Wild Cherry

Prunus avium

Wild Cherry Prunus avium

Also called ‘Gean’, ‘Mazzard’ or ‘Sweet Cherry’, this tree has a high domed crown and the bark is purplish-grey, smooth and shiny with horizontal peeling in papery strips. The leaves are fairly large and are ovate and pointed, with serrated margins. They are a dull, dark green with 2-5 red glands at the base. It flowers in April and May before the leaves open, and the whole tree is covered in an abundance of large white sprays. The cherries ripen to dark red by August, and are bitter/sweet to the taste, but birds have better access and strip them clean off the tree very quickly. The tree can grow up to 30m (98ft) tall.

Wild Cherry Prunus avium

It grows in woodland margins and clearings, and it is often planted as an ornamental in parks and gardens. A fairly common and widespread native tree, except in northern Scotland and Western Ireland.

Wild Cherry Prunus avium fruit

Uses: The timber of the Wild Cherry is hard and strong and a rich red in colour, and is used to make quality furniture and veneers. It is also used in wood-turning.

Wild Cherry Prunus avium bark

Extrafloral Nectaries: At the base of each leaf on the stalk are tiny red glands which may look like plant galls, but are in fact extrafloral nectaries. These foliar nectaries attract predatory insects who will eat the nectar and plant-eating insects which maybe a threat to the tree. In essence these insects act as the tree’s protectors. Ants are commonly attracted to the sugary secretions of these glands, and these help keep away egg-laying insects as well as larvae which may eat the foliage.

Wild Cherry Prunus avium extrafloral nectaries

May and July 2013, local garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013.

Bird Cherry

Prunus padus

Bird Cherry Prunus padus

This is quite a showy tree when in bloom with its long, white tail-like arrangement of flowers. The bark is smooth, greyish-brown, with a strong unpleasant smell when rubbed. The leaves are elliptical to elongate, with dark green upper surfaces and greeny-blue undersides. They grow up to 10cm long, have finely toothed margins, and they taper towards the tip. The flowers open in May, and are white, almond-scented and grow in spikes which can be pendulous or ascending growing up to 15cm long. The fruits are 6-8mm and glossy black, and are generally only eaten by birds, such is their sour, acidic taste. The tree can grow up to 17m (55ft) in height, and can live for up to 200 years.

Bird Cherry Prunus padus

Found in woodland, hedgerows, parks and gardens, and other urban green spaces. A native tree, common and widespread across Britain, and also planted as an ornamental tree in parks and gardens.

Many species of insect rely on Bird Cherry for food, especially several species of moths. The fruits are eaten by birds such as robins, thrushes, and starlings.

May 2012, local pathway, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2012.

Japanese Cherry

Prunus serrulata

Japanese Cherry Prunus serrulata

Also called ‘Oriental Cherry’ or ‘East Asian Cherry’, the Japanese have been cultivating this tree for 2,000 years and have bred numerous varieties. A medium-sized deciduous tree which can grow up to a height of 15m (49ft), with a dense and busy crown. The bark is purple-brown with horizontal lines of prominent lenticels, which are pores. The ovate leaves are up to 20cm long with serrated margins and a long drawn out tip. The flowers are in clusters and can be white or pink appearing in April and May. They may also be double, and are often abundant. Cultivated forms rarely produce any cherries. There are many cultivated varients of this tree, ‘Kanzan’, being perhaps the most commonly grown form.

Japanese Cherry Prunus serrulata

Found in parks and gardens, and planted along streets and avenues in Britain as an ornamental tree.

Japanese Cherry Prunus serrulata

Most likely originally native to China, then introduced to Japan at a very early date before being introduced to Europe and then Britain where it has become a very popular spring-flowering species.

Japanese Cherry Prunus serrulata

May 2013, Warley Woods, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013.

Quercus x hispanica ‘Diversifolia’

Quercus x hispanica ‘Diversifolia’ leaf

When I first came across this oak it was a complete mystery to what it was. At first I thought the leaves had been attacked by ravenous caterpillars, they were so oddly shaped. It took me quite some searching to try to get some identification on it.

Quercus x hispanica ‘Diversifolia’ leaf

Height 25m. This is a fast-growing semi-evergreen hybrid between the Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris) and the Cork Oak (Quercus subur). The bark is deeply corky. The leaves are deeply and irregularly lobed, glossy green, often narrow and waist-like or thread-like. The different shapes of the leaves may be described as violin-shaped or spoon-shaped.  They remain on the tree throughout the winter months until spring when they lose them and then quickly regrow them. See also Lucombe Oak Quercus x hispanica ‘Lucombeana’. It can grow up to 25m (82ft) tall.

