Author Archives: rr

A story of gaps in the understory

Philadelphia has a whole host of missing trees and none are more famous than the Great Elm of Shackamaxon. Jon Spruce journeys to the hereafter and back

At the time of its toppling, it was 283 years old, eight feet in diameter and twenty-four feet in circumference.
Its final height is in dispute but, if it was still alive, and even if it hadn’t grown an inch since 1810, it would stand above us all, today, as the reigning champion elm tree of Philadelphia.
Its place is commemorated with a statue of brother William Penn himself, right off Delaware Avenue, in Penn Treaty Park.
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In which Ash meets… Ash!

In the second encounter of his birthday tour, Ash meet a particularly stout example of his namesake tree:

You can clearly see that our ash was once a much taller tree. Its ‘pollarding’ was severe, but the Ash today is flourishing and it has already established a fine new crown. I hope the wood-rotting fungi take it easy on the bole and roots so the tree can live out the FC’s optimistic prediction of another century or two, but there are dark clouds on the horizon in the form of Chalara fraxinea – the dreaded ash dieback that has run rampant across Europe.

The American elm which symbolises survival

The recent devastating tornado which tore through central Oklahoma prompted a meditation on the symbolism of Oklahoma’s Survivor Tree, written by Melinda Householder on the Loose Leaf Blog:

As the search continues for those who are missing, I’ve found myself reflecting on the city, the loss and the challenges that are being endured. And, I am reminded of The Survivor Tree.

This 80-year-old American elm witnessed one of the worst terrorist attacks in our country. Prior to the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, this lone elm stood in the middle of a parking lot, surrounded by concrete and cars, outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. While some folks enjoyed parking under the limited shade of its limbs, others thought it was an eyesore. Not much went into caring for this tree — until it was the only thing left standing.

How demand for wooden drinking cups diminished an ancient yew

Ash, at treeblog, gave himself a tree-tour of a birthday trip. In the first part of the journey, Birthday Tour (Part 1): Loch Rannoch – the Fortingall Yew – Bridge of Balgie, he meets a truly charismatic ancient tree in a post rich with historical illustration:

The Fortingall Yew is one of the oldest known trees in Europe. Allen Meredith (whose estimates according to The Tree Register Handbook “are as well-informed as anyone’s”) has suggested it could be as old as 5,000 years (along with the yews at Discoed in Powys and Llangernyw in Conwy), which is certainly something to think about. But what I find truly incredible is the gargantuan size it once reached. Forget the Yew as it stands today, so small, so utterly destroyed by ‘tourists’ in the 18th and 19th centuries, and try to wrap your mind around this: in the mid-1700s the Fortingall Yew had a girth of 56 and a half feet (17.2 m): a diameter of 5.5 metres (18 ft)! Consider that the thickest tree in Britain today is probably the Marton Oak with a dbh of 446 cm when measured around the three remaining sections of its trunk (although there are giant sequoias 7 m thick where their flared boles meet the ground). A five-and-a-half metre thick yew is phenomenal!

The Oak at the Gate of the Dead and the Duelling Oak

Ash at treeblog used his recent trip to the sad remains of the UK’s second biggest girthed sessile oak to visit two other large and ancient oaks in the same area:

Once I’d seen all there was to see of the uprooted Pontfadog Oak, I got back in the car and headed for home. But only a couple of miles down the road I pulled over to visit two more giant oaks: the Oak at the Gate of the Dead and the Duelling Oak. Both of these veterans grow within a stone’s throw of one another (and right close to the Wales-England border), beside the road linking Pontfadog with Chirk.

The Oak at the Gate of the Dead (Derwen Adwy’r Meirwon in Welsh) is famous, at least locally, for growing at the Pass of the Graves (Adwy’r Beddau). This is thought to be the place where in 1165, during the Battle of Crogen, the forces of Henry II of England were ambushed by the Welsh under Owain Gwynedd.

The New Sylva

Authors Gabriel Hemery and Sarah Simblet have a blog following the progress of their work in progress, The New Sylva. This aims to be an updated version of John Evelyn‘s famous work seventeenth century survey of British trees Sylva, or A Discourse of Forest-Trees and the Propagation of Timber :

Three hundred and fifty years after Evelyn first published his tour de force, we again realise that there is an important if not unprecedented role for trees, forests and timber in our lives, and with this, an imperative need to refresh our view. As society continues to experience increasing environmental change, trees will become more valued and needed, not only as beautiful plants shaping our landscapes and city parks, affirming our sense of place and heritage, but also as our most green renewable resource, and one of our most important environmental protectors. Trees provide carbon-lean products for construction, heat and energy, while at the same time they can control flooding, soil erosion, and reduce the destructive power of winds. Woodlands help to maintain the quality of our drinking water, provide habitat for wildlife, and play a crucial role in helping biodiversity adapt to climate change.

The New Sylva will bring the essence of John Evelyn’s most celebrated work to a new readership. It will integrate sensitively parts of his original, visionary and very beautiful prose, with a much-needed contemporary review. It will deliver authoritative scholarship in a style that is brief, clear, accessible, and pleasurable to read, and for the very first time, it will be copiously illustrated. The New Sylva will celebrate mankind’s relationship with trees through a creative integration of history, science and art.

One of their blog’s recent posts shows a time lapse film of one of the illustrations in progress – six hours of work reduced to two concentrated minutes!

On the thorns of a dilemma

The question is – are they long? or long enough? or longer than the other ones? And are the leaves first? or the blossom? Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy explains how it’s not always easy to tell the haw- from the black- when it comes to thorns.

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