider gum No. 14’s flower buds still haven’t opened. Here they are on the 9th, and they look pretty much the same today.

When I was up in the Highlands for the first week of August, the cottage we stayed in had a young eucalyptus (about ten to fifteen foot tall) growing in the garden. This is one of its flowers. I don’t know what kind of eucalyptus it was, but it’s quite possible it was a cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii) like mine.


Posted in The treeblog trees





Cider gum No. 14 on the verge of flowering at age two!


I was moving the treeblog trees out of the way earlier today to make room for lawn mowage, when to my great surprise and delight I noticed flower buds on cider gum No. 14 (not No. 11 as originally reported)! How No. 14 has managed to do this at the tender age of two years old, when it is about as tall as my knee, I have no idea. But this is exciting stuff! Second generation treeblog seedlings in 2010?

Cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii) flower buds on No. 14, which was planted as part of Set A 856 days ago on the 28th of March 2007.


* * * * *

In other Set A news, Scots pine Alpha and cider gum No. 13 are now being stabilised by canes after being blown askew during recent stormy weather. Two or three of the other cider gums also need realigning but I’m all out of canes. Photographic updates of all the Set A and Set C trees will be appearing after next weekend – until then I’m going to be internetless in the Highlands. Speaking of Set C, the downy birch seedlings aren’t looking very healthy these days. I wonder what’s up?


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Finally, the Nature Conservancy want their fourth annual photo competition plugging:

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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 A, Day 826): cider gums Nos. 8 to 15

Continuing on from Wednesday’s post (cider gums Nos. 1 to 7), here’s the rest of the Eucalyptus gunnii update. The photos were taken on Wednesday – Set A Day 826.

Cider gum No. 8.

Cider gum No. 9.

Cider gum No. 10.

Cider gum No. 11: now growing more horizontally than vertically. Why? Its original leader has died off, probably thanks to winter frosts.

A closer look at No. 11’s dead leader. Poor thing.

Cider gum No. 12: the second-tallest gum, and all-round good bean.

Cider gum No. 13: one half of last year’s famed Branching Duo. The other half was…

Cider gum No. 14.

Cider gum No. 15: one of the three cider gum runts, and after No. 3 the worst-affected of the gums by frost damage. Another one with a dead leader (forking ahoy).


* * * * *

Coming soon… a Set C birch update!


Posted in The treeblog trees





treeblog update (Set A, Day 826): cider gums Nos. 1 to 7

Hot on the heels of the grey alder & Scots pine update (Day 822) comes the first half of the cider gum update of Day 826 – that’s today. But before that, have a gander at this graph that I’ve concocted:

The heights of all the Set A trees (and the PSAUS goat willow) relative to one another, laid out in ascending order. Each bar represents a tree; the colour of the bar denotes the species and the number above the bar identifies the tree (where P = PSAUS, α = alpha, & γ = gamma). The actual heights of the trees are given in centimetres under each bar. The bar representing cider gum No. 3 is in two colours: the lower segment represents the height of the living part of the seedling; the two segments together represent the total height of the seedling including dead parts.

As you can see, the three smallest trees are the three cider gum runts: Nos. 3, 6 and 15 (8 cm, 9 cm* and 22 cm respectively). The tallest three trees are the big grey alders: Nos. 1, 3 and 4. Grey alder No. 4, the Beast, remains the tallest of all the treeblog trees at 120 cm. The tallest cider gum is No. 7 at 97 cm, almost twenty centimetres taller than the second-tallest gum, No. 12. Scots pine Alpha (48 cm) comes in around the middle of the cider gum range, while Scots pine Gamma (27 cm) only manages to be taller than the cider gum runts and the PSAUS goat willow (25 cm).
* Only 6 cm if the dead upper parts are not included in the measurement.

After that fascinating digression, back to the update proper!

Cider gum No. 1.

Cider gum No. 2.

Cider gum No. 3, arisen from the grave. The white arrow points to a minute leaf that has recently developed. This is just below the limit of the living tissue at a height of 6 cm. The vast majority of the new growth is much closer to the base, and is shown in close-up in the photo below:

Phoenix-growth!

Cider gum No. 4: distressingly wonky at the top.

Cider gum No. 5: nicely symmetrical.

Cider gum No. 6: the only one of the runts realistically capable of achieving non-runt status.

Cider gum No. 7: the tallest of the gums (Top Gum). The photo looks a little stretched or skewed because of the downwards-looking angle I had to take the photo at to get the whole tree against the background-board.


