Tree following, September – little change on the western front…

Ok, I know I’m late (something of an explanation can be found on my woolly blog). I did manage to get the photographs taken in time, but have been busy dealing with some online difficulties and became distracted from the way of righteousness and tree following. Still, I think the problems may be resolving themselves and anyway ‘phfeh’ – life goes on. My downy birch certainly does.

In my mind I thought there would be more change between August and September, other than the cutting of the meadow – only partly done so far, but we’re doing the rest on Monday. Though the surroundings may be looking more autumnal,

meadow light the tree, surprisingly, is not. Yes, it’s a wee bit more tired in appearance and some of the leaves are tattier than they were, but there really isn’t that much marked a change.

When you look at the leaves against the light you can see that the cells are more clearly defined than I think they were –

leaf and light

that would probably make sense – but again, I can’t swear to it. And the browning was already happening in August.

One change that has happened is in the flowers. Earlier in the year, intrigued by their appearance, I sliced one open. I needed a knife to do it, and there was quite a lot of resistance. Now the flowers are showing signs of age,

ageing downy birch flower

(spot the shield bug? I didn’t), and though they haven’t actually started to shed their seeds themselves, they are much more easy to break apart – in fact, they just crumble in your fingers.

ready to go

Very few of these will ever form a downy birch, but if the tree manages to germinate just one during its lifetime it will have done its job, of course. I’m going to have a go at trying it in a pot, though I’ll give them a little longer to ripen – let’s see what happens.

On the wildlife front, the tree is humming. Not literally – that’s the lavender – but it is teeming with life. There are a heck of a lot of shield bugs,

shield bug 3

and not just the birch shield bugs I spotted earlier; there are many others. When I was taking some shots I watched a group of five or six quite clearly assessing each other from their different leaves. They seem to congregate on the more exposed side of the tree, which surprised me. If I look at the seawards side it doesn’t take long to spot them once I’ve got my eye in; on the landward side it takes longer and there are markedly fewer. And the wind has been from the prevailing direction, coming at us from the sea and the south-west. But it’s not been wild, and it has been sunny. Any explanation? General randomness? Luck? Do they move round during the day to sit in the sun?

There are other things, too:


like this iridescent fly I saw after a rain shower, which gives a good size comparison for those tiny next year’s catkins. This fly – and many others – have been spotted on the landward side; maybe there are just too many occupied leaves on the other. And too many shield bug arguments.

So, not much change with my birch. It’s a beautiful September so far, and the forecast is for that to continue. I wonder if there’ll be spectacular colour in my next post? One of the other birches is changing already, but so far the my downy babe has restricted itself to this sort of thing:

one leaf

It’s enjoying the weather as much as I am.

Happy tree following, and thanks to Lucy of Loose and Leafy for this meme. I’ll be on time next month – promise!



18 thoughts on “Tree following, September – little change on the western front…

  1. croftgarden

    Your birch is so elegant and I’m sure that the leaves will soon turn a beautiful buttery yellow. Trees are whole ecosystems in their own right, look carefully and you’ll discover a whole host of other life forms.
    Strange weather indeed, warm, sunny and not a breath of wind never mind a gale. It’s so dry I had to retrieve the hose from the shed and start watering!

    1. kate Post author

      It is a little smasher – I’m so grateful for this meme because it had just faded slightly into the background until I focused on it, and it really is a lovely little tree (plus, I’ve even identified it correctly). As soon as the meadow is cut I’m going to put a sheet on the ground beneath it and give it a good shake – see what else I’m not spotting.

      Dry with you too? It’s parched here as well…!

        1. kate Post author

          It’s really bad here – I’ve got things dying, and the soil is like dust. We’d hoped to have a bonfire tomorrow, but I’m sure P. (a keen amateur arsonist normally) will decide it’s too dangerous – dry grass and all that. Most odd!

  2. Chloris

    I keep seeing shield bugs around.Are they destructive? Your tree is such a lovely shape. I expect next month will see a big difference, it should be a lovely buttery yellow by then.

    1. kate Post author

      Is it just me and you, or are there a lot around this year? I’ve often spotted them on my raspberries, but never like this on the trees. I did check up because there are so many, and my Organic Gardening envy doesn’t list them as a pest though they do feed on plants, and the RHS Ency of Pests and Diseases says ‘no control needed’ as their impact is negligible.

