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!

Thursday, 20 February 2014

COHABITING WITH TREES - TREE FOLLOWING - CHOOSING THE TREE

The leaves of this particular hawthorn tree open earlier than any other hawthorn nearby.
The white string-like thing is the remains of  last year's bindweed.
This photo was taken on 3rd February 2014.
A problem with choosing trees at this time of year is that, come high summer, some will be knee deep in undergrowth, shaded beneath bigger trees and covered in plants which use them as climbing frames. This, in itself is interesting. When following a tree, you as much find out what happens to it as what it, itself does.

I've always found this interesting. As the year goes by, my focus shifts from tree to plants growing by it. Then in autumn it reverts to the tree itself and the changes it undergoes - if it's deciduous its leaves will change colour and fall. If it's not - they won't! - though its seeds may. May!

In previous years of tree following, an initial flurry of posts can be followed by a gradual drifting away. Spring gets better cover even than summer, let alone winter. What happens? So it's good to think this out in advance. We can decide, now, if we wish, to see any tree as part of its environment; decide to appreciate the undergrowth which obscures it as much as the fruits which fall from it. After all, if trees were animals, we wouldn't think twice about examining their habitat. Or we can make sure to choose trees which will keep their trunks clear for most of the year.

Part of the fun can be in choosing randomly and finding out what will happen. Keeping an open mind. But a little detective work can offer good hints about what will happen in the year ahead. We can allow this to influence our choice if we want it to.

11th February 2014
A broken branch of a blackberry bramble cuts across this view of blackthorn.
Blackberry brambles don't go away in the winter. Their thorny branches stay put - as do many of their leaves. Brambles don't recede. They advance. They are vigorous. They are prickly. If you see your tree as a princess and you as a prince on the other side of thorns - ignore the presence of brambles.

Convolvulus (Bindweed) August 28th 2012
This is what convolvulus (bindweed) looks like when in flower.
This was growing on the fence of a school sports' field.
The problem with convolvulus is not just its vigour but it produces so many large leaves
they cover any sight of their host beneath - whether chain link or bramble or tree.
Some plants grow as well in the wild parts of town as they do in hedgerows.

Convolvulus is one of my favourite wild plants. If you are not familiar with it - think of a vigorous, very very vigorous, overwhelmingly vigorous Morning Glory in white. It's not called Bindweed for nothing. Its stems wind round and round everything they touch - grass, trees, even themselves. They are like rope. The flowers are fantastic - huge, huge (huge for a climate like ours in England) trumpets. Everything under convolvulus disappears. If your tree is under a pile of it you may find your centre of interest switches to which direction it twines in. Watch for its white strings still hanging from trees and bundled in undergrowth and decide accordingly. Where it was last year - it will return. (See the picture of the hawthorn tree at the top of the post.)

11th February 2014
If I follow this tree, I won't be able to get close to its trunk because of a steep bank and undergrowth.
But there is a wild rose nearby. I could include that in my study.
Then there are the insects. I've been looking at buddleia bushes and trees, wondering whether to choose one of these for 2014.

Their bark is fantastic - contorted and flaky. Their leaves come early. Their flowers stay late; and remain like dark, stiff fossils over winter. I don't specially like buddleia flowers - but butterflies do. What's more, butterflies seem to distinguish between one buddleia tree and another. Some years there seem to be hundreds of painted ladies on one while further along another is largely ignored. I don't know why. Maybe I should choose two and compare? Or I might chose a tree whose trunk is hard to get to close for the sake of seeing the insects I know will come and haunt branches overhanging the verge. Or I might chose a particular buddleia because the plants around it will be interesting. This one will have wild roses nearby. I could include them in my tree following.

(For more about Tree Following and how to join in - go to Loose and Leafy's Tree Following Page.)

* * *

Beth at Plantpostings has introduced her tree - a Shagbark Hickory.

The next linky box for tree following posts will be on March 7th. After that, there will be a linky box on the 7th of every month. Each box will stay open for a week. That way, we will be able to compare the progress of 'our' trees through the year. If you too would like to follow a tree and your name is not yet on the list (see the Tree Following Page) - let me know either by leaving a comment or emailing me at looseandleafy@googlemail.com .

7 comments:

PlantPostings said...

I'm trying to think of a realistic schedule for my tree following. I don't want to commit to more than once a month, so I might do "wordless" posts or nearly wordless. Still figuring out the schedule and the method. We have some native Bindweeds here, too. They're pretty, but I admit I enjoy the blues and pinks of Morning Glories more. Still a lovely (if hoggish) plant.

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Hello. Yes. I too am working out method and schedule. Unless anyone can see a problem with it, I'll make this the last Linky box until 7th March and put a Linky box on the blog every 7th month thereafter. I'll leave it open for a week each time. That way, we can remind ourselves to check up on our trees roughly at the beginning of every month but not to be confined by that. Would that suit?

dreamfalcon said...

Hey Lucy. Great that you keep on going with watching trees! I still love the idea, but don't have much time to focus on that. I still look at the trees very closely, but not so much blogging about. If I do it will appear on my dreamfalcon.wordpress.com page.
Thanks for reminding me and all the best, Natalie

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Hi Natalie. If I understand you right, you don't want to be put 'on the list' (!) but, if you do happen to write tree following posts, do feel free to add the link to the box here so people can read them. As I've just said to Beth, I'll put a Linky box on 7th of every month and leave it open for a week.

flightplot said...

A most enjoyable, and interesting post.
I hope to do a regular post about my willow throughout the year.
Flighty xx

Gerald (SK14) said...

we had bindweed all over our garden - glad I don;t have to deal with it now.

PlantPostings said...

Lucy: This is a great meme, and I'll try to link in each month. My first post is up today: http://bit.ly/1gUjvTw. Thanks! Beth