There Should be Dryads Here

It is raining for over a week so I went to the forest last week to check whether the mushroom season has started. It has not, but it keeps raining still so I will check once a week from now on, and I hope I will manage to get some boletes at some point. We ate already all that I picked a few years ago so we need to re-fill the pantry.

I did not take the camera with me, and I did not encounter many things worth taking pictures of anyway. But I did take a picture of my favorite beech tree with my phone.

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It is not particularly huge, but it is not small either. It managed to keep the ground around itself clear of undergrowth for decades and I always stop by when going to that part of the forest. It has beautiful roots and all in all, is full of character. One can imagine this to be one of those trees that dryads inhabit and protect.

Third Wooden Mystery

I did not expect these pieces to be mysterious but they are.

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I got these as logs with circa 10-15 cm in diameter  from my neighbor. He got a permit to fell some trees on the premises of a nearby former sanatorium when there were some conservation works performed and he also got a lot of wood when trees on his property were felled during roadside renovations. So he got a jumble-mix of local species from the roadside and some imported park species from the sanatorium.

I swapped a few nice pieces of wood with him for briquettes. At the time, I thought these are just pieces of European oak (Quercus robur) and indeed I almost tossed them when I got my hands on old oak boards which are easier to work with. But I cut them into prisms anyway and I got confused.

The bark and very small and densely packed growth ring do look like oak, but there the similarity ends.

The boundary between heartwood and sapwood is very pronounced. In this regard, the wood is more similar to walnut trees, although it could be oak too.

Walnut has more chocolate-dark-brown heartwood whereas this has a purplish tint to it. And locally grown walnuts have way bigger growth rings in my experience – easily three-four times bigger in fact, even on branches. And walnuts, irrespective of the growth ring size, have a big cellular pith in the middle, whereas these had almost none (like oak).

The sapwood also seems too white for European oak, which is more yellow-brown-ish. On its own, the sapwood looks like ash, but ash does not have a differently colored heartwood and it too has much bigger growth rings, although they could be this size on branches.

The sapwood was almost completely destroyed by wood borers, even though the wood was stored in dry conditions the whole time. I did not have a lot of wood borer damage on any other wood that I was storing (except basswood, elm, and ash, none of which is this).

And all the wood borers stopped at the heartwood boundary as if by magic. I have observed this phenomenon on elm and oak trees that died standing in the forest.

The lignin rays are visible but way smaller than they are in oak. In this regard, the wood is similar to beech or sycamore. But it also could be an oak branch and not an oak trunk.

It is pretty wood, it would make nice knife handles, but I do not know what it is for sure and that is a bit of a problem. All I know for sure is that it has grown within 200 m of my house and I am about 90% sure it is not local species because most of those I can recognize at a glance. Thus by process of elimination, I think it might be Northern red oak (Quercus rubra), but I cannot be sure since I never held a piece of definitive red oak in my hand and internet search is of limited use here.

But it fits the known criteria – it is grown around here, there is a huge tree nearby, it sometimes even sprouts in random places from nuts buried by jays (I have a seedling in my garden), and it is not local species.

Bonsai Tree – I Still Do Not Understand You My Persimmon

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Last year my Persimmon tree did not branch out and it also took a veeery long time to shed leaves. When it did shed the leaves, I decided to overwinter it in a cooler, darker spot than last year in the hope that I will get better control over when it starts to grow. I did not. Saturday I noticed that it has started to sprout new twigs. That is very early and very inconvenient because I had no potting substrate prepared and due to the extreme weather I could not prepare any for a few days. But today I finally got around to replanting the tree.

Maybe what keeps this tree dormant is not only cold but relative dryness and cold? I do not know. It has wintered, it has survived, but I still have no clue whatsoever what is optimal for it where I live.

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Here you can see it in a bucket of water when I am washing out old substrate from the roots. The roots looked very healthy and were not overgrown. I might not need to re-plant the tree every year.

