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Category: About Trees

Articles involving trees, shrubs, bushes, woods and hedges plus related subjects

National Oak Trees

National Oak Trees

The title of this post gives the game away but I will pose  the question anyway. ‘What do Croatia, USA, Germany, UK, Cyprus, Portugal, Ireland, Poland any several other central European countries have in common?’

You got the answer ‘Oak trees as their national tree’ predominantly Pedunculate oak (Quercus robur). Portugal are slightly different having the Cork Oak (Quercus suber) as their national tree. Ireland and Wales vary the selection and opt for Sissile Oak (Quercus petraea) and  Cyprus choose the Golden oak (Quercus alnifolia). Yesterday I retuned from Portugal having seen the cork oaks with the bark stripped to the pholem or inner bark layer to harvest the cork.

In this age of virus I have added a comment on a problem for Oak trees. Ramorum blight or ‘sudden oak death’ is one of the Phytophthora pathogens causing concern in UK woods and forests where it infects English oak, sessile oak, Rhododendrons and some other species of tree. It is evidenced by blackened spots on the leaf near the petiole and along the midrib of the leaf with areas of black “bleeding” on the trunk. This can lead to sudden oak death or a depletion of leaves and branches.

Xylella is a bacterium that causes leaf scorch on oak trees. Xylella fastidiosa is a range of sub species that infect a range of broadleaf plants. This pathogen prevalent in Europe and USA is transmitted by insects and is a concern for some British trees.

Do not let this stop you from growing and cherishing an Oak it will probably outlive you and several more generations. Not for nothing are Oaks venerated as National Trees by so many nations.

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Litchen or Lichen and Some Interesting Facts

Litchen or Lichen and Some Interesting Facts

Lichen on tree bark

It is appropriate for there to be two spellings (and two pronunciations) for Lichen. That is because there needs to be a fungus and an algae or cyanobacteria for a lichen to exist. Lichen is an organism that acts in a mutual relationship with  algae converting sunlight into vital nutrients and sugar whilst the partner fungus acts as the host to the new organism.  Thus a lichen is a composite organism that arises from living among   multiple fungi species and algae. Lichens have different properties from those of its component organisms.

Fascinating facts about Lichen

  • There are  20- 30,000 varieties of lichen with more being discovered every year
  • Lichen takes a vital role in the formation of soil.
  • Lichen grows on rocks, walls, buildings, trees and other hospitable surfaces.
  • With careful study Lichen can help with navigation when walking in the countryside. It predominantly grows on the north side of trees where the wind comes from the west
  • Sunshine can colour  lichen in greens, greys, yellows or even reds dependent on variety and conditions.
  • Lichen is a source of food for microbes insects and even reindeer. Some varieties are poisonous to humans.

  • There are three  distinct types of lichen: foliose, crustose, and fruticose. Foliose  are leaflike in both appearance and structure, crustose have a crusty appearance.
  • There are leafy lichen that thrive on rocks at he seaside called Xanthoria parietina with many common names like yellow scale, maritime sunburst lichen and shore lichen.
  • Lichens of the species Ochrolechia and Umbilicaria can produce dyes of beautiful brilliant purple and red shades extracted by urine  Orcein produces a reddish-brown dye
  • Letharia vulpina or Wolf Lichen is a fruitose of fluorescent yellow color making a dye of a bright yellow color.
  • The map lichen rhizocarpon geographicum is luminous green on the southern side where it can harvest more light and a black lines of spores with normal green due to less light on the north.

Lichen no a wall

  • Lichen do not harm living trees nor take any food from the bark. They do appear on trees that are older or in decline for other reasons
  • Lichen are long lived and slow growing
You Don’t Need a Weatherman

You Don’t Need a Weatherman

Bob Dylan knew ‘You don’t need a weatherman. To know which way the wind blows……”

‘Westering home with a song in the air’ I blame the west wind for this lopsided conifer. The bad pruning and poor early staking added contributed to the trees woes.

Doris Day in the windy city wondered ‘Will the new hedge provide enough shelter from the wind before it reaches the deadwood stage?’.  Noway! it is too late for this slanted ornamental tree in an open plan garden. Well ‘que sera sera’ as Doris would say.

Fascinating Facts about Horse Chestnut

Fascinating Facts about Horse Chestnut

Interesting Facts

  • Best known for the production of ‘conkers’. The spiky seed shell contains a shiny nut. The nut is threaded on to a string and the opponents conker is flicked until one breaks leaving a winner. Some conkers are treated with vinegar of other tricks to harden them for competition.

  • Due to chemical saponin in the nut they have historically been used for washing clothes.
  • Spiders and other creatures are frightened off by the saponins
  • The flowers are quite striking and form  attractive pyramid shapes, referred to as  ‘candles’, up in the branches.