* * * * *

July’s Festival of the Trees – the 37th edition! – is online at TGAW. I haven’t had time to give it more than a perfunctory glance so far but it looks like Vicky has put together a great version. Go read!


Posted in The treeblog trees





treeblog update (Set A, Day 822): grey alders & Scots pines

Cripes! I hadn’t realised how much time had elapsed since the last grey alder / Scots pine update. The last one was in mid-May: Day 782. The trees have grown a hella lot in the intervening forty days!

Photos taken yesterday (Day 822).

Scots pine Alpha: one ridonculous leader and three side-shoots. 48 cm from tip to base.

Scots pine Gamma: a modest leader and just the one side-shoot. 27 cm.

Grey alder No. 1: way overgrown for its pot. 105 cm.

Grey alder No. 2. Had its leading stem bitten off by whatever nasty piece of work is mauling the alders. Damn. 71 cm.

Grey alder No. 3: as of yesterday, now in a 35 litre pot with plenty of growing room! 109 cm. No. 4 was also repotted on Wednesday (the 24th), but Nos. 1 and 2 will have to wait until I get some more sand and compost.

Grey alder No. 4. 120 cm. The size gap between No. 4 and Nos. 1 and 3 has diminished rather! While many of No. 4’s leaves are damaged (overzealous application of pesticide?), the newer ones are thankfully healthy. I moved it out of ‘quarantine’ on Wednesday as the worst of the alder attacker’s attacks seem to be over.

When the mystery alder attacker was a new phenomenon, around mid-May, the leading stem of No. 4 had a massive chunk taken out of it. I thought the Beast would be beheaded for sure, but it fought back and has now put plenty of new growth above the injury. Here’s the scarring as it was today next to the fresh damage on May 17th. How the stem has thickened!

The post-Set A goat willow, formerly called PSAUS. Truly a healthy looking specimen, radiating vitality and vigour. 25 cm.

A wee common ash (Fraxinus excelsior), potted up yesterday from its former residence in grey alder No. 3’s old pot (see the Day 782 update). Just as treeblog has followed the PSAUS even though it was self-seeded, this cheeky chappy will become a permanent fixture in the treeblog garage. 8 cm.


* * * * *

Set A cider gums update coming soon!


* * * * *

Update – 29 June 2009:
Grey alders Nos. 1 and 2 were repotted into 35-litre pots this afternoon.


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





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





PSAW (formerly PSAUS) scrutinised

Here by request, photographs of the delectable post-Set A willow (PSAW (previously PSAUS)), with a view to finally ascertaining precisely to which species it belongs. As always, larger photos (1024 x 768 px) are available by clicking on an image, then clicking the ALL SIZES button on the Flickr page. All of the photos were taken on Thursday, apart from the one showing the underside of a leaf, which was taken yesterday.

The upper surface of a typical leaf.

The underside of a typical leaf.


That was Salix ???. Now take a look at Eucalyptus gunnii No. 3:

Cider gum No. 3 (Set A, Day 792) is most definitely alive – look at that new growth! Great joy!

In other treeblog news, yesterday (Set C, Day 79 / Set C(r), Day 17) saw the appearance of three seedlings in the sweet chestnut seed trays (Nos. 18 to 20) and three seedlings in the ‘Whitwell Moor’ rowan tray (Nos. 6 to 8). There is some bad news regarding the grey alders: the previously untouched alder No. 2 has now had one stem bitten through – this injury is the same as those myriad afflictions of alder No. 4, who now looks rather terrible. Many of its stems and petioles have been severed, and now many of its leaves are covered with brown dead patches (perhaps caused by repeated applications of pesticide aimed to prevent further damage – wouldn’t that be ironic? Either way, seeing as how it appears to have had no effect, I’ve stopped the spraying of pesticide.) Alders Nos. 1 and 3 are still untouched, thankfully, and are the very picture of health. I have also taken delivery of four very large (35 litre) pots, so I’ll be repotting the grey alders very soon.


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!


