Thursday, 19 February 2015

A Tree Post With A Quiz, and Toffee Has Grown

Well, my friends, it is raining here and it's set in for the rest of the day. I am eating a donut and drinking a mug of hot water contemplating taking the dogs out for a walk as I am not rain-averse and nor are they. M has a few days off work and is beavering away in his shed with Poppy as Able Assistant putting the finishing touches to Phyllis' cupboard. Teddy is sitting near the window watching the rain drops trickle down it and L has his chum Will over and they are super-glued to their computers. I find myself judging the passage of time by the size of the shoes left at the door. His friends' are getting enormous.

I have been on a (very rare) visit to my GP this morning. Can't remember the last time any of us went which is how we are as a family on the whole, but since Christmas I've had pain in my middle finger which won't go so I thought I'd better check it out.

Arthritis (I thought).
Ganglion (GP says).

Which sounds ugly and unappealing. Anyway, blood tests next week just to be certain and in the mean time I'll get some arnica and witch hazel to rub in to it.

Before the rain began, I went out with the camera and took some photos of trees. Bark, to be precise (that's an explanation not an instruction). I thought I'd test you, because without leaves all you have to go on for an ID is the bark and twigs. I didn't get any twig photos apart from one, but the bark is still pretty diagnostic. Scroll down to the end of the post for the answers and let me know how you got on.....
 
1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

twig that goes with bark number 10 as an extra clue

11

tree trunk of number 11 for an extra clue

12
tree trunk that goes with number 12 for an extra clue
L has been a Tree Boy since he was tiny. He used to sleep in his pram when he was a tiny baby beneath the tree in the photo below, and now, nearly 14 years later, he is still drawn to it. His way up into the tree is a well-worn passage and he knows exactly where to put his feet and hands in order to climb into its branches. Once up, he has been known to sit there for ages, quietly enjoying the peace and tranquility it offers.


Where would we be without trees?

The British Isles are believed to have been covered in trees from sea to sea at one time. This was the ancient Wildwood, the forest that came after the last Ice retreated ten thousand years ago. There may be traces of it left, small pockets of Wildwood that have not been cut or managed or farmed in any way, existing in the closed, secret hearts of a very few of our ancient woodlands. Ancient woods are those that have been recorded as woodland since the 1600s, because tree planting did not begin in earnest until after this date, therefore anything recorded as woodland in 1600 can be taken (broadly) to be much, much older. Ancient woodlands offer up certain key species that act as indicators of their age such as wood anemone, primrose, bluebell, dog's mercury, as well as native tree species.

There may (or not, depending on which ecologist's work you read) have been pockets of clearings within these vast Wildwoods. The existence of certain butterfly species such as some of the Blues, is evidence that points towards this. They are not woodland species but require open land, often downland, to flourish, and the complexity of their relationship with ants (and in one case - that of the Large Blue - with only one specific species of ant) is such that it probably could not have evolved in the 5000 years since the trees started to be systematically felled to make way for farmland.  

I don't think there's any doubt that our land before people came was primarily a place of trees, and therefore most of the native wildlife in the British Isles has originated from woodlands.

The earliest native trees in the British Isles were birch, followed by pine, then hazel, wych elm, oak, alder, lime, ash, willow, holly, beech, hornbeam, field maple. A number of other natives followed- think juniper, hawthorn, rowan, wild cherry, yew. Trees like Horse Chestnut and Sycamore which we may think of as classic British Trees are in fact much more recent additions, not arriving until they were introduced in the 16th C.

There was a prehistoric crash of Elm (3100-2900BC), not unlike the 1970s one where Dutch Elm Disease killed off many of our Elms. This ancient crash is recorded in the pollen record but recent work suggests it wasn't due to disease so much as the changes wrought in woodlands by man (farmed animals grazing on young trees who could not reach flowering age).

People starting clearing this land of trees in the Stone Age and since the Bronze Age woodlands as well as open land have been farmed. Now, we understand their value better in a broader than monetary sense and we know that networks of woods need to be allowed to join up to protect their precious biodiversity better. Woodland corridors and woodland rides are being opened up and maintained to allow species to flourish. Coppicing is being brought back as a management tool, although there is a school of thought that says a boom/ bust cycle such as that is not the way to care for our woods.

