Miscellany Up at the top of Cambuslang on a road junction was this rather bizarre occurence. A Sycamore tree was growing straight out of the top of this abandoned traffic cone. Perhaps the cone was left there after the crash barrier (the metal one in the background) was installed a few years ago and the only source of light for a seedling trapped inside it was straight up and through the hole. The bad news for the tree is that it has outgrown the hole (as can be seen the stem is larger than the hole now) and the bark will gradually be strangled by the plastic of the cone. It would be nice if the tree could split the cone but it is unlikely to happen. Even if it did it probably wouldn’t be strong enough to stand up on its own. Spotted in Rhu near Helensburgh, it was nice to be able to find a perfect demonstration of how thin the ‘shell’ of greenery on a conifer hedge really is. This hedge looks as if it had been shortened to make way for a building extension. Inside the branch structure is plain to see, lots of volume and not a lot of woody material. Even though this hedge was about 2 metres deep the greenery was restricted to the outer 10 cm on each side. Unfortunately this cut end will never go green again. Spotted in downtown Cambuslang, this Rowan is a phenomenal colour, with crimson and yellow leaves and yellow berries, and looking like a colour negative of the usual Rowan. It is possibly a Joseph Rock’s Rowan (Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’), a clone of a chinese tree. The berry colour contrasts with the usual red of rowan and the leaves are much finer, having around 20 leaflets per leaf. Although this tree has a single stem, several sucker stems have grown around the base and they can be seen from their yellowing foliage which has additionally larger and fewer leaflets. This may be the juvenile leaf form or the tree is reverting to a wild state or has been grafted onto a common Rowan. The recent snow made for some interesting scenes. This Chile Pine (Araucaria araucana) in Cambuslang, a fairly bizarre species at any time of the year, looked especially magnificent with the drooping of its limbs and its elegant structure accentuated by the snow. As the name suggests this species is a native of Chile, and was supposedly brought to Britain by scottish botanist Archibald Menzies in 1792. It is an ancient species which has possibly been around largely unchanged for tens of millions of years. Hopefully it has seen worse and will be OK after its Scottish winter experience. This I think is a very common condition on Poplars (this was on a Black Poplar (Populus nigra) at Dalton. Generally known as foliage rusts but caused by the genus of fungi called Melampsora and not particularly destructive since it seems to affect the leaf quite late in the year and not long before the leaf is shed anyway. When considering the pros and cons of the deciduous strategy of trees, infestations like this illustrate what trees would be like if they didn’t get an annual chance to shed all their parasites, fungi, viruses etc. Unfortunately it will happen all over again next year as spores are released from the leaf litter on the groud into the air and infect Larches. The fungis quickly produces more spores on the Larch needles which then infect the Poplars. Both types of tree are needed for the fungus to perpetuate itself. These pictures are of an Eucalyptus tree Eucalyptus gunni the Cider Gum. It is the only Eucalyptus that tolerates the scottish climate. Last year it almost succumbed to the frost in Dec/January, developing splits in the bark that would let in infection and kill the vascular tissue. It struggled through the summer with limited foliage. Again this winter the frost did more damage and apart form the base the tree is effectively dead. The picture shows circular juvenile leaves around the base, a last-gasp survival attempt, but even these are showing frost-damage. To the bottom right can be seen the dead brown lanceolate adult leaves. Many of the Cider Gums around Cambuslang have been killed by frost in the last two winters. The well-known ‘conker’, the seed of the chestnut tree (Aesculus hippocastanum) is packed with all the energy, information, parts and chemicals to get one of these literally off the ground to become a full-grown tree. The one in the photograph was found growing underneath a slide in a play park and was unfortunately going nowhere. It has since been put in a pot and given a good feed and is getting lots of sunlight. It should do OK. On germination, the seed uses the energy reserves in the conker to put a shoot (known as the ‘plumule’) with the first couple of leaves up into the air and a root (known as the ‘radicle’) down into the ground. This picture captures the result of those first couple of weeks of germination and growth. After that the tree needs to get additinal nutrients and water from the soil and to get energy from the sun to fuel further growth. The esteemed arboriculturalist Dr Alex Shigo coined the term CODIT, meaning Compatmentalisation of Ddecay in Trees. The inset is trying to show that decay behind wounds is stopped by trees by three chemical walls 1. upwards/downwards 2. inwards at the tree rings and 3. sideways at the rays of the wood. This picture is from a Portugese Laurel (Prunus lusitanica) tree that we took down for a client. It had been topped by someone in the past and had a column of rot down through it, hidden from external view. It shows that the CODIT walls work just as well internally as the arrest of decay at the rings and rays can clearly be seen. It can be a struggle to remember the names of fungi, but Greek legend has come to the rescue for this one. Most people will have heard the story of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun with wings made of wax and feathers; the feathers melted and he fell into the sea and drowned. His father was Daedalus, an important character in Greek legend, who also flew (but survived). Daedalus created the fabled labyrinth where the half man-half bull Minotaur lived. It seems appropriate that this fungus which is identifiable by the layrinthine pore patterns might indirectly be named after him. See also the wonderfully named ‘Oak mazegill’ Daedalia quercina. Daedalopsis I think means ‘like daedalia’ The literal transaltion of Daedalus is ‘fine -craftsman’ which also seems somehow very fitting. And now I can remember this fungus…! A very thin section of European Larch (Larix decidua) photographed under my microscope. The