Botanic Facts

  • Trees can be over 100 feet tall and long lived up to 250 years.
  • The palmate leaves can be disfigured  by leaf miner moths.
  • They provide heavy shade and little will grow directly beneath them.
  • Germination and initial growth can be quite rapid.
  • Aesculus hippocastanum or Horse-Chestnut flowers are white but there is a red hybrid Aesculus carnea
Fascinating Facts about Sycamore

Fascinating Facts about Sycamore

Interesting Facts

  • Rippled patterned wood occasionally arises when the grain runs at right angles. This pale pattern is popular for veneer and musical instruments.
  • Sycamore wood is good for kitchen joinery. It is easy to work, doesn’t stain easily or have any odour that can affect food.
  • Wood is often carved as ‘love spoons’ appropriate for today Feb 14. They attract symbols that convey different messages.
  • Trees are wind proof and are used in farms to protect cattle by providing shelter.
  • The seeds are called helicopter wings as a result of there shape and the spinning effect as they fall to the ground.

Botanic Facts

  • Acer pseudoplatanus or Sycamore is not a native tree but was introduced several hundred years ago and now naturalised.
  • Mature trees can grow to 120 feet tall and 75 feet wide.
  • Growth is rapid and is unsuitable for hedging pollarding or pruning.
  • Sycamore and leaves in particular are susceptible to fungal diseases. Giant leaf spot disease is caused by Ophiognomonia pseudop and mildews are common.
  • Lace bugs feed on the undersides of the sycamore’s leaves.
Round Tuits

Round Tuits

When I was younger owned a disc of wood taken from the thick branch of an old tree. It was engraved ‘Round Tuit’.  It was designed to prevent procrastination and putting off the evil day. Creative avoidance is still a part of my routine and even today I find myself saying ‘I will do it when I get round to it!’.

The title is just an excuse to show a couple of tree photographs that have made me smile in the past. These pleached hornbeams at Harewood House need someone to regularly get round to trimming and pruning to keep them in good order.

The multi stems on this conifer could have made a large number of ’round tuits’ if they were sliced  but I hope no one in this generation will feel the need to chop down this magnificent specimen.

A reminder to get on with some gardening but I will do it after a sit on this adult version or grown up ‘Round Tuit’.

Extreme Pruning Trees in February

Extreme Pruning Trees in February

The extreme sport of ‘extreme pruning’ has just missed out on an award for this effort on an open planned garden tree in Yeadon. It will be revisited as it buds and leafs up later in the year. At the moment is strikes an interesting pose.

Cherry Picker picking cherries? No just another almost extreme pruning during February

Now that is what I call real extreme pruning! There was an aborist at work but I never saw him for dust

When the wind blow we shall have snow and what will the Robin do do then poor thing…..

A strong gust of wind may prevent the need for extreme pruning. Storm  Ciara may do what a pruning saw cant.

Fascinating Facts Of Prunus & Flowering Cherry

Fascinating Facts Of Prunus & Flowering Cherry

Picnic in the shade of Cherry Trees

Botanic Facts

  • The following fruit are all Prunus species; plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, and almonds. They are part of a family of 430+ species
  • Blossoms usually have five petals and five sepals
  • Fruit are categorized stone fruits or scientifically as drupes. Freestone fruits have flesh that pulls away easily from the pit, Cling-stone fruits have pulp that sticks more firmly to the pit.
  • Prunus are broadleaf deciduous trees and are some of the first  species to flower in spring.

Fastigiate Cherry with branches almost parallel to the trunk

 Ornamental Facts

  • Cherry Blossom trees, are renowned for their magnificent blossoms that cover the branches in many different shades and forms.
  • Some varieties  offer stunning autumn colour, purple foliage or glossy bark.
  • Picnic under blossoming Cherry trees to enjoy their beauty whilst it lasts.
  • It is said that such picnics were ‘… originally reserved for the elite persons within society’ as shown above in the spa town of Ilkley.
  • USA and Germany even have their  own versions of the Japanese Hanami cherry blossom festivals.

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Sorbus aucuparia or Son of Mountain Ash

Sorbus aucuparia or Son of Mountain Ash

The Rowan or Mountain Ash, Sorbus aucuparia is a member of the same family as the rose and is part of the large Sorbus genus (50+ distinctive species).  They are highly variable with several regional sub species. The trees can be quite singular in appearance when shaped by wind on high moors and mountains.

