Photograph taken October 2016, local wood, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Nikon 18-55mm lens.
Manhattan Euonymus (Euonymus kiautschovicus)
The berry of this evergreen shrub has split open and something is coming out. It appears to be another stage of this plants reproductive process.
Photograph of Manhattan Euonymus (Euonymus kiautschovicus) taken October 2016, front garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Nikon 18-55mm lens.
Quercus x hispanica ‘Lucombeana’
This was quite an unusual oak I came across, and which I had never seen before. It is a natural hybrid between the Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris) and the Cork Oak (Quercus subur). Growing up to a height of 35m, this is a tall semi-evergreen tree with heavy branches on a relatively short bole. The bark can be variable, greyish or light, furrowed, smooth or corky. The leaves are long, glossy green, toothed and 4-7cm long. They are grey and finely felt-like beneath. They remain on the tree until spring (unless conditions are very harsh in winter when they may fall) before falling and then regrowing quickly. The acorns appear in autumn in small mossy cups and are 2.5cm long. There are several variants including back crosses which may add to confusion during identification of specimens in the field. These oaks can live for up to 240 years or more.
Grown as an ornamental in parks and gardens, especially in and around Exeter. William Lucombe, a nurseryman from Exeter, Devon, discovered this hybrid between the Turkey Oak and the Cork Oak quite by chance in 1762. He noticed how the leaves remained on the tree throughout autumn and winter, and decided to grow it himself. It was named after his nursery, and is still common around parks and gardens in Exeter, especially near the coast. It may also be found elsewhere in mature parks and gardens in the south of England, less so further north. One of the original saplings (perhaps the first to be planted outside of Devon) was planted in Kew Gardens in 1763, which was later moved and replanted in 1846, and is still alive today.
Both the Turkey Oak (a deciduous tree) and the Cork Oak (an evergreen tree) grow wild in south-western Europe where they freely crossbreed naturally. These hybrids are called ‘Spanish Oaks’ (Quercus x hispanica), and with the exception of harsh weather conditions, they keep their leaves throughout autumn and winter, up until the new growth appears in spring.
William Lucombe was so taken with this oak that he later felled the original specimen in 1785 to provide wood for his own coffin. He kept the boards under his bed until he died. When he did die at the ripe old age of 102, it was discovered the wood had decayed and timber was used from one of his early graft propagations to craft his coffin instead.
Photographs of Lucombe Oak (Quercus x hispanica) ‘Lucombeana’, taken September 2013, Warley Woods, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon CoolPix P500.
Whenever I walk one of the local fields I always spy Old Man Willow standing sentinel-like on the edge.
He surveys his surroundings, and with his deep-fissured completion and leafy mop of hair, he is wisened and could tell you many a story if you had the time to stop and listen.
Standing there through the years as the sun and the moon and the stars pass overhead, as the seasons pass by in their cycle, nature is his world, and nature is his story.
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.