      It also says ‘in early autumn they tend to sun themselves on plant leaves before seeking sheltered places in which to overwinter’ – so they are sunning themselves!

  3. Janet/Plantaliscious

    I rather like the idea of colonies of shield bugs sunning themselves on your birch leaves! I’ve noticed more of them around this year too, but there again, this is only year two for me, so not sure what is normal. Is anything normal in a garden nowadays?!

    Your tree has a beautifully graceful shape, I look forward to my trio gaining such grace in a year or two.

    1. kate Post author

      I’ve been going back through my gardening notebooks, trying to work out exactly when the tree went in but – true to form – can’t find anything relevant, so I’ve no idea how long it’s taken my Baby to achieve such grace, but she has.

      I’ve never seen so many bugs as this year… the dry weather? Waiting for the apocalypse?

      1. Janet/Plantaliscious

        Glad I’mm not the only one to have voluminous notebooks that record everything except the thing I really want to know… I’ve just been planting things, but the ground is so terribly dry, I’ve used up inumerable cans of water and mulched like crazy, but really, I’d rather like a day or two of steady rain now…

  4. hoehoegrow

    Yep, hands up to volumes of garden diaries and lists which never contain what you are looking for !
    Your tree is showing few signs of autumn, and is still very green,
    . Interestingly, our clump of 6 birches are slowly beginning to turn, and some of the leaves are turning butter yellow, and there is already a little scattering of leaves on the ground.

  5. Anna

    Envious of your tree’s many insects Kate. Mine appears to have a noticeable absence of them but then it’s hard for me to see close up. I’ve come across a few shield bugs at the allotment this year. Funny little creatures. Hope that you get a baby birch.

  6. Cathy

    Intriguing to read about the shield bugs as well as your birch, and different insects favouring different parts of the tree – I shall have to make sure I inspect my baby witch hazel from all angles next month…

  7. wellywoman

    I do love shield bugs. Perhaps insects are like us humans with our favourite spot on the sofa or place to sit at the dining table. 😉 It’s incredible how many bugs and beasties trees can support.

    Hope everything sorts itself out, must have been really awful. I’ve enjoyed a level of anonymity with my blog, so was worried when my book came out that it might change. It’s been OK so far but it does make me nervous for the future.

    Have a lovely weekend.

    1. kate Post author

      I’ve really taken them for granted before, which is a shame – and I had no idea how many varieties there are, either. I though they were just… well, ‘shield bugs’. They’re so biddable too – picking raspberries last night (they love the rasps), and managed to persuade a couple to shift position, which they did quite co-operatively. Mind you, I could almost hear them grumbling, like my grandfather when we would make him get out of his armchair.

      The whole online privacy / anonymity thing is a minefield, really. I’ve just been unlucky, running into this slightly disturbed, OCD character and not being able to shake them off. Mind you, it’s improved since I did the blog post – so maybe they saw it and thought twice. I certainly had a few days peace, though there are signs that it might start up again. Good luck!

  8. Lucy Corrander

    I’m fortunate in never having had online problems. Having this interfere with your business is terrible. You can’t simply pop up with another identity. A double intrusion. Merely the feeling of being over-watched distasteful enough.

    It’s really interesting what you say about the way the insects are behaving differently on the different sides of the tree. I don’t think I’ve ever followed a two-sided tree. By chance they’ve either been too high or only accessible from one direction.

    I came across Green Shield Bugs mating once. I know this is a bit to the side of your post but I was so astonished it’s one of my special ‘blogging memories’.

    1. kate Post author

      It is problematic and, though it’s improved since I wrote the post, it’s still going on. Very odd – I suppose it’s a form of compulsive behaviour. At least my stalker doesn’t pose much of a physical threat, but it’s worryingly easy for someone to do this…

      Your shots in that post are astonishing – I suppose the shield bugs were too preoccupied to notice you sneaking up on them, but all the others seem to have been remarkably compliant too! I still haven’t carried out my threat to put a sheet below the birch and give it a good shaking to see what comes out, but I must do so soon. Before the weather really changes.


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