Archive | Tree – Root and Branch

Portraits of trees with key features, origins and uses.

Mast Year 2019

As I walked past a line of trees the beech nut husks crunched under foot. The pavement was strewn with copious quantities of this crunchy produce from the venerable trees. I was moved to include a few notes on nature’s masting process.

Mast Production

  • A mast year occurs when a bumper crop is produced. It has the effect of increasing the potential for reproduction but also feeds-up creatures in anticipation of a hard winter.
  • Mast seeding is also called masting and the produce is a mast
  • Mast years are so called due to the  production of many seeds by a plant every two years or so
  • Masts are often produced in in regional synchrony with other plants of the same species.
  • It is thought a mast year may be designed as a defense to assist reproduction of a species because seed predators become satiated before all the seeds have been consumed.
  • Many species ‘mast’ including oak, hickory, and beech with their acorns, hickory nuts, and as with beechnuts they produce a ‘hard mast’.
  • Fruit trees and other species may produce a soft mast but the volume of produce will still be much more fruit than normal


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Judas Tree – Root and Branch Review

Judas Tree

At the heart of the Judas tree is an ornamental flowering tree with rich, pink to red, pea shaped flowers in May followed by long pods.

Key Features of the Judas Tree

  • Latin name – Cercis siliquastrum aka Flowering Judas or Love Tree
  • Height – Ornamental tree up to 35 feet
  • Type of tree – Deciduous
  • Leaves – Kidney shaped, untoothed, smooth grey-green
  • Flowers – Sweet pea-like magenta-pink
  • Fruit – Flat brown pods
  • Bark – Dark grey with ridges when mature
  • Family – Fabaceae

Leaf of Japanese judas tree

Origins and Distribution of the Judas Tree

  • Native to southern Europe, western Asia and possibly originating in Judea hence the name.
  • Just about hardy for UK gardens.

Uses and Attributes of the Judas Tree

  • Eye catching spring flowering ornamental tree.
  • Flowers are edible in salads, fried in batter or pickled as a caper substitute.
  • The wood is hard and fine grained making it suitable for veneer work
  • A popular tree in parks and ornamental gardens.

Cercis siliquastrum (I) -vainas-

Gardeners Tips for the Judas Tree

  • The flowers arrive in spring before the leaves and also bloom from old wood and stems.
  • Requires full sun and good drainage.
  • This leguminous tree has decorative, long, purple pods

Other types of Judas Tree and key species

  • Varieties include ‘Afghan Deep Purple’ ‘Bodnant’ and ‘Alba’ – white flowers and Carnea’.
  • Other Cercis include Cercis canadensis (Redbud), Cercis chinensis heart shaped leaves and Cercis racemosa drooping flowers.

Judas Tree comments from elsewhere

  • Top ten UK garden trees.
  • The Judas tree appreciates a warm spot and is a star in May when the leafless branches are adorned with lilac/pink flowers. Grow your own from seeds in February or March.
  • According to legend this is the tree on which Judas hanged himself after betraying Jesus. After Judas died the white flowers are said to have turned red with his blood and shame.
  • Avoid anywhere too exposed as the stems are rather brittle

Judas Tree

Credits
Judas Tree by Vassilis Online CC BY-SA 2.0 ‘Cercis siliquastrum, commonly known as Judas Tree, is a small deciduous tree from Southern Europe and Western Asia which is noted for its prolific display of deep-pink flowers in spring.’
Leaf of Japanese judas tree by Amehare CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Cercis siliquastrum (I) -vainas- (Pods) by .Bambo CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Judas Tree by Ava Babili CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Where to See Trees

Trees can be individually inspiring but when trees are gathered or clumped together they can range from the majestic to the commercially relevant.  Over centuries trees have provided the largest social impacts from shelter, sustenance and products from timber.  Through changing seasons the aesthetic benefits of the wide variety of trees also give a significant amount of personal pleasure.

Despite problems of disease in some species and Sheffield council contracting to chop down trees close to highways, trees are  ubiquitously visible throughout the UK.

