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“The Scottish Uplands: how to revive a degraded landscape” a talk by Dr Helen Armstrong

by Angus ~ 14 November, 2020 ~ 2 comments

Checking through my emails, I came across a link sent by a friend to one of the winter talks in the program offered by the Botanical Society of Scotland - specifically The Scottish Uplands: how to revive a degraded landscapeby Dr Helen Armstrong.  The talk was live-streamed but was also recorded and is available here.  

Dr Armstrong spent 24 years at the Nature Conservancy Council, the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forest Research carrying out research and advisory work.


The following is an attempt to summarise some of the key features of her informative and enlightening talk. Read more...

Leaf fall and litter.

Leaf fall and litter.

by Chris ~ 17 April, 2020 ~ comments welcome

The autumnal fall of leaves in deciduous trees is a well recognised event; their changing colours prior to being shed often make for spectacular displays - the New England Fall. Evergreens (with certain exceptions) do not undergo a similar loss of leaves but that is not to say that their leaves are forever green or permanent.  Indeed, each year, evergreens have a seasonal drop of their needle-shaped leaves, it is normal part of the tree’s cycle.  The leaves / needles of conifers have varying life spans; they are not a ‘permanent fixture’. 

Many conifer needles will turn yellow then as they age, falling off the tree after one to several years. This change can be gradual or in some species quite rapid.  White Pines (Pinus strobus) typically retain their leaves for 2 to 3 years, whereas Scots Pines (Pinus sylvestris) usually retain their needles for three years. Larches, which are conifers (Larix sp) are somewhat unusual in that they shed their leaves every autumn.  The stress that a tree experiences through drought may result in more rapid browning and greater loss of leaves. Read more...

In praise of Pines.

In praise of Pines.

by Chris ~ 11 May, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Pine trees are found across the world, there are over one hundred different species.  Many are native to the coniferous forests  (Taiga) of the Northern Hemisphere.  Their evergreen needles (leaves) offer shade in summer, and the trees may offer a degree of shelter from the winds of autumn and winter.  Gardeners and foresters 'like' Pines as they generally tolerate nutrient poor and somewhat dry soils.   In the period after WW2,  considerable areas of ‘low grade’ land were pressed into service (in the U.K.).   Areas around Thetford and Kielder were used, as were some sandy coastal sites (for example,  Holkham in Norfolk) and many large tracts of land in Scotland.  Pines are central to the business of agroforestry in places like the U.K,  New Zealand and Brazil, providing a source of lumber.    Read more...

MIDDLE EARTH ... and our own woodland project

MIDDLE EARTH … and our own woodland project

by Jackie & David ~ 24 February, 2018 ~ 4 comments

As we sat outside The Middle Earth pub on Whitby’s harbour front, enjoying the early evening autumn sunshine, my wife looked at me and said “There’s something I want to talk to you about”. For a heart stopping moment my mind raced and I felt a mixture of emotions as I feared some dreadful news was coming my way. Instead, Jackie completely floored me by asking “How do feel you about us buying a wood?”   In the first instance I was speechless then apprehensive, confused and finally, elated!   Looking back, how I managed to hold onto my pint I’ll never know. Read more...

Pine cones - an activity

Pine cones – an activity

by Lewis ~ 9 February, 2018 ~ one comment

Half term is coming, and perhaps you will be visiting your own wood  or walking through woodland during the holiday period.   Below is a simple activity (that you could supervise) which might interest younger members of the family.

Did you know that sometimes pine cones stay on the trees for some years, before falling to the ground? During that time, seeds form under the scales of the pine cones.   The scales have two important functions

  • to protect the seeds from bad weather and
  • to protect the seeds from foraging, hungry animals.

Eventually, the seeds are released so that they can grow into new trees. To have the best chance of finding fertile soil and growing successfully, the pine cone scales stay tightly closed (see featured image) when the weather is cold and wet as these conditions are not suitable for germination and growth of a young seedling.   Read more...

Wood products, old and new

Wood products, old and new

by Chris ~ 24 February, 2017 ~ comments welcome

It is a truism to say that trees provide wood or timber.  Timber (or lumber in the States) is wood that has been processed into planks or beams, part of the process of wood production. Timber may be supplied either rough-sawn, or surfaced on one or more of its faces. It is available from many species, usually hardwoods; but it is also available in softwoods, such as white pine and red pine, because of their low cost. Finished timber is supplied in various standard sizes, mostly for the construction industry—primarily softwood, from coniferous species, including pine, fir and spruce, cedar, and hemlock, whereas hardwoods are for high-grade flooring and furniture. Read more...

The mediterranean cypress and forest fires.

The mediterranean cypress and forest fires.

by Chris ~ 7 October, 2016 ~ one comment

According the United Nations FAO, some two million hectares of forest were burnt in the Mediterranean region, between 2006 and 2010.  Most of these fires were 'human induced'; they (the fires) are the most frequent cause of degradation / loss of forest / woodland in this region.  In 2012, a fire swept through some 20,000 hectares of forest near Andilla (Valencia).   After the fire, it was found that though oaks, holm oaks, pines and junipers had been completely burnt, the vast majority (98% +) of the Mediterranean Cypresses were still standing, tall and green.   There followed a three year study of the fire resilience of the Mediterranean Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens var horizontalis) to see if stands of these trees might function as buffer zones to hinder or prevent the spread of forest fires. Read more...

VOC's and Pine trees.

VOC’s and Pine trees.

by Chris ~ 21 March, 2014 ~ 3 comments

Boreal forest is found in Canada, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia.   Essentially, it is coniferous forest with tree species such as pines, spruces, larches and aspens.  In the U. K., this unique ecosystem is represented by the Caledonian Forest (a remnant of the vast sylvan wilderness that once existed here).  One of the larger tracts of this native pine forest is the  Black Wood of Rannoch.

One feature of the boreal forest or taiga is that it has areas of even-aged stands of trees.  This uniformity arises through cycles of natural disturbance – from forest fires to outbreaks of insect pests such as pine beetle or spruce budworm, which periodically kill off large sections of forest – but these areas, in turn, regenerate. Read more...

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