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Why trees don't grow tall in the same way as people ....

Why trees don’t grow tall in the same way as people ….

by Angus ~ 1 May, 2017 ~ one comment

When you look at a small person (also known as a baby) you know that they will grow bigger in every dimension.  Trees don't grow like that. A tree's branch will stay at the same height however tall the tree grows: by contrast a child's arm rises to a higher level as he or she grows taller.

The reason for this is that trees only grow in areas called meristems where they form new cells. Cells are created by cell division (mitosis) within the meristems, and these cells then expand and specialise.  These growth areas are found at the tops of the trees, and the tips of branches; these are "apical meristems".  Growth also happens in the apical meristems at the ends / tips of the tree's roots. Read more...

A seasonal plant - Mistletoe.

A seasonal plant – Mistletoe.

by Lewis ~ 22 December, 2016 ~ one comment

Many evergreen plants are associated with Winter, and Christmas in particular - notably various fir trees as 'Christmas Trees', holly and ivy for decorations and wreaths, and mistletoe as the decoration under which lovers might kiss.  For an interesting video on “The Botany of Christmas” visit Mark Nesbitt’s lecture to the Linnean Society.

Associations with Mistletoe go way back and there are a number of customs and myths surrounding the plant.  Pliny wrote that it was collected by Druids - particularly from oak (believing that it held the soul of the host tree and it was to be cut from the trees with a golden sickle).   Mistletoe has been used in folk / herbal medicine to treat various ailments - from cancer to epilepsy but clinical trials as to its effectiveness are needed.  However, like many plants, mistletoe is actively being investigated for its phytochemicals and possible medical uses. Read more...

Biofuels from trees.

Biofuels from trees.

by Chris ~ 9 August, 2016 ~ comments welcome

A biofuel is a fuel (such as alcohol / ethanol) that is derived from plant or animal material (biomass) by a biological process such as fermentation or anaerobic digestion.  Ethanol and methane are examples of biofuels that can be formed from a variety of sources of biomass.

Ethanol can be used as a fuel (in its pure form) for vehicles or used as a petrol additive to increase the octane ration / improve emissions.  It is widely used in Brazil.  Ethanol has been produced from a range of plant materials, for example, sweet sorghum, maize, wheat, sugar beet, sugar cane, Miscanthus (elephant grass) and wood pulpCellulosic ethanol is derived from biomass such as straw from crops and wood pulp - the latter is particularly rich in lignin and cellulose. Read more...

Drought and trees

Drought and trees

by Chris ~ 28 May, 2016 ~ comments welcome

Climate change is now a fact of life and one aspect of this is the occurrence of more extreme weather events.  These can take the form of high winds / hurricanes, extended periods of heavy rainfall or conversely periods of drought.  Clearly extreme weather can affect all ecosystems; woodlands and forests are no exceptions.   Consequently in recent years, a number of organisations have been looking at different tree species in order to understand more about drought resistance (or the ability to withstand prolonged flooding - when the roots are deprived of oxygen).

INRA (French National Institute for Agricultural Research) has been looking at a small tree of the cypress Family (Cupressaceae) - Callitris tuberculata.   This grows as a small evergreen tree or shrub in Western Australia.  It can survive extreme drought and has been described as “the most drought resistant tree in the world”. Read more...

The life cycle of an oak tree

The life cycle of an oak tree

by woodlands blogs ~ 8 October, 2015 ~ 2 comments

In early October,  BBC4 screened a 90-minute documentary capturing every aspect of life in an ancient English oak over an entire year  "Oak Tree: Nature's Greatest Survivor" focuses on a single tree in Wytham Woods, just outside Oxford, a site acquired by Oxford University in 1942 for woodland research.   The film, presented by zoologist, entomologist and broadcaster George McGavin, opens with an high-tech assessment of the tree's condition. By firing laser pulses, forestry scientists create a 3-D virtual image of the oak so they can track its size and shape over the 12 months.

At the outset, in late August, it's 19 metres tall and 30 metres wide and carries an estimated 700,000 leaves. Read more...

Mistletoe berries


by Chris ~ 12 December, 2014 ~ one comment

Three evergreen plants come to mind at this time of year - Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe.   Holly and Ivy are 'immortalised' in "The Holly and the Ivy" , a traditional  Christmas carol. Both holly and ivy have been part of church decoration  since the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (as recorded in churchwardens’ accounts).   Mistletoe, (also known as “the golden bough” or Viscum album), is well known for its connection to Christmas, in particular for the custom of “kissing underneath the mistletoe”.   Mistletoe associations go way back and there are many customs and myths surrounding the plant. For example, Druids greatly revered it, believing that it held the soul of the host tree. It would be cut from sacred oak trees with a golden sickle.   It was used in folk / herbal medicine to treat a variety of ailments.  Now, like many plants, mistletoe is being investigated for its phytochemicals and possible medical uses. Read more...

Dutch Elm disease and Brighton’s National Collection of elm trees

Dutch Elm disease and Brighton’s National Collection of elm trees

by Oliver ~ 23 June, 2013 ~ 4 comments

Brighton in Sussex is home to Britain’s largest population of Elm trees. These 19,000 elm trees are known as The National Collection. Elm trees are increasingly rare due to the blight brought by Dutch Elm disease principally in the 1970s.  Initially this came into the UK as long ago as 1926.  Dutch Elm disease is a fungus carried by beetles and affects only elm trees. In response to this attack, an elm tree will automatically produce tyloses, an effective natural defence against the 1926 strain of Dutch Elm disease. Tyloses occur in the xylem - water conducting vessels of the plant / tree, sealing them off and restricting the movement of the pathogen.

However in the early 1970's,  a new strain of Dutch Elm disease was imported from channel ports, linked directly to the Canadian Rock Elm. This strain travels faster through the elm trees and kills them before they can produce tyloses. Since the introduction of this strain of Dutch Elm disease to Britain, the number of elm trees has gone down from about 3 million to fewer than 200,000 and many of these are very young ones which will certainly succumb to the disease. Elm trees reproduce by root stalks more often than by seed and so this transmission mechanism quickly spreads the disease between elm trees and along elm hedgerows. Read more...

Woody tissues : bark

Woody tissues : bark

by Chris ~ 28 April, 2011 ~ 2 comments

Wood is such a familiar material that we tend to take it for granted.  In general, it is a long lasting, fibrous material that is found within the roots, stems and branches of trees and shrubs.  It is mainly composed of xylem – a tissue that brings water and minerals up from the roots and distributes the minerals and water to the leaves and growing tissues of the stem.


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