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!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

TREE FOLLOWING - FREDA IS FERTILE

Tree in almost-silhouette showing dead branch
Freda (for those of you who don't know) is the name I've given to the tree I'm following. I'm not in the habit of giving trees personal names but I don't know what this tree is. A pine - but what kind? It's very big. Very dilapidated. Older (I hope!) than me and in a public place. It would seem impertinent to call it 'mine'. So, for the moment 'Freda' it is.

I said big - too tall to get near the branches. I said old. Bits of it are dying. (Some have already been lopped away.) But, high up there, I can see another branch is on its way towards . . . will it sometime fall?

Light brown microstrobilus hanging on spider's thread on trunk of tree
Some days, I think 'what a stupid tree to choose'. On others I enjoy the challenge. I am a detective. What is happening up there? This was caught in a spider's thread. I think (I think!) it's a male cone - a microstrobilus (also known as a 'pollen cone'). Compared with the more familiar female cones, from which the seeds will fall, it is tiny. The big, hard, cones which fall from this tree are four to six inches long; hard and heavy. This fragile little thing is barely half an inch. Yet from this the pollen will fall into the seed cone (female) and, if Freda is fertile, seeds will form. I'm saying this without much hope. In other years I've tipped seeds from the mature cones (a bit like sycamore wings only in ones instead of in conjoined pairs) and I've tried to grow new trees from them. Never has one germinated. Which means the title of this post might be all awry - wishful thinking and nothing more. How can we tell if she's fertile or not? Am I doing it wrong or would they never grow, even under someone else's care? Something else to find out! (Beware! This might not have fallen from Freda. It might have flown in from another tree; not even necessarily of the same kind. It's feathery light.)

Snails in crack of bark





So far, I haven't seen much animal life in the bark - but here's a snail!

Brown pine-needles caught against bark of tree





And there must be spiders because their threads are everywhere. As well as male cones and dead woodlice (unpictured) they catch dead needles as they fall.

Angle Shades Moth on side of kerb with fallen pine needles



Most of the rest of the needles collect in the kerb - along with cherry blossom and litter. There were daisies too in the kerb and I'd planned to photograph them along with the needles - but when I came close I decided this Angle Shades moth was more photogenic. Of course this signaled the moment when cars and vans began to drive up and down this quiet street. I had to stand back - and hope the moth didn't fly away. It didn't. Nor did I get run over. Happy ending!

REMINDER!
The link box for Tree Following posts will open at 7am UK time tomorrow morning (7th May) and will stay open till 7pm on Wednesday 14th May.

Are you ready?

15 comments:

PlantPostings said...

That moth is fascinating. I clicked on your photo and enlarged it to get a better view. This is a great post from near and far, noticing many details about Freda. I will be joining in toward the end because "my tree" is just beginning its most fascinating stage of budding. I'll try to include several photos at various stages. Thanks, again, for hosting, Lucy!

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Hello Beth at Plants Postings. Not only is the Angle Shades a beautiful moth (at least, I think so!)Angle Shades caterpillars are big and puffy and a bright, bright green. This link takes you to a couple of short posts on Angle Shades on another blog: the moth from another angle (!) and the caterpillar.

http://esthersgardennotes.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=angle+shades

Looking forward to your Tree Following post. The Shagbark Hickory is a revelation.

Donna said...

I love the name...I should name my trees as they are part of the family...sounds like your tree is in a dangerous spot at time. Excellent moth too. Like Beth mine is just budding and leaves opening a bit...I expect more activity in the next post.

Anna said...

I would certainly not like to be standing under Freda when one of those bigger cones decided to fall. That snail looks quite cosy. What intriguing markings on the moth Lucy. Moths always seem to have the limelight stolen from them by their butterfly cousins but are just as beautiful. Well spotted.

Trella said...

Thanks for the ideas on other ways to study our trees. I was thinking that once the flowers are gone and the leaves are out, it will be pretty boring to try to make an interesting report. Wish I had a fancier camera for those wonderful close ups!

Jane Scunthorpe said...

Love the beautiful moth, with the ghostly face on its wings !
Freda looks as if she has had quite a life ! If only she could talk !

thevioletfern.com said...

Oh, what stories must lie beneath that bark and you've just shared a handful. What a beautiful tree!

Caroline Gill said...

Freda's Angle Shade moth is magnificent! And I thought 'oh, that's a dead woodlouse' in one of your photos ... so I guess it was, since you say you have seen these creatures, too. Thank you for your interesting observations on my Silver Birch ... you made me check I had my (male/female) catkins the right way round, and yes, having checked the Natural History Museum site, it seems I have ... What a lot we are all learning. Thank you!

Caroline Gill said...

Speaking of learning, that should be Angle Shades (with 's') ... sorry: it is a new moth for me, and now I know.

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Hello Donna and Anna. I may need a hard hat when I go to photograph cones in the autumn!

Hello Trella. There's no reason why you shouldn't find lots to say about your tree even when the flowers have gone and the leaves are open. Many posts by tree followers have been made extra-fascinating as they widened their scope into science, mythology, measuring methods, birds and other creatures. As the year goes by I expect we will see pests and diseases making a few interesting entries! As for a camera - maybe one day you will be able to have another? I use mine as a sort of magnifying glass - finding things on screen that I didn't even know were there when I snapped the shutter.

Hello Jane, you've got me looking even closer at the moth - but I haven't yet found a ghostly face on it - where do I look?

Hello Violet Fern. I'll have to watch for bark that's flaked off - see what the back of it looks like and, as you say, what lies underneath.

Hello Caroline - I think catkins have been among the really interesting aspects of many tree-following posts. I'm already looking forward to next year when I will see catkins in a new light.

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Hello Donna and Anna. I may need a hard hat when I go to photograph cones in the autumn!

Hello Trella. There's no reason why you shouldn't find lots to say about your tree even when the flowers have gone and the leaves are open. Many posts by tree followers have been made extra-fascinating as they widened their scope into science, mythology, measuring methods, birds and other creatures. As the year goes by I expect we will see pests and diseases making a few interesting entries! As for a camera - maybe one day you will be able to have another? I use mine as a sort of magnifying glass - finding things on screen that I didn't even know were there when I snapped the shutter.

Hello Jane, you've got me looking even closer at the moth - but I haven't yet found a ghostly face on it - where do I look?

Hello Violet Fern. I'll have to watch for bark that's flaked off - see what the back of it looks like and, as you say, what lies underneath.

Hello Caroline - I think catkins have been among the really interesting aspects of many tree-following posts. I'm already looking forward to next year when I will see catkins in a new light.

telltaletherapy said...

Love the way you also focus on the whole ecosystem of Freda from pollen to moth.

squirrelbasket said...

Love it! Especially the cobwebs - I think I saw the husk of a woodlouse in there, too.
And the angle shades moth is great - we had one in the kitchen one September night, but we don't see many moths at all...
I feel guilty for calling my hornbeam "mine" now...
Keep up the good work :)

sharp green pencil said...

Just back from a short Amsterdam trip. Lots of Horse Chestnuts and a poignant Anne Frank story.
The are growing apace now...

alderandash said...

I rather like the mystery of your giant, old tree - it's a great contrast with my teeny, tiny alder sapling, which is only just taller than me. Will it ever grow Freda-sized, I wonder...? Lovely moth photo - I'm glad it ended happily and safely for both of you! Thank you again for hosting. Lucy @ alderandash