 Tree Zones and Areas Where You See Trees

  1. Woods in all shapes and sizes
  2. Forest – now applied to conifers but historically area where forest laws applied
  3. Copse – broad leaved woodland
  4. Spinney
  5. Stand
  6. Park  – traditionally containing more widely spread trees
  7. Arboretum
  8. Clough or Ghyll
  9. Gill or Dingle – wooded valley
  10. Ancient Woodland
  11. Carr – usually alder & willow on wetland
  12. Chase or firth – a hunting area
  13. Enclosure – once land held in common
  14. Glade
  15. Plantation
  16. Hanger   -wood on a  steep slope or bank
  17. Ride
  18. Shaw-  small wood
  19. Spring  – coppiced woodland
  20. Wildwood- original forest from the last ice age
  21. Landscapes
  22. Orchard
  23. Woodlot
  24. Jungle
  25. Thicket
  26. Memorials –  graveyards crematoria  and special areas
  27. Swamp
  28. Grove
  29. Nurseries and specialist tree vendors
  30. Woodland Trust
  31. National Trust Properties
  32. Botanic gardens
  33. Wild in nature

If you wish to take issue with my selection or know where I have ignored a favourite ‘tree zone’ then send us a comment.

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Best British Trees Reviewed


Our series of tree reviews covers exotics and UK trees with a few specials thrown in. Each separate post covers;

  • Latin names and other common names
  • Height, uses and normal distribution. –
  • Type of tree – Evergreen/ Deciduous – dictoyledons, monocotyledon, Conifer etc
  • Description of Leaves, Flowers, Fruit and bark –
  • Family links, varieties and near relatives –

Below are links to a dozen British natives with short descriptions.

English Oak
Top of most lists for great British Trees. Our list of tree reviews is no different, Oak is the tops!

Rowan – Mountain Ash
The trees can be quite singular in appearance when shaped by wind on high moors and mountains.

Beech
From the copper coloured leaf to solid green hedges the Beech deserves a place in most gardens.

Silver Birch
Seem to be growing everywhere you look with some very distinctive varieties like Jacquemontii.

Horse Chestnut
Brought to England by William the Conqueror (no not really the conkers were there first).

Norway Spruce
Despite containing a foreign country name this Spruce grows freely on Forestry Commission land in the UK.

Hawthorn
Ideal for hedgerows and feeding birds. May blossom in May maybe.

Lime or Linden
a useful ornamental for parks and large gardens.

Hornbeam
Grows well in my garden and trains easily into a shapely tree.

Sycamore
Related to the other Acers but I would let someone else grow Sycamore on their land. (not my favourite)

Larch
A fast growing deciduous conifer good in forests.

Yew
Longest lived and slowest growing British tree synonymous with church yards and pagan worship.

Ash
Along with the Oak and the bonny Rowan tree the Ash is justly popular.

Notes

  • This completes our bakers dozen of British trees. If you want to learn more click on each link.
  • If you want to look for a different tree, type in the common or Latin name in our Google search box.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment or make a request on tree or garden related matters.
  • For more information of tree leaf shape design and function read this section.

Tree Organisations and Links
Woodland Trust

The Arboricultural Association
International Society of Arboriculture UK

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Crab Apple Trees for Fruit & Ornament

Malus Red Sentinel

The flowering crab apples, Malus Rosaceae, are excellent floral trees with the added bonus of small usually edible fruit. The Malus Red Sentinel above has a profusion of small hard red autumn fruit that can be admired in the garden, left to feed birds, converted into a jelly or added to other food dishes. Crab apples generally contain a deal of pectin and are seldom eaten uncooked.

Favourite Crab Apple Varieties

  1. Golden Hornet is a small tree with white flowers producing a large crop of small yellow fruit.
  2. John Downie perhaps the best fruiting large conical crab apples of bright orange to red.
  3. Jay Darling is ornamental with large, deep red flowers and crimson tinted foliage.
  4. Eleyi has purpleish shoots and very decorative purpleish fruit in Autumn. Slightly later flowering and a good pollinator.
  5. Profusion is a fragrant hybrid with large wine red clustered flowers. Ox-blood red fruit make this one of the best Crab Apples.

Continue Reading →

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Five Trees & Shrubs for Chalk Soil

The best trees for chalk soil conditions tend to be locally grown and not be Dutch imports. In fact they resemble shrubs more than trees but there are the odd exception that are tree like.

Syringia
Lilac

Lilac trees will tolerate limey chalk or clay soils. They are grown for the wonderful scent of the lilac blossom in spring and other than that they are not much of a feature. Syringia vulgaris Primrose is a white flowered variety and Syringia vulgaris Sensation has purple flowers with white edges. The flowers of the lilac make conical panticles which are useful in large flower arrangements.

Crataegus
Großkelchiger Weißdorn (Crataegus rhipidophylla)
Generically called the thorn these small trees have a variety of flowers and berries depending on the species including the Hawthorn. All species seem to do well in chalk soil. Crataegus laevigata Crimson Cloud has bright red flowers whilst Pauls Scarlet is a round-headed tree with red haws in autumn.
They are hardy and will tolerate pollution and some shade but perform best in full sun.

