December 2017, Staffordshire, England.
A fast growing deciduos tree, this oak grows up to 30m (98ft) tall, and is a widely spreading specimen with long main branches rising from a relatively stout trunk. The bark is grey with fine, deep vertical fissures. The leaves are usually long and narrow, but sometimes long and ovate. The lobes are more pointed than Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur), and they are a darker green and shiny, but paler and woolly on the underside. The stalks are hairy and are about 2cm long. In the autumn the leaves turn a rich orange brown. The male flowers are pendulous catkins of crimson flowers. The acorns have no stalks, and they are long, the cups deep and mossy covered in narrow, greyish scales. The acorns ripen in the second year.
Mainly grown in parks and gardens, or alongside roads, but it is also found naturalised in woodland. It is fairly tolerant of different soil types, and is also quite resistant to atmospheric pollution. A native of southern Europe, the Turkey Oak was introduced and raised by J Luccomb, an Exeter nurseryman, in 1735. Today it is fairly common and widespread.
Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris), Bournemouth park, Dorset and Warley Woods, Staffordshire, England. August and September 2013.
Quercus x rosacea (= Q. petraea x Q. robur)
The parents of this hybrid Quercus petraea and Quercus robur can be quite variable in themselves, and thus the resulting offspring Quercus x rosacea may also be fairly variable having varying strengths of its parents which can make identification somewhat confusing, even more so when these characteristics appear mixed as in some specimens. For example as in the length of the petioles (leaf stalks) and the peduncles (acorn stalks). It flowers May to June. It can grow up to a height of 25m (82ft).
Found in woodland and parkland. First described in 1909, it is a native species which is found wherever both parents occur.
Photographs taken September 2013, nature reserve, Staffordshire. Camera Nikon Coolpix P500. © Pete Hillman 2013.
Also called the ‘Durmast Oak’, it is a sturdy deciduous tree, with long radiating branches around a taller more upright trunk compared to the Pedunculate Oak. It can grow up to height of 40m (131ft). The leaves have five to six lobes, and are dark green and hairless above, with yellow stalks 1-2.5cm long. They lack the auricles (earlike projections), which the Pedunculate Oak have at the base of the leaf. The acorns are long and egg-shaped, and are stalkless, fixed directly to the twig in small clusters. This oak maybe confused with the Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur), which has acorns on stalks, and leaves with auricles and no stalks. The flowers appear as catkins in May and are seen through to mid-June. The Sessile Oak can live for up to and over 1,000 years.
Found in woodland and parkland, where it supports an abundance of wildlife. A native species which is common and widespread in western parts of Britain, especially Wales where it has been designated its national tree and is sometimes referred to as the ‘Welsh Oak’. It is called the ‘Cornish Oak’ in Cornwall, where it is also considered to be their national tree.
The Sessile Oak readily crosses with the Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur) to form Quercus x rosacea (= Q. petraea x Q. robur) Bechst. This large hybrid oak tree is first described in 1909 and can be difficult to identify because of its variable nature.
It used to be heavily coppiced for fuel and its bark was used for tanning. Also used in the making of barrels and casks.
Photographs taken May and September 2013, Warley Woods, Staffordshire. Camera Nikon Coolpix P500. © Pete Hillman 2013.
This is one of my very favourite places to be, in a beech wood in autumn. The trees so tall and reaching for the sky, and the leaves as golden as the sun reflected off them are indeed a sight to behold.
Also called the ‘European Beech’, these are immense deciduous trees which can grow up toa height of 40m (131ft), and which provide one of the most beautiful autumn spectacles when its leaves turn a bright golden-yellow. They have broad, rounded crowns. These towering trees can have huge overhanging, arching boughs if given the space to grow. In closely wooded areas they will grow with columnar straight boles with few branches in a bid to reach the light. The bark is usually grey and smooth, but may also be ridged and rougher. The smoother bark holds centuries old ‘graffiti’, for it is soft and easy to carve into. The leaves are up to 10cm long, dark green and are oval and pointed, and give a beautiful show of autumn colours. The leaves take a long time to rot down and greatly improve the fertility of the soil, and often beech woods have thick carpets of leaves which hinders growth of other plants beneath, except for some orchids. The white flowers produce beechnuts (beechmast) enclosed in a prickly case, and are an important woodland food source for birds and mammals. It flowers from April to May, and fruits September to November. The Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Atropunicea’), is a mutation turning the leaves dark purple. Also compare the Fern-leaved Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Asplenifolia’), which has very interesting deeply cut leaves. Beech trees can live for 300 years or more.
