When I chose my tree to follow for Loose and Leafy‘s tree-following meme, I believed I’d thought it through. I knew the smallest of my three birch trees wasn’t going to be covered in blossom or bear useful fruit, but I also knew I tended to overlook it and wanted to take a closer look.
I’ve spotted all sorts of things, like the birch flowers, which I’d not seen before – and how about these?
These are the fruit. I don’t recall ever having noticed birch fruit before…
Their appearance drove me to all my tree reference books, and I think I’m coming to the conclusion that what I have here isn’t the paper birch the Library thought they were giving away, but a downy birch. I need it to be back in early spring so I can compare and contrast the appearance of the newest twigs. This tree does have fuzzy twigs, but are they fuzzier than the two undoubted silver birches I also have?
If it is the downy birch, though, that would explain why it is taking much longer that the others to develop a pale trunk. For a while, earlier, I thought I detected a change, and I do think it is changing – but most of the trunk is still resolutely tawny. Or perhaps that should be orange,
though it is fading to an orangey-silvery-greyish sort of faded colour at the base. Downy birches apparently take longer to change. I also need to do some more leaf comparisons – they’re definitely not the same – and watch autumn colour. Downy birches have browner autumn colour than silver birches… and can I remember? No, I cannot. However, as one website (Trees for Life, who are trying to restore the Caledonian Forest to glory) says: ‘intermediate forms exist between the two species, with various combinations of these characteristics, and this can make the identification of individual trees difficult.’ Rats.
So much for that. What I didn’t take a closer look at, when selecting my Dubious Birch for stardom, was the situation it was in. Especially after I decided not to mow one of the paths that ran nearby because it was too close to some fritillaries and people kept treading on them.
(Note the colour of the sea in the background; I feel I have to point that out, just to illustrate the fact that it doesn’t always rain in Wales. Er. Today I can barely see the roof of the Capel.)
When I started sneaking up on the birch, path or no path, to grab quick close-up shots of intimate things like flowers, it was in amongst daffs and primroses. I failed to consider that as the tree grew and developed, the meadow would also grow up and develop, and so would the ex-path. Getting close to the tree now in anything other than dry weather (hah!) means becoming soaked from the waist down by wet meadow.
So I thought I’d take a look at the plants and flowers around the birch, with pride of place reserved for the Heath Spotted Orchids, which appear on the meadow edge. This year I have… TWO. Last year, I had one, and – looking back at the photos – it was much paler. Next year, three?
So here is some of the life around my birch, some of which is almost over – today’s weather should see off the last of the plantain and buttercups and may destroy the fritillary seed heads – and some of which is up and coming, like the hawkweeds and the trefoil and the grasses. I know this isn’t exactly ‘tree following’ in the purest sense, but I’m taking a holistic, environmental, view. And there’s also the fact that if I want to tree follow in a literal sense today – and I couldn’t at the weekend, because of commitments – I will need the sort of gear deep-sea divers wear. Or a swimsuit, and I’m not going out there in me pants. It’s cold.
Click on any one for a slideshow…