Woodland coverage in the UK currently stands at something like 11%. Here in Hampshire we are doing better - up to 14% of this county is woodland. I walk in ancient woodland every day with the dogs and there is a peace and a tranquility, a real sense of age to it that I love and can never be unaffected by.

When I was young it was fields I was most drawn to, although I have always had favourite trees. Now I look at green fields and I don't love them anymore. Instead I see the dormancy in them, the uniformity, the lack of diversity and life. My fingers itch to plant wildflowers and allow grasses to grow, to wait for the bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, the mammals, the birds to return.
If I were handed a dollop of money to do what I liked with, I would buy a woodland beside a small bit of land and I would turn the land into a wildflower meadow and I would open up rides in the wood and get a coppice system working in one section and leave the rest as a means of seeing what was best for the wood. I would record all the species I could find there, flora and fauna both and I would cherish the meadow and woodland and feel like a guardian.

Woods are magical places- even science suggests that the trees in our woods have the power to heal broken lungs- they emit a chemical which helps us breath, and of course they produce oxygen too. So get out there when you get a chance and go for a walk in a wood and let its magic into your soul.

I'll leave you with some pics of the dogs. We saw Toffee yesterday and my has she grown! The Black Lab with her is her doggy sister Ember and the Westie with the neat haircut in pic 4 is Dougal, Ted and Poppy's other doggy cousin. We were Very Thoroughly Sniffed when we got home :o) 
The answers to the Tree Quiz are after the pics. Good luck!










Tree Quiz Answers
1. Apple (large flakes and often has copious quantities of lichen on older trees)
2. Beech (smooth bark)
3. Cherry (the horizontal fine lines running round the trunk are diagnostic for cherry)
4. Elder (always cracked in appearance)
5. Hazel (smooth bark, leaves are broad and shaped a little like wide hearts))
6. Holly (smooth with nobbles)
7. Oak (deeply fissured and gnarled)
8. Pear (small, vertical square/ rectangular shaped pices)
9. Birch (silver and flaky, with dark diamonds usually near the base, esp in older trees)
10. Ash (black tips to the buds are diagnostic. The bark in older trees becomes fissured).
11. Willow (the diamond-shaped darker pieces are usually a good clue)
12. Willow (this is an older willow with deeper fissures in the bark)

If you want to know more about British Trees and the Wildwood, look up Oliver Rackham, who sadly died last week. His books are fantastic treasure troves of information.

Hope you're all well,

CT :o)

26 comments:

  1. Sadly I got few of these right, but I did get some! Oak and Cherry were fairly easy, but mostly I was stuck. Not good. Need more practice! The doggies all look happy! xx

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    1. Hey Amy :o)
      It's not always easy doing it blind like that with no other clues. I'm not sure how many I would get right if I hadn't been taking the pictures. Bark does mature with age too xx

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  2. Great post, trees have been on my mind this week also. I had just been searching the net for a cheap copy Richard Mabey's book 'Beechcombings' before switching over to you and last weekend we went for a lovely walk to visit a couple of my favourite ancient oak trees. Sadly, I got a mere 2/12 in your quiz -I think I am going to pinch your idea-if I may CT. This would be a fun activity to do with the kids on a walk. Hope it has stopped raining by now. It is beautifully sunny and breezy here, looking a lot like spring. x

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    1. Maybe because their sap is rising and with it their energy? I suspect lots of people respond to that subconsciously, woods are part of our makeup and psyche after all.
      Next time I will put pics of more of the tree in- it was a little unfair just to have a snap shot of the bark. I'll bet you'd get more then.
      Great idea re the kids and walking. You can also do it with winter twigs. If you google winter twig ID there are a few websites that have info sheets you can download xx

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  3. Well I got 5 out of 12. Not familiar with a couple. I took some bark photos a couple of years ago too ... great textures. Your dogs (and friends) are all so cute :)
    Wendy