As you can see. last year there has only grown one twig, very upright and very long. And it did not start to grow from the apical bud right below the cut, but from one a bit lower. That has made the trunk shape in that place a bit awkward. Luckily this spring the tree started to branch out at the main stem, from the buds under the previous year’s cut. Go figure.

I have removed the whole of last year’s growth on the main stem and I did not touch the secondary stem at all. I will leave the secondary stem to grow this year uninterrupted. that should make it stronger and thicker. And next year I will cut it back a lot. On the main stem now are two budding twigs which I hope will become a suitable base for a nice crown.

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Here it is replanted, being watered for the first time in the new substrate.

I made a cutting from the top of last year’s growth where the twig was soft and not very woody yet, I slathered some root stimulator on the wound and put the twig in water to find out if this plant can be propagated this way. Putting a cutting directly in water is the simplest way, but not all trees take root this way – some are more finicky in this regard. We shall see, the worst-case scenario is no harm, the best-case scenario is another persimmon to play with.

Dangers of Park Maintenance

On Friday I took my father for a medical check-up, and whilst I was waiting, I took a walk in the nearby park. It is not a particularly big park, so it was in fact several walks back and forth. And during that time I have spotted this stump uprooted stump.

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It looks like it happened very recently, possibly (probably?) during the first big windstorm that hit our region on Thursday. But this tree was not broken, it was uprooted, and that is not something that happens very easily to deep-rooting tree like linden (probably Tilia cordata, it is hard to be exact with a stump). But in this case, the wind was only the final straw that broke the camel’s back.

You may remember my late cherry tree and how I explained that I have felled it because it was infested with heartwood-eating fungus. And that is the case of this one too, only here the fungus is visibly far more spread. The white-ish color in the middle is the wood that has been infested by the fungus. No healthy hardwood that I remember from the top of my head has this color and texture. When split along the grain, white mycelium fibers would be more clearly visible, and under a microscope, one could probably also see that the wood is much more porous than is normal.

The wood is still hard, when dried and struck it would probably give a nice thunk!  and might be possible to work it into something beautiful, but its strength was severely compromised. Which is visible on the root-side of the stump.

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Several thick main roots have white-ish color to them and they are broken in a way that healthy wood just does not break.

Luckily this tree did not kill anyone, although there was a severely mangled park bench in the direction of its fall. But trees like this do occasionally kill people in urban areas. What can be done to prevent that?

Well, look at another picture from the same park.

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That is not poo at the base of this tree, that is a fungus fruiting body. I am not a mycologist and the fruiting body is far too much decomposed for me to even guess the species, but almost certainly is not a mycorrhizal fungus, those do not grow this close to the trunk. To me as a former dendrologist, this is most probably a wood-eating fungus and only a mycologist can ascertain otherwise.

Oak trees are not very susceptible to heartwood rot, so this might be sapwood fungus. In that case, the tree will wither and die within a few years, still standing and relatively strong. If it is heartwood rot, the tree should be felled immediately before its structural integrity is so impaired that a sneeze fells it. If unsure, the safest course of action would be to fell the tree before it endangers a nearby parking lot and an entrance to the school.

I had a similar experience at our local building supply store. At the border of their fenced-off outdoor storage was growing a huge, beautiful red-leaved beech tree. But during sewage renovations, its roots were damaged and I predicted then, that the tree will not survive for very long. A few years later I have noticed fungal fruiting bodies at the base of the trunk and I have said to the store owner that the tree should be felled asap before it becomes a hazard. The law in CZ does not allow to fell such big trees willy-nilly, not even on private property, but the tree was felled within a year so his application went through and somebody had to look at the tree before approving it. And when I have seen the stump, I knew that my advice was correct – it was similar to that of the linden tree stump at the beginning of this article. It did not look like healthy beech wood at all.

And that is what should be done to prevent such trees from killing people. Every park should be assessed at least twice a year by either a mycologist or a dendrologist (at best both). Fungal fruiting bodies are often transitory and there is a finite window when the infestation is visible on the outside of an otherwise apparently healthy tree which is, in fact, a ticking time bomb. And just because the fruiting body is not on the trunk but on the ground still does not mean it is not dangerous.

