Category Archives: Follow a tree

My over-the-road-oak – December 2014


This is my last over-the-road-oak post, as the leaves are all gone, the acorns never came, and I think I’ll struggle to find another beautiful winter’s day like this one.  IMG_5511

Some of the oaks lower down the slope (on the left of this photo) still have leaves, which I assume is because they are more sheltered.  The leaves from my oak only fell in the second half of November.  I took these two photos on the 14th November when the whole tree briefly turned a lovely yellow.IMG_5342


So, goodbye to the oak.  I’ve learnt about oak apples, oak bark beetle, water consumption, mast years and abscission and hopefully you have too!

Thank you so much to Lucy at Loose and Leafy for hosting this meme, I’ve really enjoyed researching my oak and sharing it with you all.  IMG_5512

My over-the-road-oak – November 2014


A short post this month as we have family hordes descending for the mother-in-law’s 85th birthday this weekend, so I think I should probably have other priorities!

My over the road oak is definitely browning and the overriding colour is sadly no longer green.IMG_5305

Whilst there are still plenty of leaves on the tree, there are also plenty in the gardenIMG_5297

as well as by the steps.IMG_5301

Well I know one job I’ll be trying to fit in tomorrow!

With thanks as ever to Lucy at Loose and Leafy for hosting this ‘Follow a tree’ meme.  Go to her website to see what other bloggers’ followed trees are up to.



My over-the-road-oak October 2014


At first glance my over the road oak looks much as last month, but the pile of leaves on the drive tells another story:IMG_5079

Not only are there quite a few brown leaves, but the terrible wind and rain on Monday have brought down quite a lot of green leaves as well as a few smaller twigs.  There’s clearly only one way this is going.

In the meantime the canopy still  looks very full


Although close inspection shows a lot of browning


I was investigating the whole deciduous cycle of trees and came across another new word for me – Abscission, a noun meaning

1.  the separation of leaves, branches, flowers, and bark from plants by the formation of an abscission layer and 
2.  the act of cutting off

As far as trees are concerned, they first withdraw valuable pigments, like chlorophyll, from the leaf, (hence the loss of ‘green’) and then form a thin band of dead cells at the base of the stem, separating the leaf from the stalk. The leaf tissue then dies and drops to the forest floor where it decomposes, any useful nutrients can then be reabsorbed through the roots.

One of the other words I’ve learnt by taking part in this meme, was ‘Mast’, and looking online I found an update in the Guardian about whether this is a Mast year.

And the answer, as I thought in my August post is no.  Whilst 2013 was a mast year, 2014 definitely isn’t.  Think I’d better stock up on some hazelnuts for the red squirrels.

 Photo from the Forestry Commission site –

With thanks as ever to Lucy at Loose and Leafy for hosting this ‘Follow a tree’ meme.

My over-the-road-oak September 2014


So whilst the year advances, my over-the road-oak continues its sentry duty high above the Duver.

And yet what is this?  Well firstly, a little oak apple, barely bigger than an acorn (but no acorns, which would fit last month’s suggestion that this is not a ‘Mast’ year).


But secondly, look at these leaf spots:IMG_4698

Should I worry?  Well I don’t think so.  I’ve spent some time looking online at all the nasty things that can attack oak leaves (rust, canker, downy mildew etc) but eventually came across this comment on Oak Leaf Gardening:

“Finally, spots appearing in late summer or autumn could just be due to the natural process of the leaf dying prior to the dormant winter period.”

So I think I’ll calm down, and sit and enjoy the canopy while it’s still here.


With many thanks again to Lucy at Loose and Leafy for hosting this ‘Follow a tree’ meme.

My over-the-road-oak August


It’s August and my oak is currently enjoying its view of holidaymakers on both the Duver and the beach.

However, its Hebridean Sheep companions, mentioned in last month’s post,IMG_4336

have eaten through their habitat and yesterday were moved to a new, tastier location.   I’ll miss them.  

With August moving on a pace (and school uniforms appearing in the shops!) I thought this month I would think ahead to harvest.  And of course for oaks, that means acorns.