Aesculus
Conker
Horse Chestnuts produce conkers not edible chestnuts. They are stately trees needing room to grow to over 16 feet.
Aesculus parviflora is one of the smaller growing varieties that will suit a garden with chalk soil.

Carpinus betulus
Hornbeam
Hornbeams are a small genus of medium sized trees for chalk soil. Carpinus betulus Frans Fontaine is a slender fastigate form retaining its narrow habit with age. Carpinus japonica has many catkins, corrugated leaves and grows in a wide spread suitable for garden use.

Sambucus
Schwarzer Holunder (Sambucus nigra)

Sambucus is a hardy shrub or small ornamental tree for chalk soil or many other conditions. Sambucus nigra has black leaves and light pink to white flower bracts.

Cotoneaster
cotoneaster berries

Cotoneasters will grow in most soil conditions. They are invaluable for attracting hoverflies to the white flowers, birds to the red berries and gardeners to the shape and form of a good all-rounder.
Cotoneaster hybrid pendulus can be grown as a small weeping tree with arching branches. Cotoneaster horizontalis is commonly referred to as the Fish Bone cotoneaster

Read about our review of British trees with a bakers dozen links to our favourites.

Credits
Großkelchiger Weißdorn (Crataegus rhipidophylla) by blumenbiene CC BY 2.0
Schwarzer Holunder (Sambucus nigra) by blumenbiene CC BY 2.0

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Roots Root For National Tree Week

Lets get to the root of the problem, we seldom get to see roots in action but they are crucial to most plants and trees.

When it comes to trees their roots have two critical functions. Firstly they take up water and minerals. Secondly they help to anchor the tree often utilising a longer tap root. The solid root plate near the trunk normally extends as far as the leaf canopy. Thinner finer lateral roots can extend twice as far in search of water and nutrients. Other root functions for some species include storage of food or nutrients and  as part of a reproduction or regeneration system.

Book Cover

Even today, few places can rival an English oak wood in early summer for peace and beauty with its carpet of primroses and bluebells. Or the cathedral-like majesty of the autumn beech wood with the sun’s light filtering through the leaves. Or the brooding quiet of the ancient holly wood. Perhaps it is not surprising that our remote ancestors performed their acts of worship in forest clearings and woodland glades, for this is where they came face to face with ‘Nature’ – however they close to see it.

Myths About Tree Roots

  • Trees have long been held as part of the superstitions about witches
  • Roots do not penetrate solid objects like wall of drainage pipes that are in good condition.
  • Roots wont affect foundations except on clay soil where they help take away moisture and cause shrinkage.
  • After planting roots are not always keen to extend into surrounding soil unless it is broken up and loosened before hand.
  • Trees need watering even after the first year. Roots take time to establish and be able to supply the needs of of a growing tree. Make sure it is watered for the first 3 years and seldom allowed to dry out completely.
  • Not surprisingly roots will take the easy route if they find cracks in pavements or leaking drains.

Book Cover‘Throughout our long history, forests have been places of shelter, providing food for man and fodder for the animals; the wood for fuel (i.e. warmth and cooking) and for making weapons and other utensils. At the same time they have also been places of fear, where the temperamental Faere Folk, wood sprites and elementals lurked in the dappled shadows.’

Roots Near Buildings further reading

Roots in Pots

  • Pot bound’ is the phrase used when a containerised plant has roots that fill or over fill the pot and satrt going round and round in search of new soil. The pot below has not quite reached a critical stage as the rooot ball can be teased out.
  • If roots are left in a tight circle that is how they will stay and the plant will not thrive. I have occasionally dug out a poor plant to find the original compost is all that is feeding the plant and it is often bone dry. It is hard to rewet plants grown in peat coir and other similar substances.

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Best Trees for Toughness

Avoiding early onset of death caused by disease or climate change will affect the trees we plant in the future. Gardeners must consider tree selection carefully bearing in mind more than aesthetics and utility. Economics of forestry have increased there relevance to Britain as (the dreaded by some) Brexit nears. We import and export more wood than in previous years but with those extra tree miles comes risks. Toxins pests and disease are to readily spread from one country to another. CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is designed to protect over-exploitation and endangerment  through international trade.