The Rowan has an international mystical reputation.  Witch Tree, Wicken, Witchbane or Witch Wood are amongst old names for Rowan and hint at these perceived mystical properties of the tree. ‘The Rowan (runa) is prominent in Norse mythology as the tree from which the first woman was made, (the first man being made from the ash tree). It was said to have saved the life of the god Thor by bending over a fast flowing river in the Underworld in which Thor was being swept away, and helping him back to the shore’. Trees for Life.  A branch was often used over doorways or cattle byres to ward off the evil eye. In Celtic mythology Rowan is known as the Tree of Life and symbolises courage, wisdom and protection and in Ireland it is linked closely with fairies. Hindus  used the word runa for rowan whose branches were used as as staves that were carved with rune symbols. In the UK the Rowan is known as a tree associated with witchcraft, protecting people and dwellings. Druids think the trees are sacred   and are used for protection against sorcery and evil spirits. An example at the Pitt River museum in Oxford shows two sprigs of rowan tree wood tied with a red twine in the shape of a cross. This is believed to have been a common practice in some parts of Scotland to ward off spirits of the forest.

Venerable Rowan trees are much prized and rightly so. The seed of the isolated Rowan must have been carried to the rock in a bird-dropping from a distant tree. The harsh weather has limited the height but several smaller trunks have grown as though the tree was pollarded. Well that is Scottish wind for you. Lonely Rannoch Moor tree is next to small weedy Lochan on the Allt Lochain Ghaineamhach. The peak of Schiehallion is just visible on the horizon.

Mountain Ash which is  a member of the same group as the Whitebeams  are very much trees of open space, rock faces and open slopes. It is more surprising that these trees can be very rare foe example the Ley’s Whitebeam exists in  two sites in the Brecon Beacons and the Taff valley where they are the worlds only 17 specimens left. The Arran whitebeams (Sorbus arranensis and Sorbus pseaudo fennica) are Scotland’s rarest trees both on the WWF dangerously close to extinction list.

Not all sorbus trees are hard to find and I commend the Thorp Perrow arboretum for a good range of specimen trees. The list from there catalogue is shown below featuring over 70 plants many of which I visited several years ago.

The raw berry or fruit are unpalatable but can be made into a tart jelly. Cultivars have been developed for fruit that  is used in wine and liqueur brewing. You may wonder what else Rowan is good for as well as urban ornamentation. The wood is virtually all heartwood and is used for small tools, hoops, poles and high value treen. The wood can be stained many shades and colours. It is used for walking sticks and dowsing rods.

Catalogue of Sorbus specimens grown at Thorpe Perrow Yorkshire

An earlier post from Gardeners tips is now updated and augmented below:

Key Features of the Mountain Ash

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The Thinking Tree’s Life Cycle

The Thinking Tree’s Life Cycle

Tree of Knowledge

At the beginning of 2020 UK trees are getting a good press and their significance and importance is better recognised. The more we think about trees and what they can do for us so it is worth considering if and how trees think for themselves.

Early Years Thinking

  • How can we (the tree) get our seed distributed in an optimum manner. We want it in the right place at the right time to germinate and grow. We will use all the tricks of natures trade including water, wind and air blown distribution, animal and creature carrying with the possibility of a bit of fertiliser dropped in for free.
  • Our seed contains a genetic memory of our species and our specific parentage. Memory implies the basis of a thinking ability which will help govern our development into a full blown adult tree.
  • We think about our survival and often anticipate a high germination failure rate and significant early year losses. So we produce a volume of seed to counteract the anticipated conditions including weather, location and external factors.


Book Cover

Mid Life Thoughts and Actions

  • We trees recognise that we are part of a far wider natural and environments system and that we need ecological partnerships. One of the foremost partnership must be with the soil our home for life. The composition and inter-actions are worth much further thought and exploration. Our fruit, bark, canopy and shelter provide conditions for creatures, lichen and others and we can slowly modify our mix of the resources provided to keep pace with changing requirements.
  • Survival calls for our inherited skills. In some cases we must shed unwanted or unsustainable branches and we broad leaf trees are all taught from an early age to shed leaves each year once they have done their job. We think the rotting down of all these cast offs will enhance the soil fertility and feed the worms and fungus that are another partner.
  • Our fertile years turn thoughts to reproduction and particularly fertility. As we mature our hormones tell us to flower and set seed more profusely. Pollination needs the help of others such as insects, birds or winds.
  • Give a thought to our roots which are largely hidden from human view. We start to spread them beyond our canopy as we think it is a sensible thing to do.
  • In middle-age our crowns will level out, limbs grow thicker and we develop our own individual character.

Thoughts on Old Age

  • Venerable Oaks, Yews, Pines and many of our fellow species will live to a ripe old age of many hundreds of years. They have learnt to survive despite climate changes, war and pestilence both human and natural. You think that is just by accident? No we thought not!
  • We think that bending a branch down to earth will give us stability for a bit longer and hollowing out our trunk may provide food for our roots.
  • We grow faster the older we get until we reach a certain height but then stop getting taller.
  • Our dead trees can provide a good habitat for wildlife by providing food and shelter. First we should watch for insect and disease attacks that reduce our health and life expectancy.

This page is not just a ‘bonfire of the inanities’ but ‘shiver my timbers’  it is a plank for future.