A little Googling introduced be to the word ‘mast’ which I hadn’t previously understood in this context: (thanks



the fruit of the oak and beech or noun other forest trees, used as food for hogs and other animals.
before 900; Middle English; Old English mæst;  cognate with German Mast;  akin to meat
Associated with the term ‘mast’ is the recognition of very variable ‘mast’ harvests.  Some years seem to be boom years, with multitudes of acorns seen littering forest floors.  During these so called ‘mast years’, which occur every 2-5 years, really large oaks can produce up to 10,000 acorns.  In between these years the oaks have few or no acorns at all.
This of course prompts the question ‘why?’ and the simple answer is we don’t seem to know for sure.  Strangely, mast years do not appear to coincide directly with particular weather conditions. Whilst pollination and acorn maturation will be affected by weather, the annual fluctuations in rainfall and temperature are just not as significant as the variance of the acorn harvest.

So, if not simply weather, what is the cause?  It appears there have been numerous explanations proposed for this phenomenon, including environmental triggers, chemical signalling and pollen availability, but as yet there is no clear answer.

What does seem to be accepted is that the boom and bust cycles of acorn production do have an evolutionary benefit for oak trees through ‘predator satiation.’ The idea is that in a mast year, predators (squirrels, deer, etc.) can’t eat all the acorns, and so some are left to grow on into oak trees.  Conversely, having lean years keeps the predator populations low, so there are fewer animals to eat all the acorns in a mast year.  The overall result is thus a proportion of the acorns surviving to create new trees.

So, is 2014 a mast year?  Well I think not.  I had to look long and hard to see any acorns at all (although to be fair the vast majority of branches are so high I don’t think I could have seen the acorns without binoculars) but I did find some:IMG_4351I also found some small oak apples, actually about the size of acorns – much smaller than the apple sized one featured in my May tree post. IMG_4354

So, if not 2014, then when?  Well, I will certainly be watching my oak for its next mast year, and I’ll keep you posted.

Lastly, to go out with a bang, my over-the road-oak lit up by fireworks for my son’s 18 1/2th birthday (because we never did it on his 18th).IMG_3787

With thanks again to Lucy at Loose and Leafy for hosting this ‘Follow a tree’ meme.

My over-the-road-oak July

IMG_3765I’m sorry, but I’m two day’s late following my tree with Lucy at Loose and Leafy.  However, looking on the bright side, I was a week late with Wildflower Wednesday, so you could say I’m making progress!

So today, bearing in mind how incredibly dry it’s been here recently, I’ve been thinking about how much water a tree of this size needs.  According to ‘Ask Jeeves’ it needs 227 litres of water a day and “if it doesn’t get enough water and nutrients the tree will stop growing and the leaves will turn to yellow”.  Clearly from this shot of the beautiful foliage it would appear to be getting that amount, which I find quite incredible.  This got me thinking about how deep the roots extended, and I found this diagram on  Although not brilliant quality, you can see clearly that the Quercus roots are the deepest, although interestingly they are not so long horizontally.

Aside from simply surviving the relative drought, the latest development is that the oak has also gained some company.



IMG_3243The Hebridean Sheep come and go during the year (as managed by the National Trust who own the land), but as soon as they arrived (on 13th June) they just disappeared into the far reaches of the field – lost amongst the Cow Parsley, Alexanders and tall grasses.  However now, they have chewed their way through their habitat and are more visible.


So now, thanks to the sheep, there is far less foliage in the field immediately below the oak.  Does it make a difference to the competition for water?  I doubt it.  But I do love to see the sheep and hear their contented bleating.

My over-the-road-oak June

IMG_2847As you can see, my oak hasn’t really changed since May, when it achieved its full canopy.

However, what’s new this month is that for the first time I saw a green woodpecker in the oak (you’ll have to trust me on this, it wasn’t captured on camera) and that, together with a comment from Bob Flowerdew on Gardeners’ Question Time regarding the number of species the oak supports, got me thinking about the oak as a habitat.

According to the Woodland Trust oaks support more life forms than any other native tree and host over 280 species of insect, who in turn supply many British birds with an important food source.

Last month I talked about the Oak Apple, caused by the Gall Wasps’ larvae.  Today I thought I’d look at a couple of other insects residing in the oak.

