Category Archives: Tree Lines

An Accidental Pear Hedge

In Queen’s Wood LNR, a pear tree toppled by wind has survived its fall: a portion of its roots still reach into the soil, allowing it to endure. It’s behaving like a laid hedge, when the stems of trees are partly severed and eased over to the ground, shooting upright growth along the now horizontal trunk. In full bloom, this pear ‘hedge’ is a glorious sight, if a slightly  odd one.IMG_2589

Though a fragment of ancient woodland, Queen’s Wood is not without the occasional ornamental specimen. I don’t mean garden escapes, but deliberately planted shrubs and trees such as Forsythia and London Plane. The woodland was not always managed s a local nature reserve, so such plantings weren’t considered inappropropriate. But it is doubtful that this wind-thrown pear tree is a cultivated type. It is thorny which suggests Pyrus pyraster, the Wild Pear. It doesn’t fruit very often, making identification tricky. From what I’ve heard, the infrequent fruit is rock hard and definitely not pear shaped, another indication that this is P. pyraster. According to ecologist David Bevan, “the jury is still out” as to the exact identification of the pear hedge. Maybe that slight ambiguity is part of its charm.



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Tree Following: a follow-up

This time last year, I was ‘following’ a tree on Parkland Walk. I noticed that although all the other Sycamores I was seeing were flowering, this one was not. I made a mental note to investigate if this was a quirk of 2015, and duly visited the tree again this year in May. Guess what? No inflorescences in 2016 either. I don’t know why this lack of flowers might be the case..

Did I notice anything different to last year? More weeds maybe, but the obvious was this:


.. a dog walking advert!

Strolling on from the Sycamore, I went to  check the Coral-root, a plant which is rare for London and one which I never knew before it was pointed out to me here. It had finished flowering when I was introduced to it late last May, so I was pleased to see it at its floral stage.

The Latin name, Cardamine bulbifera, reflects the fact that the plant bears bulbils in the leaf-axils. They look a bit like rose buds, but will go on to produce new plants, not blooms. Fruits ensuing from the flowers are uncommon, so it’s a good thing there is another propagation method.

Thanks, as ever, to Pat at Squirrelbasket for hosting Tree Following, the monthly sharing of tree observations.


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Tree Following: January

Yesterday I visited the sycamore I’ve been following for the past twelve months, a last visit to scrutinize it so closely. One thing I was curious to know was how the mild winter has affected it. In early January, it should be well and truly dormant, but from what I could observe, the buds were already on the move, bursting their tightness and beginning to stretch into leaves too soon!


Bud burst… in early January!

The forecasters predict frostier weather later this week, which may well halt the urge to leaf.

A bare tree forces a tree-follower to look closer at the permanent structure, the ‘skeleton’, and I noticed things that perhaps I had seen before but not properly registered and certainly not put into words. The base of the tree is quite craggy, the bark fractured into plates typical of mature sycamores.  The multi-stems are smoother, more skin-like.


Craggy bark at base of this sycamore

I also noted silvery and green blemishes which I realised were lichens. Are these newly acquired or did I just not spot them before..?



There are dribbles and black staining I seem to have overlooked previously. It appears that two stems have merged together but not so closely that the commingled stem is watertight. This allows for moulds and slimes to take hold which may not have found opportunity otherwise, thus adding to the biodiversity of the tree as an ecosystem in its own right.


Dibbles and stains

I think the thing that surprised me the most about this tree is that it didn’t produce any flowers and thus no ‘helicopters’. For a tree species that is widely vituperated as a weed, this individual defies the profligate reproduction typical of its kind, this past year at least. I should make a note and see if it produces seed in 2016. Remind me someone, please!! The late Felix Dennis, in his collection of tree verse Tales from the Woods, wrote a poem entitled ‘Sycamore’, noting that Some rave of sycamore as if they crept/ Upon the countryside, hearts full of vice;/ Yet long before this frozen land was swept,/ All trees were interlopers of the ice. He considered it a “noble tree” and chased people off his land who sought to rip up sycamore youngsters.

On that slightly controversial note, I end my year of tree-following. For various reasons I have decided against more official tree-following in 2016, but I will  continue to read with interest those accounts by others. Not forgetting to thank squirrelbasket for hosting this monthly event – cheers Pat!


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Tree Following: December

Well, the tree I have been following for the past eleven months is well and truly asleep…


All but four of the leaves have fallen, and the liveliest thing about the tree is the fungi – lots of ear fungus, and a snotty looking fungus whose identity I have no idea.

I’ve usually visited on dry days, preferably when sunny, as I take better pictures of this tree in these conditions, but I didn’t have a chance to this time. The rain had made some interesting patterns on the bark.IMG_1875

Next month will be my final month charting the monthly progress of this tree, though I will continue to observe it every so often. Thanks to Pat of thesquirrelbasket for co-ordinating the Tree Following phenomenon.


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Tree Following: November

A baton-change has occurred for the tree-following host. Due to technical complications, Lucy at Loose and Leafy has handed over to Pat of The Squirrellbasket. An intriguing image, a squirrel with a basket. I’ve long thought that when squirrels stand up and stare at you, with their little paws held at chest height, they look like they should be holding a handbag!

In my October observations, I noticed that the foliage of ‘my tree’ were still mostly green, and attached. Yesterday, when I took my pictures, all the leaves were yellow and the canopy approximately three-quarters obliterated.IMG_1841

What a difference a month makes. I doubt it will take another four weeks for the rest of the leaves to disperse; with the winds that have been blustering today, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were all ripped from the tree by the end of the weekend.


And with the ridiculously mild temperatures we’ve been having in London, the weeds are emerging with a fresh green more suited to spring. Here, Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) pokes through the leaf detritus.


As the ecological quiet of winter approaches, I wonder if there will be much to observe in December. We shall see. Until next time…


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Tree Following: October

Last month, I missed the deadline for tree following with Loose and Leafy. Well, not this time!


From  a distance, the tree I am ‘following’ looks like it is still green in canopy but a closer inspection shows another hue is slowly taking hold.. Not as fierce an autumn colour as other Acers such as the Japanese Maples, which flame up in oranges and crimsons, Sycamore takes on butter tones.


It will be interesting to see how long this tree takes to shed all its leaves – Cherries are very quick, I’ve noticed, whereas London Plane trees can take up to three months to dump their foliage. Think about it.. that’s quarter of a year!!

Until next time, Tree Followers….

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Tree Following: September

OOoops! Tree following time came round again, and I missed the slot to connect with all the other tree followers on the Loose and Leafy blog. Thought yesterday was the 14th, and by the time I’d realised, it was too late to go and take pictures. Still, here is my September update, for anyone who is interested..

The weather is getting autumnal – rainy, with cool nights, and some spells of warm (but not hot) sunshine. The canopy of this sycamore I’m following is still decidedly green though there are a couple of butter coloured leaves on the ground. This is in contrast to the Acer I can see looking out of my window now is strongly tinged with yellow and orange. IMG_1538

With all this extra moisture, the Ear Fungus is listening out again; it was last seen in a fresh state in February and March..

IMG_1541And the first of the seeds are coming down – though, as I mentioned in May, I didn’t spot any flowers on this particular tree, so I guess this half-helicopter twirled in from another tree. I like the contrast between the verdant seed end and the sere brown of the wing. I don’t usually see this transition stage between fresh and dry of the samara (or helicopter), so it was a definite photo opportunity.

IMG_1545 October will no doubt bring more obvious changes, and I promise not to miss the link next time!


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