Quercus x hispanica ‘Diversifolia’ bark

Grown as ornament in parks and gardens. An old ‘Lucombeana’ species, and very rare.

Photographs taken November 2012, Warley Woods, Staffordshire. Camera Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38. © Pete Hillman 2012.

Hybrid Oak

Quercus x rosacea (= Q. petraea x Q. robur)

Hybrid Oak (Quercus x rosacea) leaves and acorn

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).

Hybrid Oak (Quercus x rosacea) leaf

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.

Sessile Oak

Quercus petraea

Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea)

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.

Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) leaf

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.

Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) flowers

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.

Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) acorns

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.

Common Beech

Fagus sylvatica

Common Beech (Fagus sCommon Beech (Fagus sylvatica)ylvatica)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.

Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica) leaves

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.

Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica) leaves

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.

Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica) beechmast

Photographs of Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica), taken November 2012, Warley Woods, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.

Pedunculate Oak

Quercus robur

Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur)

Also called ‘English Oak’ or ‘Common Oak’. When growing out in the open it can form a wide, tidy domed crown, but when growing amidst other trees in woodland it grows tall and slender. The leaves have deep irregular lobes and a short stalk or petiole. The familiar acorns are borne on long stalks or peduncles. It may possibly be confused with Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) which is predominately found in the west and north of Britain, but has longish leaf stalks and less deeply divided leaves, and the acorns are not borne on peduncles. The flower catkins show May to June, whilst the leaves also unfold in May. It grows from 15m to 25m (49ft to 82ft) tall). It can live up to and over 1,0000 years.

Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur) leaf

This is the dominant tree to be found in deciduous woods in Britain. Also found in coppice woodland, hedgerows parkland and gardens. Native to the British Isles, and it is common and widespread, especially in the south-east of England and the Midlands.

Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur) acorns

The English Oak supports more insect species than any other tree, and it is thought to be around 300 species. It also supports bird life and mammals. Grey Squirrels and Jays feed on the acorns as an essential food source in autumn and over the winter.

Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur) male catkins

The Pedunculate Oak readily crosses with the Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) 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.

The timber cut from oak has been extensively used by humans over the centuries, from boat building, timber-framed building construction, to furniture crafting and for smoking food. The oak has featured in numerous folklore and traditions since ancient times. It was and still is very much part of druid ceremony and it is believed the word druid may have meant ‘oak man’.

European Larch

Larix decidua

European Larch (Larix decidua)

Also called ‘Common Larch’, it is on of the few deciduous conifers to shed its needles in autumn and grow new fresh green foliage the following spring. It is a tall tree which can grow up to 45m (148ft), with a straight trunk from which graceful side branches grow which makes it look spire-like. The bark is rough and greyish brown, becoming fissured with age. The needles form small tight bunches of 30-40 each, each needle up to 3cm long. The light green foliage shows in April, gradually darkening through summer and then turns golden-brown in the autumn before falling in October. The male flowers are in small yellow clusters which produce masses of pollen in the spring. The female cones are bright red in spring and are called ‘larch roses’.  In maturity the cones harden and become egg-shaped and woody, green to begin with then turning brown in autumn. They are about 4cm long. I can take up to several years for all the seeds to be released, and they are equipped with a triangular wing which aids them to be blown by the wind some distance from the parent tree. European Larch can live for up to 600 years.

European Larch (Larix decidua) foliage

Planted for timber use in plantations, shelterbelts or as an ornamental in parks and gardens. Also widespread in forests. A very hardy tree and can tolerate harsh winter conditions, but needs plenty of water, so it does particularly well in Britain. Native to the mountains of central Europe, the Alps and Carpathian Mountains, and introduced to Britain in the 17th century. Common and widespread throughout. Rarely naturalised.

European Larch (Larix decidua) bark

Larch is fast-growing and makes a very tough and resilient timber for use outdoors, and it has been used extensively in construction work, mining, and in shipbuilding.

European Larch (Larix decidua) old cones

Photographs of European Larch (Larix decidua), taken October 2012 and September 2013, local wood, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2012 & 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Something Happening Here

Manhattan Euonymus (Euonymus kiautschovicus)

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.

