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!

Monday, 6 October 2014


Looking between divided trunk to see cones against a blue sky high and beyond
As we approach autumn the posts of other Tree Followers are filled with the excitement of change. Some trees already have a lot of colour in their about-to-fall leaves. Others are green still for all that they are tatty and marked by dust and insects.

This is because everyone except me has chosen a tree that does things - that perceptibly changes. Of course, my tree does change. There will be new needles, new little cones high up there. But I'd need powerful binoculars to see them. What I have to observe is a trunk.

In many ways it was a silly choice. But I've been following one tree after another for several years and I wanted a challenge. The challenge, in some ways, has turned out to be as challenging as cataloguing the gradual decay of a concrete post. Or faint scratches arriving over time in the paintwork of a shiny car.

White umbrella seed caught in web against trunk and dead needles fallen from above

You might expect me to say how if one pays special attention changes come to notice which one would otherwise miss. And this is what I had expected. At the very least, I anticipated insects. I think I've seen one spider. Last month I found a seed on a white umbrella caught in a thread of web across the rough bark of 'my' tree. It's still there! Still there! Wind and rain have failed to shift it. There it is, just where last I saw it. How can that be?

A single yellow drip.

And the tree still weeps. For the sake of variety I photographed a different drip this time. If you enlarge the picture and look closely you'll see it reflecting the roofs of houses nearby and another tree.

One of the troubles with going back and back to observe change is that when change seems to have happened it's not necessarily easy to know if it's genuinely changed or that something which was there before got missed. Maybe it's a lapse of attention. Maybe it's a trick of the light. But this time I found another kind of drip. A black shiny, tarry kind of leakage.

(See below.)

Shiny black oozing setting in crack in bark

Layers and breaks and colours in bark

If I visited the tree daily, maybe I'd notice which bits of bark have flaked newly away. The flaky-ness of the bark, the multi-layered-ness of it is what keeps me going back - what kept me going to see it before I chose it as 'my' tree for this year. It doesn't have the colour of Yew bark but the textures are phenomenal.

Black shape of bass cleff - maybe where small branch cut away?

Here is a base cleff!

Swirly shapes in trunk where bark has flaked away, leaving it bare

And at the base of the trunk on one side, little swirly things. (Very scientific!)

Yellow flower with prickly leaves
iSpot members have identified this plant as Bristly Oxtongue. (Pichris echeoides).
Isn't that wonderful?

At ground level, a few of these sticking up through docks. Pretty, eh? But ephemeral.

For all that I semi-wish my chosen tree was about to have an autumn, I appreciate its decaying solidity. There's something very special about the unchangingness of my chosen tree.

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Solarbeez said...

I have to say you are not afraid of a challenge having picked a tree that doesn't change. I wondered to myself if I would be up to doing that? Seeing the reflection of a house in a drop of sap, is really paying attention to detail. Wow!

amanda peters said...

The bark of your tree is lovely, and would imagine there are many insects living under there. No change is as important as change.

Donna said...

Lucy you observe the most incredible things...I love the layers of your tree's bark...and that new tarry substance is so intriguing.

Hollis said...

Kudos to you, Lucy, for paying close attention to the bark. I'm sure lots of things have happened in my cottonwood's bark, but I've mostly ignored it. So for November's post I hope to do a bit of a bark survey, once the leaves are gone. Surely they will be by then! (beautiful long fall here this year)

Diana Studer said...

that tarry leak looks painful, as if the tree is bleeding.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post. You do certainly have an eye for detail - and a whole lot of patience!
All the best :)