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Ten surprising facts about Christmas traditions and Christmas around the world

Ten surprising facts about Christmas traditions and Christmas around the world

by Angus ~ 18 December, 2018 ~ comments welcome

1.  In Brazil, where Christmas falls in the summer, Brazilians often put cotton wool on pine trees to represent the snow that often falls in  Europe and America

2.  When Christmas cards were invented in Britain in 1843 the first print run was 1,000 which were priced one shilling each, in today's money that would be equivalent to £6, though as an antique one of them recently sold at auction for around £8,000

3.  Christmas is associated with snow and lots of snowflakes fall in the US each year - typically one septillion which is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000  (one with 24 zeros) Read more...

leaves of tree of heaven

Unusual or exotic trees – the tree of heaven

by Lewis ~ 13 December, 2018 ~ comments welcome

The Tree of Heaven or Ailanthus altissima is a species which was introduced to the U.K in 1751 from China.  It arrived in the United States somewhat later, circa 1785 to the Philadelphia area.  It was brought in as an ornamental or exotic tree.  The first introductions were cuttings from male trees.  Ailanthus is a dioecious species, i.e. a tree produces either male or female flowers. So these first trees could not spread or colonise.  However, seeds were then introduced and grown so that there were both male and female trees, and reproduction was possible.

The tree has been grown in gardens, parks and civic settings for many years and is ‘valued’ for its rapid growth, attractive foliage [and colourful, winged fruits]. It flowers and fruits well in hot summers. Read more...

December’s Monthly Mushroom: Curry Milkcap (Lactarius camphoratus)

December’s Monthly Mushroom: Curry Milkcap (Lactarius camphoratus)

by Jasper ~ 7 December, 2018 ~ comments welcome

We’re not far from the shortest day of the year now and the concurrent midwinter festive frolics that signal the arrival of Christmas. For the mushroom hunter, however, this brief period of peace and goodwill to all men also brings the slightly melancholic awareness that we are past the peak of the fungi season and it’s going to be comparatively slim pickings over the next eight or nine months.   Nevertheless, my own mycological meanderings received a bit of a boost recently with the discovery of a new site here in East Kent, a public park established on the site of the former Betteshanger colliery  situated midway between Sandwich and Deal.    This pioneering exercise in environmental sustainability makes for a great day out throughout the year no matter wherever your particular interest in the great outdoors might lie. Its 121 hectares are interwoven with cycle tracks to race around while affording some spectacular views of the surrounding area. Read more...

UK Forest Market Report - timber and forestry prices on the increase

UK Forest Market Report – timber and forestry prices on the increase

by Angus ~ 30 November, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Timber prices last year went up 28%.  This is according to the report that John Clegg and Tilhill forestry put together for the year ending September 2018.  The increase was driven by exchange rate changes and increases in demand for traditional wood-using industries such as sawmilling, board production and biomass for renewable energy.  "Virgin wood burnt as biomass accounts for four million tonnes a year now," according to Tilhill's Peter Whitfield.
The industry has also been helped by the improvement in timber processing plants such as Norbord in Inverness, James Jones in Lockerbie and British Soft Woods (BSW) at Fort William.  A single investment of £95 million by Norbord in 2017 was equivalent to twice the usual annual investment in timber processing plant.

The Tilhill/Clegg report also shows how demand has driven up land prices so that even for large woodlands (over 50 acres) in Wales the average selling price is almost £5,000 per acre.  Looking at the mixed woodlands market more generally on average these sell for 10% above the guide price and the big factors which push up values are Read more...

Surviving drought.

Surviving drought.

by Chris ~ 28 November, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Climate change means that we are likely to experience more extreme weather events from intense and prolonged rainfall to severe drought and heat.  The plants and trees of woodlands may experience periods of flooding, during which their roots may be deprived of oxygen (as the soil is waterlogged) and consequently - die.  Similarly trees and other plants may be subject to drought - resulting in the stunting of growth or even death.  It had been thought that most trees had roots that penetrated deep into the soil (in search of water and minerals) but the aftermath of the Great Storm of 1987 revealed that this was not the case for many types of tree.  The root systems of many trees are, in fact, relatively shallowthe root plate may only reach down some five to six feet. Read more...

Hornbeams and hedges

Hornbeams and hedges

by Linda Dolata ~ 26 November, 2018 ~ 2 comments

Many of the woods for thirty miles around, and even within, London( for example, Highgate woods, Queenswood, Coldfall Wood - all in Harringay) are predominantly of hornbeam coppice.  These were usually planted with maiden (single-stemmed) oaks, which were timber trees.    Hornbeam is a native tree, a little like beech in appearance, but with bark that looks as if it has been flayed. Although it naturally forms a single stemmed tree, hornbeam also coppices easily.  These were once worked woods, cut in cycles to supply wood, which is very dense (hence horn-beam).  Hornbeam was used as a crop for fuel (either directly or as charcoal) as it was so slow burning.   As it was so hard that it did not distort, it was also for moving parts such as the hubs for wagon wheels. It is said that some of these woodlands date back to Roman times and beyond, where the charcoal was needed for smelting iron. Read more...

Natural Capital

Natural Capital

by Ruth ~ 23 November, 2018 ~ comments welcome

We are seeing increasing interest in the forestry industry in ‘Natural Capital’ – defined in simple terms as the wide range of benefits derived from nature.

What is it?
‘Natural Capital’ refers to the value forestry and woodlands offer above and beyond commercial timber value. This includes the benefits and services that a woodland may offer such as cleaner air, flood defence, climate regulation, pollination or recreation and health benefits. This is not a new concept to owners of small woods who have long considered the value of their woodlands to be so much more than value of the trees themselves. Read more...

Ginkgo leaves fall later in late ‘fall'

Ginkgo leaves fall later in late ‘fall’

by Lewis ~ 20 November, 2018 ~ one comment

Ginkgo biloba or the maidenhair tree is unusual in many respects.  It is often described as ‘a living fossil” - as is the horseshoe crab and the coelacanth .   Ginkgo is a long lived, deciduous tree with distinctive leaves.  The leaves are fan shaped (jpg adjacent), but notched or divided - forming two lobes (hence biloba)  The leaf veins radiate out into the leaf blade from the leaf stalk - but do not form a network.  Two veins enter the leaf at its base and these split into two again and again.  This is known as dichotomous venation (see image).  The leaves can be between two and four inches long, and have a long, slender petiole (leaf stalk).   Apart from their physical appearance, the leaves of Ginkgo are unusual in term of the autumnal leaf drop.   Read more...

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