circle is about 3mm in diameter. The wood has been stained red to show up the cell structure. From left to right can be seen the larger cells of spring growth, giving way to the smaller and more densely packed cells of autumn and winter. This is what explains the rings seen in wood. Each ring represents one full year’s growth. Larch is a conifer, more specifically a ‘gymnosperm’ and has a somewhat simpler structure of wood than broadleaf trees and the cells are box-like in cross section. Very unusually it loses all its needles (which are really just small leaves) every winter, hence the scientific name Larix decidua which hints at its deciduous habit. Another very thin section of wood, this time English Oak (Quercus robur) at the same scale as above. Again from left to right can be seen one full year’s growth. In spring, when the tree opens out its new leaves and needs copious amounts of water, large conducting vessels develop. For the rest of the summer the cells and vessels are smaller as the tree settles into its new size and puts on a new shell of wood. Being a broadleaf tree it loses all its leaves in winter i.e. it is deciduous. Winter is marked in the wood and in this thin section by a sharp but wavy line at the left of the circle. This is followed by the large conducting vessels of the next spring’s growth. Again this accounts for the rings in the wood. This is one of two pictures that were taken in Pall Mall, London, beside Buckingham Palace. A very good place to see London Planes (Platanus x hispanica) and a good species to use to illustrate the importance of Latin names (also known as Latinised/Scientific/Binomial names) for living things. The leaf is superficially similar to that of Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) and Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) but there the similarity ends. Now, platanus means plane, platanoides means plane-like and pseudoplatanus means false plane. And acer means maple. Just to complete the picture, London Planes used to be called Platanus acerifolia meaning maple-leaved. Although the names are long and cumbersome, and who knows how the Romans would have pronounced them, they are unique to each species and fairly descriptive once you know the meanings. If we used a living language there would never be any agreement on unique names, using Latin is ideal. The confusion of common names with these trees is that americans call the Plane the Sycamore and the Sycamore is sometimes in Scotland called the Plane. And in some areas (and in the bible) the Fig (Ficus carica) is the Sycomore. This is the second of the two pictures taken near Buckingham Palace. platanus means plane, platanoides means plane-like and pseudoplatanus means false plane. And acer means maple. Just to complete the picture, London Planes used to be called Platanus acerifolia meaning maple-leaved. Although the names are long and cumbersome, and who knows how the Romans would have pronounced them, they are unique to each species and fairly descriptive once you know the meanings. If we used a living language there would never be any agreement on unique names, using Latin is ideal. The confusion of common names with these trees is that americans call the Plane the Sycamore and the Sycamore is sometimes in Scotland called the Plane. And in some areas (and in the bible) the Fig (Ficus carica) is the Sycomore. This is an amazing sight, a Stone Pine (Pinus pinea) at Kew Gardens in London. The limb had become so long and heavy that it was probably unable to support itself and now it is permanently supported by a steel A frame. Kew was and to some extent still is the world centre for tree collecting/naming/researching, and according to Kew this tree was brought to Kew but sat in a pot before planting for so long (about 2 years) that the eventual form of the tree 50 years later as we see it now became fixed by the shape of the potted tree. If someone had rotated the pot every few weeks the tree could now be 20 metres straight up in the air. We’ll never know, it is just good that it has been saved by this clever steel frame. This tree, a Beech (Fagus sylvatica) at Garrioch Drive has every right to look unhappy. Like many big trees in Glasgow it succumbed to the storm in January. And like many trees even an expert would have had difficulty in predicting its demise compared to other trees of the same size and species next to it. Apart from a lot of vandalism to the stem the tree looked OK for its age and had no fungi obviously growing from it. Before the Council took the remaining stem away and let the rootplate fall back onto the ground, you could see that the deeper roots had been degraded, probably by the fungus Meripilus giganteus, and with this support removed the tree’s demise was inevitable. I am glad I caught this piece of art during it’s month of existence. This sad face makes me smile every time. This set of photos are of a ‘compression’ fork in a Lime (Tilia x europa) one of several we dealt with recently for a client in the West End. Inspireds by the techniques of the late great american re-inventor of arboriculture Alex Shigo I sawed it right down the middle to examine the structure. I have annotated the photographs. At A the stem is very definitely two independent substems, and at D it is equally definitely one stem. In between is a transition where the continuous rings of wood at the bottom of the fork become two sets of undistorted rings above From A to B there are two back-to-back skins of bark within the fork and hidden from view. This ‘included bark’ is the inherent weakness of tight forks in trees. From B to the wood from both substems is starting to enmesh or fuse but in this slightly dried-out (one week old) sample the continuing weakness is accentuated by a crack that has formed By D the fusion is complete. The photo of the outside gives an idea of which surface features correspond with where the inclusions and the strutural weakness begin/end. Here is a picture of transverse section of tropical hardwood Cistanthera papaverifera (known as ‘Danta’). The wood has no rings. That seems to be quite simply because there is no summer or winter in the tropics or no leaf-drop/dormant season. The left-to-right lines are not annual rings, they are blades of fibrous reinforcing cells radiating out from the centre of the tree. The large holes are the water conducting vessels. In contrast with (say) Oak they cannot be related to a spring growth-spurt. Makes for a strong homogenous wood.