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