Near the very probably sick oak tree was this stump

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It is too oak stump, and you can see that it seems to be decomposing more on the outside. That is usual for oak trees, the heartwood normally lasts longer. But it is not a guarantee. As a side note, I would love to come by and lop off the burl on the right side, there is some seriously beautiful wood in there I am sure.

Speaking of beautiful wood, look at the burls on this oak tree.

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Pity that park maintenance is usually not done by very savvy people and I know from first-hand experience that most of these trees when they reach the end of their lives end up as firewood, despite there often being really beautiful specimens. A friend of mine has witnessed a burl worth probably over a hundred € being tossed into a wood chipper. It made me nearly cry when I heard about it.

And look at this sycamore tree.

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Under that bark is some top-notch curly maple unless I am mistaken. And I do not think I am.

We as a society do not pay nearly enough attention to park trees. Not when they live and not when they die. I think they deserve more, in life as well as after that, even if it never were an issue of human safety. Which they are.

Bonsai Tree – Taking Things Slow

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My persimmon tree got me worried this spring again. It looked perfectly healthy when I was repotting it, but I had to trim a lot of roots in order to promote good growth – the main root was a bit too much as a carrot. But it had plenty of lateral roots too, so I did not think cutting it will be a problem. I have also trimmed most of the last years’ growth in order to promote the tree to branch out a bit.

The roots did not support splitting the plant into two, but that is not a problem, I will be happy to have bonsai with two trunks. But the tree, again, did stubbornly did not grow. Outdoors was everything green already and growing like mad, and this one did nothing. It was indoors the whole time, so I do not understand how it could be so heavily influenced by weather (this spring was delayed by more than a month), but possibly it was.

I was fretting and checking the tree regularly. Both twigs were still springy and the bark was fresh-looking, there were no obvious signs of the tree dying. Just no growth.

Last week I have put the tree in the greenhouse, in the hope that the warmth and high humidity will wake it up already. And it might have worked.

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Well, the tree is growing, but it seems unwilling to branch out. Maybe persimmons are plants with strong apical dominance. We shall see whether I will persuade it to branch out or not.

On the right, you see a new addition to my plants collection, a mango grown from seed. My aunt gave me mango fruit in the fall, which I, unfortunately, could not eat because I was seriously revolted by the smell. It was not spoiled, it just smelled unpleasant to me, like raw peaches (to which I am allergic). At least my parents found the smell pleasant and the taste too. And the stone went straight into substrate afterward. It looks promising and might make a passable bonsai too. And it seems to grow much faster than the persimmon since it is a tropical plant and does not have a real need for wintering.

Bonsai Tree – Growing Fast

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This is just to let you know that the little persimmon tree is growing like mad. It is about 30 cm in height now and still growing, it might reach over half a meter before fall. Which would be awesome. The leaves are a bit big, not too big, but definitively on the upper limit of what I find permissible for a bonsai. There are techniques to make the leaves temporarily smaller, but it remains to be seen if persimmon is able to handle them. Preliminarily I would hazard a guess and say yes. Still, a deciduous tree with very big leaves can still make smashing bonsai in winter and early spring and I am excited that this tree is healthy and prospering, unlike many others in last years.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Tree Tuesday

This week I’m sharing a fascinating close-up look at something that most of us view from a distance. It’s a photo essay by Springa73, documenting the progress of a Red Maple between March and late May. The red maples in my neighbourhood are large and stately, but I’ve never stopped to notice how beautiful their many stages are.

Over the past couple of months, I have been taking photos of the developing buds, flowers, seeds, and leaves of a red maple tree (Acer rubrum) in my yard. I thought that they might be of some interest to Affinity readers. They show the budding out of the tiny red flowers on the red maple tree, then the development of the winged seeds as the leaves bud out and develop in their turn. 

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