Some of the most reliable trees to plant with a view to them reaching maturity even if not in my life time include:

Tulip Tree Liriodendron tulipifera

American Sweetgum Liquidambar stryraciflua

Evergreen Oak Quercus ilex also Pin Oak and Chestnut leaved oak

Silver Lime Tilia tomentosa

Sweet Chestnut Castaneasativa

Hornbeam Carpinus

Dawb Redwood Metasequoia

Wedding cake tree Cornus controversa

Book Cover

Trees That Produce Hard Tough Wood

  • Janka is the basic measure of hardness for a sample of wood. The toughest tree is  an ironwood tree which is native to Australia.
  • Lignum vitae is so hard it was used to make policemen’s truncheons
  • Ebony and Brazilian Olivewood have tightly packed grain making up the hardness.
  • Snakewood is an exotic hardwood which is particularly prized for it’s decorative grain
  • Other hard woods common in Britain include mahogany, maple, oak, and teak.
  • Tropical pear, cashew and walnut are hard hardwoods.
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Trees for Carbon Capture and Global Warming

Church Lane

I am  unsure about all the fuss over carbon emissions and the impact of humans on the environment. There is a finite amount of carbon in our world and it cycles around in solids, dissolved in water or in gaseous forms. Plants helped convert the primordial carbon gasses and  volcanoes eruptions into solid carbons. Trees capture carbon and hold as wood for long periods and historically many trees fossilised into coal.

Other key examples of carbon capture include the stores of hydrocarbons in the form of tar, oil deposits and shale from which gas is now fracked. Less related to tree carbon capture is the vast quantities of limestone deposited from crustaceans and coral.

Many ecologists and scientist now believe we should invent mechanical ways of storing carbon as there is a perceived imbalance in the carbon cycle caused by human activity. I am amused by the idea of sending carbon dioxide down the mines and oil wells to be retained for some future ill defined purpose.

Personal View on Global Warming

  • The above photograph of the Yorkshire Dales including a tree and dry limestone wall contains a substantial amount of captured carbon as does the peat up on the moor.
  • All Yorkshire can’t compare to the Amazon rainforest or the dissolved carbon in the sea. Since I first wrote about carbon capture major advances with shale gas exploration have highlighted again the plants of eons ago that were converted into captured carbon and are now giving up their bounty to modern man.
  • All the hot air about global warming and political influence isn’t going to change me or my gardening approach.
  • I will garden responsibly but I do not think I will take my gardening to extremes. However, I am going to plant some trees, grow some hard carbon and hope these trees have a long and hard carbon producing life, I just regret I won’t be around to carbon date them.

Amazon Rain Forest

  • This resource is often quoted as a shorthand for the ills of global warming. Is it better to use the land freed up by deforestation for human or animal food production? I don’t think there is a perfect answer but avarice and vested interest is a poor driver of policy.
  • If a tree grows 10% each and every year ( at least until adult maturity) then if follows that small young trees will capture less carbon than stately relatives. There is also a potential amenity benefit from large well managed forests so lets encourage the big and beautiful.
  • In National Tree Week we should be celebrating our British heritage of trees and those organisationst and woodland charities that help manage them.
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National Tree Week Tribute 2018

Gardeners tips would like to pay tribute to the nation’s trees, past and present and all those that use or care for them. The time to pay this tribute must be during National Tree Week which runs from 24th November to 2nd December 2018.

Where to Start the Tribute

  • I have ordered 3 bare rooted fruit trees to be delivered on the 24th November. These will be planted in my mini orchard to augment the apple and plum varieties I already grow. I don’t really need any more trees for fruit production as the family can’t eat a good years crop even when taking jam into account. Still another tree will be a good backstop should one of my current trees start to fail.
  • It may be a bit early for Christmas but I have agreed to give and have sourced a Kilmarnock Willow tree for my sister’s present. This is to replace a dead willow tree that used to provide a place for garden birds to congregate.
  • Whilst learning oil painting and watercolour I have set aside 2 books on how to draw and paint trees. It will make me look closely at all trees (during cold winter months that will probably be through a window.)
  • Historically gardeners tips have published 443 articles about trees. I will re-post and update one of these pages on each day during National Tree Week

Quirky Tree Facts

  • An 80,000 year old Quaking Aspen in Colorado formed a clonal colony linked to a single massive subterranean root system with all the trunks above ground remaining connected to each other.
  • Against all odds trees can have great survival instincts

  •  The process known as dendrochronology involves counting the rings of a tree trunk.
  • If a birdhouse is hung on a tree branch, it does not move up the tree as the tree grows.
  • There are over 50,000 tree species and some large specimens can drink 100 gallons of water a day.
  • There are numerous uses of trees including food production, energy creation from burning, construction of buildings and ships, decoration and furniture. Best of all I like the idea of a tree house.

Raise a toast including a tree botanical to the UK National Tree Week and all the great trees in the world

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