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    1. That's a pretty good score considering there's not much of the tree to see! I love tree bark too- so rich and varied when you stop and look at it properly. :o)

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  4. Well what do you think about that, I was scrolling up & down typing each answer & going back to check the next bark. I then noticed all your answers at the bottom of your post! I also got No 10 wrong!! There is an oak tree in one of the fields here, I have many happy memories from childhood attached to it. Piddling down here too but Rocky had his walk this morning so I will send Mike out in the rain for his evening one later. Ohhhh a ganglion, that sounds painful? I hope they sort it for you xx

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    1. Oaks are one of my all time favourites. There is a pair of Sweet Chestnuts in the wood where the dogs and I walk that stand like sentries by the path. They are wonderful and I always stop and talk to them. Their trunks have this fantastic, twisting bark.

      Doggy people didn't get walked in the end as I beetled off to C&H for some fabric for a quilt! I'll post some pics in due course.

      The ganglion IS painful, wretched thing. A dull ache that rises to a wince-making ouch whenever I try and grip anything. Oh well, onwards and upwards. Good luck for tomorrow. I will be thinking of you xx

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  5. Oh,I wanted to do really well at this (thought I would) but actually, regretfully, I was a bit hopeless. Good prod - sorry trees, and I will do better next time - off to look up Rackham help.

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    1. I'm not sure how well I would do doing it cold either, to be honest :o) Next time I'll take some pics with more of the tree because the shape really helps. I imagine everyone would score a lot higher then. You will find Rackham a mine of info and very readable. He was an amazing man and is frequently referenced for our studies at college.

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  6. I'm learning so much about trees from you!!i got three right but they were total guesses! I hope your finger is better soon x

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    1. Thanks Rach :o) Glad it was informative. What with my finger and your eye we're a right old pair! x

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  7. I got half a dozen which is pitiful as I am a great tree lover and observer but when you are out and about you get the tree shape as well so I don't feel too bad.

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    1. It's a good score- the bark alone with no shape is a hard one to do. I practice with bird song whenever I'm out and find if I know the environment and therefore which birds live in which section of the wood I get the species much better than if I listen to a recording with no reference points.

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  8. Unfortunately, I got a big 0...but I did learn something!! There are at least 2 tree barks in Kentucky that are very easy to recognize...the Persimmon with nearly square blocks and the Red Cedar with its thin peeling in long narrow fibrous strips. Very interesting post! Thanks! It has prodded me to be more observant!

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    1. I'd love to see some of the trees in Kentucky. Be interesting to note similarities and differences with the UK :o)

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  9. I love trees as well, wonderful. I recognised some of the bark, although I couldn't put names to them. I hadn't really thought about how they're all different before now. CJ xx

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    1. I guess it's like anything that you see in passing every day: when you stop and really look closely there are lots of variations. Hope you're having a lovely half term xx

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  10. I love trees and did attend a tree ID class at University many years ago and ID trees from bare branches but now I did not do so well at your ID. Great post though.

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    1. I think it shows how hard it is to ID them on bark alone. The shape and size of the tree makes a difference :o)

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  11. I did shockingly badly there CT! Thank goodness you're here with your breadth of knowledge to share. I just wish I didn't miss so many of your posts. Blogger are really missing a trick that wordpress has mastered in notifying by email. Pops is adorable! xx

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    1. I've not kept up with everyone this week either Em, so don't worry! x

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  12. An interesting post CT :) I did better than I thought on the tree quiz - struggled with the fruit trees though. Very sad news about Oliver Rackham - his books are superb. Hope your finger is better soon.

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    1. I've learnt Pear now, having written the post :o) One of my lecturers spent an afternoon in a wood with Rackham last year- said it was an amazing experience.

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  13. Great post CT, even though I like my trees I still need the buds or leaves to help me recognise the tree, good test. I had not known about Oliver so did a little reading up on him, great man and will be missed.
    Amanda xx

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    1. I'm trying to get better at bark recognition alone, but I think you're right- twigs and leaves and the shape and size of the tree all help to make it easier.
      I think you'll find Rackham's books an essential read, being as interested in the countryside as you are x

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x