* * * * *

Coppice.co.uk
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





treeblog update (Set A, Day 785): cider gums (Part 2)

Continuing on from yesterday’s Part 1, let us now review the seven cider gums that remain. All of the Set A cider gums and Scots pines, with the exception of cider gum No. 3, have now been repotted. The new muck in which they now find themselves is composed roughly of two parts compost, one part sand. All of the repottings were carried out with regular peat-free compost, apart from those of cider gums Nos. 5, 8, 9 and 10. After running out of the ordinary stuff, for these four I used a different kind of compost, a new compost, a compost different to what I’ve ever seen before… It’s really light and springy and full of little bits of wood, or what the manufacturers call ‘west+’. From the bag:

West+ is a sustainable high performance peat replacement ingredient which delivers exceptional growing results. It is unique and is a patented technology which is produced from natural wood fibre taken from trees grown in forests managed in accordance with the FSC [Forest Stewardship Council] scheme.

West+ Multi-Purpose Compost is a mix of 50% peat/compost with 50% west+, a first in growing media. This mix produces a unique look and texture when compared to standard multi-purpose composts. It offers a consistently high quality growing medium that helps reduce the impact on the environment.

Look at all that wood fibre (I mean west+). But enough about compost, let’s see some eucalypts, specifically Eucalyptus gunnii !


In large pots (repotted with west+ the day before yesterday):

Cider gum No. 5.

Cider gum No. 8.

Cider gum No. 9.

Cider gum No. 10.


In small orange pots (repotted the day before yesterday):

Cider gum No. 6, one of the three runts. The blackened parts of its leaves were damaged by frost. The top couple of leaf pairs are this year’s new growth.

Cider gum No. 15. Also a runt, and also severely damaged by frost last winter. It may not look pretty, but there is new growth spouting from several leaf axils. The prognosis is good.

Prior to rehoming, this is what No. 15 had to share a pot with: a mass of moss. No. 6 had a pot full of moss too.


The unrepotted one:

No. 3 has the most interesting story of all the cider gums. It was marked to be a special one early doors and was affectionately nicknamed the Freak. Later it looked to have abandoned its freakish ways, only to be stuck down by winter’s fiercest frost (or perhaps the snow of February):

Cider gum No. 3 in the grip of the hoar frost on New Year’s Eve 2008.

The winter had no ill-effect on the Scots pines or grey alders, but it damaged almost all of the cider gums; I thought it had killed the Freak and its fellow runt No. 15. I was clearly wrong about the latter, which was showing new buds by early April, but was I wrong about the former? I think I might have been. Look at the photos below, which show a tiny branch low down No. 3’s main stem as it was on the 20th of April (Day 754) and the 21st of May (Day 785).

I think there is new growth around the branch axil and its corresponding point on the opposite side of the main stem!


Posted in The treeblog trees





treeblog update (Set A, Day 785): cider gums (Part 1)

Yesterday (Set A, Day 785) was the first day in what seems like forever to have a decent sunny spell. After on-off rain in the morning and early afternoon, by three o’clock the sun had come out and the rest of the day was dry. After the old proverb, I made hay while the sun shone. I not only photographed the whole cider gum ensemble, but I also repotted Nos. 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 15, and the PSAUS. That’s a lot of repotting!

The five cider gums repotted ten days ago (Nos. 2, 7, 12, 13 and 14) all moved up to big orange pots. I only had one of those left today, and that went to lucky No. 9. Nos. 5, 8 and 10, which along with No. 9 were the best cider gums left in the small orange pots, also made it into big pots – big black ones (the same type are currently holding the Scots pines and grey alders). These big black pots are shallower than the big orange pots, but they have a greater width. That was me all out of big pots, so Nos. 1, 4 and 11 were repotted into black pots of a size midway between the big pots and the small orange pots they were calling home. Nos. 6 and 15 I repotted from their super-small square black pots, which they had occupied since the 23rd of June and the 9th of July 2007 respectively, into just-vacated small orange pots. I also repotted the PSAUS into one of the small orange pots, although it wasn’t much of an upgrade from its previous quarters. On account of its apparent death, cider gum No. 3 didn’t warrant a repot. It stays in the super-small square black pot it has occupied since the 5th of June 2007.

Have all those pots confused you? Don’t worry about it. Best crack on with this treeblog update.

In large orange pots (repotted ten days ago):

Cider gum No. 2.

Cider gum No. 7. The tallest of the gums.

Cider gum No. 12.

Cider gum No. 13.

Cider gum No. 14.


In medium-sized black pots (repotted yesterday):

Cider gum No. 1. A bit of a spindly mess.

Cider gum No. 4, the Kinkster. Check out that kink halfway up the stem! The soil surface in its old pot was rank with mosses.

Cider gum No. 11. Another spindly mess.


This update continues in Part 2. Still half of the gums to go!


Posted in The treeblog trees





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