Found in woodland, parks and large estates. A native species, it is common on chalky soils, and ranges south-east and mid England. Beeches can be giants, towering over other trees, and they can live up to 300 years and over. However, because of their heavy, bulky mass and because they tend to grow in weak structured, chalky soils, they suffer greatly from windfall in storms and high winds. The great storm of 1987 which swept across southern England bought down many thousands of mature trees. Once thought to have been bought over by the Romans, however pollen dating suggests they have been in Britain since the last ice age.
The timber makes beautiful furniture, it is used for kitchen utensils like spoons, tool handles and tools, and sports equipment. It also makes an excellent fuel for burning, and is used to smoke herrings.
Photographs of Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica), taken November 2012, Warley Woods, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.
These Sweet Chestnut leaves are now fallen but no less beautiful as they form a drift beneath the tree, catching the morning sunlight and accentuating their form and detail. They will gradually disappear over time as fungi break them down, or earthworms will tug them down into their subterranean burrows to use as food.
Like all living organisms, including ourselves, from nature they come, and back to nature they go.
Photograph taken November 2016, local wood, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Nikon 18-55mm lens.
Bramble (Rubus fruticosus)
Called Bramble or Blackberry, this is a member of the rose family, and is a perennial which bears biennial stems from the root-stock. It grows vigorously and covering ground rapidly forming dense patches of vegetation. It is deciduous or semi-evergreen, with long prickles which can easily scratch or puncture flesh, even through clothing. The green leaves are palmate, and the branches will root on contact with the earth helping it spread. It can grow up to 2.5m tall. The flowers are 2 to 3cm wide, white or whitish-pink to pink, forming in late spring or early summer. The edible fruit, the blackberry, is a cluster of segments called druplets that ripen from green to red to purple-black.
It flowers May to September, and it thrives in almost any habitat and soil, but prefers woodland, hedgerows and scrub, where it may form thickets. A native species to the British Isles, and common and widespread throughout.
Blackberries have formed part of the human diet in Western Europe for thousands of years, and is also an important source of food in many ways for other mammals like dormice and deer, and also birds and numerous insects. It also offers a good form of shelter and protection.
Photographs taken of Bramble (Rubus fruticosus) on August 2016, local woodland path, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.
This bracket is usually a hard woody, semicircular bracket, but can sometimes form a rosette. It can also form overlapping tiers. The upper surface can be quite uneven and knobbly as it ages, and it has a mixture of browns, reds and ochres, with a white or cream margin. The underside has fine rounded pores, with a thin white or cream surface which when scratched reveals darker lines, hence its vernacular name as it can be used like a canvas to draw upon. Fruit body 10 to 60cm wide, 2 to 8cm thick.
It fruits all year round. It is a parasite on the trunks of broadleaved trees, found growing solitary or in tiers on dead or living wood. Widespread but occasional.
Photographs of Artist’s Bracket (Ganoderma applanatum), taken November 2012, Warley Woods, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.
Of course, there are no crocodiles in England. I can’t help myself sometimes, but my imagination sees forms within forms, and my mind just connects the dots and we have a dragon sailing across the sky, but of course there are no dragons in England, either. It was only a cloud formation, and this is how some of us see the world. It has been so for me since boyhood.
You may only see a rotting log, or may well see something else entirely, but I see a half buried crocodile, trying to free itself from the earth. Imagination is such a wonderful gift, and I wonder if we are the only species on earth who are possesed with this gift.
When I first came across this naturally formed, arboreal statue in one of my local woods, I instantly saw it to be a visage, a face. It is on a well-trod dirt track which is on the outer edge of the wood and overlooking a field, in fact the field in the previous post with the golden Oilseed Rape. The Guardian, I would come to call it, looks down from its lofty perch as if surveying the woods from its vantage point. It’s a very old, well-established tree, and perhaps centuries have passed it by, and maybe that’s why the face somehow looks wisened, knowing.
I know the scientists call it ‘pareidolia’, which is where we can see faces, animals, etc, in everyday things like trees, clouds, even buns, or on the surface of Mars. It’s the way our brains work and make sense of things, imagination, if you like, but to me its kind of magical, and I often see faces and animal shapes in tree forms and clouds.
And if I look closely enough now, I can even see smaller, differing forms and faces rising from the deep lined bark of the Guardian of The Wood.
How about you?
Photographs taken May 2014, local wood, Staffordshire.
On a walk this morning, and on a well-travelled trail, I was suddenly a taken by how the sun and shadows interplayed through the canopy of the trees upon the base of an old ash tree trunk. I must have passed this way hundreds of times, but in that moment I was caught by shadow shapes and light.
Photographs taken June 2016, local wood, Staffordshire.