Tag Archives: Local Nature Reserve

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!



Filed under Tree Lines

Tree Following: August

The end of summer is beginning, and it is only the middle of August! Some would say it never really started but on Parkland Walk yesterday, when visiting the sycamore I am “following”, I noticed senescent leaves were lying around. Maybe the dry months London has experienced has influenced this (though it’s been rainy in the past few days).

A new observation is the onset of Tar Spot, Rhytisima acerinum. This would have started in spring, but has only become obvious now.  There doesn’t appear to be much of it. I wonder if the powdery mildew I noted in June’s post was actually the development of this fungal infection. Tar Spot can cause early leaf fall, but the leaves I’ve seen scattered around don’t bear any of the blotches typical of this pathogen, so I’m not so sure it’s the reason for the discarded foliage. For those of you who like crisp, clear images, I wasn’t going to include this photo.. but I kinda liked the impressionism of it!


Anything else to report? Well, there is new graffiti on the new graffiti, but I won’t give the vandals any credence by taking any photographs because it’s mindless, insulting stuff. There’s also a bit of damage to the exposed roots, and the wounds look fresh. I suspect this is an extension of the vandalism; somebody idly chipping away at the bark with a sharp object. What else will this remarkable tree have to put up with..?

More next time… and other trees to look up on the Loose and Leafy blog.

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Tree Following: February

At last. I’ve picked a tree to follow for the Loose and Leafy inspired phenomena. I opted for an unusual individual. Not because others are unworthy of comment or observation but because, in my typical dithering way, I simply couldn’t decide on which plain one to follow. All trees are interesting to me, and I’d want to follow them all!


So here it is. Hated by many conservationists as a weed, the sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus). This one lives in Parkland Walk, a Local Nature Reserve which is mostly comprised of secondary woodland along an old railway. Leaves on the line are no longer a worry here. Good thing too – British Rail’s complaint of “the wrong sort of leaves on the line” in autumn were those of yes, you’ve guessed it, the sycamore (its leaf litter rots down to a mucilaginous sludge, causing problems for trains and schedules).

The first thing about this particular sycamore that grabs the attention is the root system which is partly retained by bricks. These are the remains of a building of some sort, possibly a signal man’s hut. Another portion of the roots is exposed in the way much beloved of the Picturesque movement, all gnarly and entwined. The tracework of these roots would make perfect planting pockets if in a garden. I can imagine primroses peeping out of them. Instead, there is the odd blade of grass and other seedlings which I can’t yet identify…IMG_0652

 …and the tubular webs of Amauralis spiders…IMG_0651

A good gander around the rest of the tree reveals features that could easily be overlooked. The flubbery Jelly Ear fungus…


…and the perforations of dead wood.


From the other side of the tree, upslope, can be seen the bright green of both moss…



..and graffiti.


Whatever the angle, I’m looking forward to a year with this ‘weed tree’. Thanks to Lucy at Loose and Leafy for this wonderful idea.


Filed under Tree Following

Crocodile in a Copse

100_6842A crocodile is the last thing you’d expect to see in a copse, whether the snap-jaw is real or otherwise.  Yet this reptilian graffiti surprised me during a walk on Tooting Graveney Common. Normally, I’d deplore graffiti being applied to a tree; this example I don’t mind as its ludic imaginativeness made me smile, and I doubt it did harm to the tree.

On the other side of London, a Local Nature Reserve is experiencing a growth in this rogue art.  Previously tolerated, people are now wondering if the graffiti along Parkland Walk has begun to get out of hand as the spray painting has spread out from the underbellies of the Crouch Hill bridges.  One Sunday afternoon, as many as eight artists were seen blatantly working, despite this being a crime.  The impact on wildlife, in that particular instance, was an obvious decline in birdsong within 100m of the activity, where the toxic fumes were reported as being overpowering.  In addition to the effect on avian behaviour, rare ferns were damaged when sprayed over.  The Black Spleenwort (Asplenium adiantum-nigrum) only grows in this one place on the Walk and  it is the metallic paints which seem particularly noxious; the ferns struggle to survive a coating.

graffiti collage 2

I’m not against graffiti per se; some of it demonstrates talent and creativity. However, the last few times I’ve rambled along Parkland Walk, I’ve noticed an increase in the tagging sort, like the territorial pissings of pooches on lamp posts. In my mind, this kind of graffiti is sheer vandalism.  I must say, I’d object to even the artistic type if it proved to be detrimental to wildlife.  There is a balance to be struck between encouragement of artistic ability, and respect for nature.


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