Firstly, the oak bark beetle (Scolytus intricatus), which depends on the oak tree for its survival. The female oak-bark beetle gnaws a vertical tunnel into the bark of the tree, forming a chamber where she deposits her eggs. The larvae develop in or under the bark and when they emerge, they gnaw tunnels of their own away from the original chamber, creating a vast network of tunnel homes. whose larvae create a distinctive pattern of galleries in the tree’s wood.

See photo from below showing the larger horizontal ‘mummy’ tunnel and all the larvae tunnels radiating from it. Note how their tunnels widen as they travel away from the centre.  Oh they grow up so fast!

Nut weevils, on the other hand, don’t use the tree itself, but instead use the acorns.  They have long, thin snouts (called a rostrum) and the female uses it to drill a hole into an acorn where she lays her eggs. When the larvae hatch they grow inside the nut until they are ready to pupate after the acorns have fallen to the ground.

See photo below from  Is it just me or does it look like a smile?

With thanks again to Lucy at Loose and Leafy for hosting this ‘Follow a tree’ meme.



My over-the-road-oak May


As you can can see, in the last month my oak has produced its full leaf canopy – and what a canopy!

I felt rather guilty after last month’s post when I castigated my oak for not doing much, as almost immediately it showed signs of leaf (11th April below).


It’s interesting noticing how initially the overall appearance is quite brown, but as more and more leaves appear, the green takes over (see 26th April on the left, 6th May on the right).

Another thing I’ve noticed for the first time is an oak apple.  Now to be honest this isn’t on ‘my’ oak, it’s on one a little further down the road, but take a look, it’s so incongruous.


According to Wikipedia

Oak apple or oak gall is the common name for a large, round, vaguely apple-like gall commonly found on many species of oak. Oak apples range in size from 2–5 cm in diameter and are caused by chemicals injected by the larva of certain kinds of gall wasp in the family Cynipidae.[1] The adult female wasp lays single eggs in developing leaf buds. The wasp larvae feed on the gall tissue resulting from their secretions. Considerable confusion exists in the general ‘literature’ between the oak apple and the oak marble gall. The oak marble is frequently called the oak apple due to the superficial resemblance and the preponderance of the oak marble gall in the wild. Other galls found on oak trees include the Oak artichoke gall and the Acorn cup gall, but each of these has its own distinctive form.

Some common oak-apple-forming species are the Biorhiza pallida gall wasp in Europe; Amphibolips confluenta in eastern North America,;[2] and Atrusca bella in western North America.[1] Oak apples may be brownish, yellowish, greenish, pinkish or reddish.

 Now am I the only one who didn’t know all this?

With thanks again to Lucy for hosting ‘Follow a tree’


My over-the-road oak, April

IMG_1483Continuing the ‘Follow a tree’ meme, hosted by Lucy at ‘Loose and Leafy’.

There’s little obvious progress in my oak from last month.  What’s clearly moving on though is everything around it, not only the Alexanders already mentioned, but also the lovely haze of hawthorn just below.

I think my oak needs to take a long hard look at itself before coming here in May.IMG_1482



My over-the-road oak, March


Like Annette at My Aberdeen Garden with her Copper Beech, I’m (rather belatedly) joining  Lucy  at  LooseAndLeafy with her meme on ‘Follow  a Tree’.

The tree I’ve chosen isn’t actually in my garden, it’s over the road on the National Trust land in front of our house.  To the bottom of this photo you can see the sign for the footpath that runs down the hill to the Duver at the bottom, and on to the beach.

The oak is to the south of us and so, come Autumn, the prevailing winds ensure that 90% of all the leaves end up in our garden or on the drive.  Consequently we now have two leaf mould bins, which are overflowing.

Although this post is supposed to be just about the tree, I couldn’t help but add in the backdrop of Bembridge Harbour to give the tree some island context.

What would give some really special island context would be if I could ever capture a picture of one of the red squirrels in the oak.  They regularly run across the road, up into this tree and then jump from tree to tree to wherever their drey is situated, much further away from the road.  I’ve tried to photograph them once or twice, but boy do they move fast.

I look forward to sharing this tree with you over the coming months.