Set A update: grey alders (January 2015)

Grey alder No. 3 on the 5th of January 2015.

It’s now been just over a year since I last wrote an update on the Treeblog trees. That post reported on a visit my father and I made to the grey alders on the 28th of December 2013. The next time either of us saw the alders was a year later on the 5th of January 2015 (Set A Day 2,840) – nearly eight years since I planted them as seeds with my own hands. This post has the photos and measurements we took on that most recent visit, plus three tables and two graphs which gather together for the first time ever all of the height and stem circumference data we’ve recorded over the years.

The photo above shows grey alder No. 3 with my father for scale. No. 3 is currently the tallest of all the Treeblog trees, measuring approx. five metres from base to upper tip. Its stem circumference is 26 cm at the base and 15 cm at a height of 1.5 m, so it is also the girthiest of the Treeblog trees. It has great form and is clearly thriving out here in the wild. This winter it had male (but no female) catkins, unlike last winter when it had no catkins of any kind.

For comparison, this is the same tree a year ago on the 28th of December 2013. Perhaps it’s just the different angles the two photographs were taken from, but doesn’t there appear to have been a significant improvement in form over the last year?

It’s not all good news for No. 3, however. Just when all the old stem wounds had about sealed over, fresh damage has been dealt by those troublesome herbivores. Whether the culprit was a sheep, rabbit, or something else, I don’t ken.

A perfect branch-bark ridge and branch collar. I’ve grown some real trees!

Here’s grey alder No. 2 on the 5th of January, the second-tallest of the alders at approximately 4.6 metres. Like No. 3, which grows but a stone’s throw away, it too is thriving and has fine form. Its stem has a girth of 23 cm at the base, and a girth of 15 cm at 1.5 m.

And to compare – this is No. 2 on the 28th of December 2013 (sorry about the dark picture).

No. 2 currently sports a mixture of male and (both mature and immature) female catkins, just like it did the previous winter.

Unlike the rest of the grey alders, No. 2 had managed to avoid any stem damage… until now. This fresh wound near the base of the stem has ended its lucky streak, but it’s nothing serious.

Last and I’m afraid least, this terrible photo shows grey alder No. 1 on the 5th of January. The poor devil is easily the lowest quality alder these days. It is in quite a different location to its two old nursery-mates, and the elements appear to be giving it a far harder time of things. Not only is it the shortest alder at 3.8 metres tall (although the stem is longer than that if we disregard the tree’s pronounced lean), it also has a significantly thinner stem than the other two. I measured the stem circumference as 18 cm at its base and 10 cm at 1.5 m. This winter I only counted mature female catkins on No. 1, but last year it had both male and (mature and immature) female catkins.

For comparison, grey alder No. 1 on the 28th of December 2013 with my father for scale – a much brighter picture!

As evident in this photo, No. 1 has the most wounded lower stem. It is also much slower in ‘healing’ these wounds than the other two alders, simply because it is growing that much more slowly and not laying down as much new wood – its annual rings will be closer together.


Stat attack!

I have spent some time going back through a lot of old Treeblog updates to ferret out all of the measurement data ever collected from the grey alders. This is now presented altogether - for the first time ever! - in three tables: one for the heights, one for the basal stem girths, and another for the stem girths at a height of 1.5 m from the ground. There’s hardly a wealth of data to show for almost eight years of growth, but I’ve only got myself to blame for that. I’ve even made a couple of graphs, so that the changes in the sizes of the alders can be better visualised.

Long-time followers will perhaps remember that there used to be a fourth grey alder, which in the early days was an absolute stonker of a young tree. After transplantation into the wild in spring 2010 however, it was soon tragically destroyed by sheep. No. 1, the current third-placed alder, grows just a few metres from where No. 4 met its untimely end. With hindsight, this is clearly a bad location for tree planting. I can’t help but wonder what might have been had I planted these poor souls in the same spot as Nos. 2 & 3… But I digress.


Table 1. The heights (in metres) of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders.

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4
1st Oct. ‘07 0.04 0.02 0.03 0.01
2nd June ‘08 0.14 0.65 0.12 0.30
20th Apr. ‘09 0.75 0.55 0.65 0.91
27th Jun. ‘09 1.05 0.71 1.09 1.20
19th Aug. ‘09 1.96 1.50 1.70 1.86
28th Mar. ‘10 2.07 1.59 1.90 -
20th Jun. ‘10 2.40 1.80 2.25 1.80
25th Sep. ‘10 2.80 2.50 2.80 1.35
11th Feb. ‘11 - 2.45 2.75 X
13th Mar. ‘11 2.70 - - X
29th Sep. ‘11 2.50 3.05 2.75 X
19th Oct. ‘12 3.10 3.50 3.60 X
9th Jun. ‘13 3.30 3.60 3.60 X
5th Jan. ‘15 3.80 4.60 5.00 X


Graph 1. The heights of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders.

The graph illustrates that No. 1 was actually the tallest alder in early 2010, when I transplanted them all into the wild – its poor location has clearly had an adverse affect on its growth, allowing it to be overtaken by both Nos. 2 & 3. No. 3 itself actually suffered a major setback in April 2011 when it somehow had its top broken off, allowing No. 2 to reign briefly as the tallest alder. It didn’t take long for No. 3 to recover, but a kink half-way up its stem (noticeable in the first photo in this update) still marks this breakage today. Graph 1 also shows the sorry end of No. 4, which gradually shrinks as it is destroyed by sheep.



Table 2. The stem girths (in centimetres) of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders (measured at base height).

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4
20th Jun. ‘10 9.0 9.0 9.5 9.0
25th Sep. ‘10 9.5 11.0 11.5 -
11th Feb. ‘11 - 10.5 12.0 X
13th Mar. ‘11 9.5 - - X
29th Sep. ‘11 11.5 13.0 14.0 X
19th Oct. ‘12 15.0 18.0 18.0 X
9th Jun. ‘13 14.0 18.0 19.0 X
28th Dec. ‘13 15.0 19.0 21.0 X
5th Jan. ‘15 18.0 23.0 26.0 X



Table 3. The stem girths (in centimetres) of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders (measured at 1.5 metres above the ground).

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4
20th Jun. ‘10 4.0 2.0 4.0 2.0
25th Sep. ‘10 5.0 4.5 5.5 -
11th Feb. ‘11 - 5.0 6.0 X
13th Mar. ‘11 5.0 - - X
29th Sep. ‘11 6.0 7.0 7.0 X
19th Oct. ‘12 7.0 9.0 9.0 X
9th Jun. ‘13 8.0 10.0 10.0 X
28th Dec. ‘13 8.0 11.0 12.0 X
5th Jan. ‘15 10.0 15.0 15.0 X


Graph 2. The girths of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders.

This graph shows two sets of data for each alder; the larger girths are the measurements taken at the base of the stem, and the smaller girths are the measurements taken at a height of 1.5 m from the ground (about breast height). The story is similar to the heights – Nos. 2 & 3 are performing well but No. 1 is lagging behind. No. 3 is pulling away from No. 2 in basal girth, but both are performing more or less equally in girth at 1.5 m.

Hopefully I’ll be able to make another visit to see the alders in June. It would be nice to see them in leaf again!


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