The title of this post gives the game away but I will poseÂ 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) andÂ 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 â€œbleedingâ€ 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.
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 withÂ algae converting sunlight into vital nutrients and sugar whilst the partner fungus acts as the host to the new organism.Â Thus a lichen is a composite organism that arises from living among Â multiple fungi species and algae. Lichens have different properties from those of its component organisms.
Fascinating facts about Lichen
There areÂ 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 colourÂ 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 threeÂ distinct types of lichen: foliose, crustose, and fruticose. FolioseÂ 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 urineÂ 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
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?’.Â Noway! it is too late for this slanted ornamental tree in an open plan garden. Well ‘que sera sera’ as Doris would say.
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 formÂ attractive pyramid shapes, referred to asÂ ‘candles’, up in the branches.
Trees can be over 100 feet tall and long lived up to 250 years.
The palmate leaves can be disfiguredÂ 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
When I was younger owned a disc of wood taken from the thick branch of an old tree. It was engraved ‘Round Tuit’.Â 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 slicedÂ 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’.
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. StormÂ Ciara may do what a pruning saw cant.
The Rowan or Mountain Ash, Sorbus aucupariais a member of the same family as the rose and is part of the large Sorbus genus (50+ distinctive species).Â 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.Â 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.Â 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. HindusÂ 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 Â 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 isÂ a member of the same group as the WhitebeamsÂ 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 inÂ 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 thatÂ 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:
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.
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’Â it is a plank for future.