Until July 2017, documenting the seasons of coastal Dorset. I'm a complete amateur so don't trust I'm always right. If ever you see I'm wrong - whether with identifications or in anything else - do say! Meanwhile . . . I've now moved to Halifax in West Yorkshire. Click on the link below to collect the new URL. Don't forget to follow there!

Thursday, 4 October 2012


What is Tree Following and Who Does It?
Although I'm officially following an elderberry tree - or, rather, a clump of tangled elders, I've not abandoned the sycamore I've been keeping an eye on for several years. Indeed, there are quite a few trees, and bushes and patches of ground that I am specially aware of. This post is about five of them.

We'll begin with that elder.

As I've mentioned, it was cut back during the summer so the berries went AWOL and the undergrowth in front disappeared. This cutting, I have learnt over time, has a reasonably short lived impact - even though though the result is a one-sided tree. And, of course, I've yet to see what happens in the very long term.

One of the things I've noticed when choosing particular leaves to follow - observing them right from when they are little green blobs - is that the ones which come to my attention early tend not to do well compared with those which burst later. This happened with the hawthorn I thought was a blackthorn (oh dear!) and it is true of the elderberry too.

Leaf shoot on elderberry tree I'm following - February 2012
February 5th 2012

This is the shoot I chose on the elderberry tree. It seemed a good one at the time because it's in the crook of a branch and easy to find over and over.

This is how it was earlier in the year.
(February 2012)

Leaf shoot on elderberry tree I'm following - September 2012
September 27th 2012

This is how it is now.

Familiar pattern?

Sycamore Tree I'm Following
Sycamore I'm following - September 22nd 2012

Then the sycamore.

The ivy clinging to it was cut back during the year. Necessary, perhaps, but sad for me - I'm fascinated by the elegance of single strands and the beauty, the colour, the shape of its leaves. Of the trees in this little woodland area, it is not the leafiest, despite its sturdy trunk(s!) - and autumn this year is odd. A curl up at the edges and fall off kind of event instead of dramatic colour.

Golden Elderberry Tree
September  22nd 2012
Golden Elderberry leaves
Same Tree - September 2008
On the other hand, another elder bush - one which attracted my attention as early as 2008 (when I was using my phone as a camera) continues to grow and thrive and produce yellow leaves. This is not down to autumn. This is how the bush regularly is. Maybe it isn't an elderberry?

Remember the thistle from a couple of weeks ago? Where the bees gathered in June?  I've not been 'following' that particular plant. More, I've been aware of that patch.

Willow Herb - Seeds being released from pod
Willow Herb Shedding its Seeds - September 21st 2012

Willow Herb grows there too. There are lots of Willow Herbs - not just the well known Rose Bay variety (Fire Weed on the western side of the Atlantic) and I don't want to hazard which this is. However, until very recent heavy rain and short, sharp wind, they were opening their pods and releasing seeds.

Willow Herb - Seeds being released from pod
September 20th 2012 (in Esther's Garden)
I've not understood how this works before. One minute there are tall, thin, upright pods. The next, the plants are 'decorated' with an ugly, fluffy, tangled mess. By being more aware, this year, I've seen what happens. The seeds are evenly spaced in straight lines up the pods and each seed is attached to a closed parachute above it. The pods don't split at the sides so much as peel back from the top and, as they dry and open, they pull open the parachutes. This, to me, is clever and marvelous but, also (to me) the next stage is less impressive. Instead of flying away like dandelion seeds, they seem to fall where they are and get caught in the peeled back bits of the pods lower down the plant. This, presumably, is why tall willow herbs grow in clumps. Some seeds get away though and it's a good 'spreader'. The smaller versions which arrive in gardens, I have noticed, are more likely to give each other space.

Willow herb - seeds dropped
Willow Herb which has dropped its seeds onto opened pods on the same plant - September 13th 2012

This picture is of a middle sized one in my neighbour Esther Montgomery's garden after the seeds have fallen into their old-cotton-wool muddle. (All sorts of things can look better in a photograph then in 'real' life!)

And, last up - a view.

This is new. Well, clearly not a new view but new that I'm following. Because it's by a bench, and because there's a castle to fix in the middle of the picture, we should be able to follow it through the seasons, certain we are looking, each time, in the same direction!

View towards Sandsfoot Castle in Dorset, England
September 21st 2012

By putting the ruins of Sandsfoot castle centre frame, it should be reasonably easy to keep a steady eye on what is happening to the tree on the right of the picture, the brambles on the left and the view beyond.

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For more about Tree Following - Click HERE


Dartford Warbler said...

I love your photos of the willow herb seed pods gradually splitting open and setting the parachutes free.

A good idea to follow a view over the changing seasons. Now I shall have to go and Google Sandsfoot Castle......

Anonymous said...

A most enjoyably interesting and informative post, and terrific photos.
It's surprising at just how much we miss if we don't look at things on a regular, or indeed daily, basis isn't it.
Flighty xx

Mark Willis said...

Willowherb is a good example of a plant that generally gets a bad press - being portrayed as a weed, whereas it is actually very beautiful.

Lucy said...

Hello Dartford Warbler. I think, perhaps I should do a post about Sandsfoot Castle some time.

Hello Flightpot. It's not just that it's satisfying to discover things for oneself, nor that there are things one never gets round to looking up in books or on the internet, it's also that there are often things I didn't even know were there to be found out about until I noticed them differently because of the blog.

Hello Mark. The little kind is especially pretty. Maybe, in a garden, the larger versions could be used in the way plants like Michaelmas Daisies are? They seem easy to pull out of the ground if they spread.

Muddy Boot Dreams said...

You have taken up a very interesting project.

Love the colors and variety that you have over there, we seem to be a bit limited here.

Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

Donna said...

I adore willows and the seeds are very interesting. The new view will be interesting to follow. I hope to have a tree post Monday.

Lucy Corrander : Photos said...

Hi, Jen. I wish we had more colour!

Hi, Donna. Let me know when your Tree-following post is up and I'll put a link on this page and in the side-bar.

catmint said...

hi lucy, what a wonderful idea tree following is. I love the idea of learning by closely observing one or a small number of trees. Learning by looking, so much more vivid than simply reading about stuff. Now I have the challenge of choosing! I love your photography, so clear and satisfying to look at.

Lucy said...

Hello Catmint. If you like, when you've chosen your tree/s, let me know and I'll add you to the list of tree followers behind the tab at the top of the blog. Then, if you let me know each time you post about tree following (either in the comments or by email - looseandleafy@googlemail.com) I'll put a link both from the latest post on Loose and Leafy and in the side bar.

Glad you like the pictures. Thanks for letting me know.

Lucy said...


You might like to know the next post for Loose and Leafy is up. It's called 'The Sogginess of Autumn'.

This is the link