On The Ground of The Beech Wood

Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica) beech mast shell

Photograph of Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica) beech mast shell, taken October 2016, local wood, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Squirrels To Dine

Sweet Chestnuts

Photograph of Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) fruit taken October 2016, local wood, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Birch Polypore

Piptoporus betulinus

Birch Polypore – Piptoporus betulinus

This is a fairly large bracket fungi which I have seen singularly on Birch tree trunks or in tiers going quite high up the tree.

Sometimes called the ‘Razorstrop Fungus’ (so named for in the past it has been used as a strap to sharpen razors), it has a smooth leathery upper surface which is pale brown, whilst the rounded margin and underside is white. The underside is soft and spongy, and full of minute spores. Fruit body up to 25cm across.

Birch Polypore – Piptoporus betulinus

Seen all year round in birch woods, and is the cause of death of many of these trees. Common and widespread.

Birch Polypore – Piptoporus betulinus

Photographs of Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) taken October 2011, local wood, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2011. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.

A Living Fossil

Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) trunk

I could not beleive it when I discovered this amazing tree growing in a corner of my local park some years ago. It stands tall and proud above all the other trees, and I was so excited about its discoverey I even emailed my local newspaper to tell them all about it. In hindsight it was a crazy thing to do, and I did not get a reply, needless to say. It grows in the grounds of an old house, which has become incorporated into the park, and where the owners of years gone by must have been avid collectors of exotic trees.

Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

Also called the ‘Wellingtonia’ or ‘Giant Redwood’, it is a gigantic evergreen tree and is the planet’s largest tree by volume, and is the tallest tree now growing in Britain. This is a massive tree and can have a girth of up to 8m (26ft). It forms a huge tapering bole with a base flare, with red, deep-fluted bark. The leaves are like green twisted cord, and smell of aniseed when crushed. The small yellow male cones are sometimes abundant at the tips of shoots. The female cones are solitary, sometimes paired, and are ovoid up to 8cm long and 5cm in diameter. It can grow up to 80m (262ft) tall.

Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

Planted as an ornamental in parks and large gardens and estates. A native tree of the Sierra Nevada in California and which was discovered in 1852, it was introduced to Britain where it thrives best in the west.

Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) cone

A true living fossil, as these trees can live for up to and over 3,000 years of age, and are one of the planet’s longest living organisms.

Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) foliage

Some Giant Sequoia facts:

General Sherman: The largest living known Giant Sequoia is in the Sequoia National Park in California, and it is called General Sherman. It is in fact the largest tree by volume, which is 1,486.9 cubic metres (52,477 cubic feet). It is 83.3m (273ft) tall (the tallest is an unnamed tree at 95m (311ft)), and 31.3m (102ft) around its girth at ground level. It is believed to be between 2,300 – 2,700 years old. It has an estimated weight of 6,167 tons. Now that is one big old tree, and the largest known living single stem tree on the planet!

The Waterfall Tree: In Alder Greek Grove, a Giant Sequoia grove located in Giant Sequoia National Monument in California, grows a Giant Sequoia called the Waterfall Tree which holds the world record for the largest base circumference of 47m (154ft) and a diameter of 17m (55ft) of any other Giant Sequoia.

Photographs of Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) taken July and December 2012, local park, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.

It Never Stops Rainin’

Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur) leavesI always look forward to the weekends so I can try to get out and take a few photographs, especially as the evenings here are drawing in so quickly now. But again another Saturday is dark and damp, the rain drizzling down, not a break in site. But I managed to dodge a few raindrops earlier, and how beautiful the rain can be, splashing and deepening the colours, making everying fresh and vibrant.

Photograph of Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur) leaves taken October 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens. ISO 500. 1/30 sec. f/7.1.

Lucombe Oak

Quercus x hispanica ‘Lucombeana’

Lucombe Oak – 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.

Lucombe Oak – Quercus x hispanica ‘Lucombeana’

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.

Lucombe Oak – Quercus x hispanica ‘Lucombeana’

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.

Lucombe Oak – Quercus x hispanica ‘Lucombeana’

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.

Lucombe Oak – Quercus x hispanica ‘Lucombeana’

Photographs of Lucombe Oak (Quercus x hispanica) ‘Lucombeana’, taken September 2013, Warley Woods, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon CoolPix P500.

Old Man Willow

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.

The Guardian of The Wood

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.

Shadow Shapes

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.