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Bark beetles : the larger eight toothed bark beetle

Bark beetles : the larger eight toothed bark beetle

by Lewis ~ 25 June, 2019 ~ comments welcome

The woodlands’ blog has reported on outbreaks of bark beetles in the States and Canada but as of 16th January this year, measures were put in place to protect the UK from the larger eight toothed spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus). This beetle has been a problem on continental Europe for many years; it has been estimated that Germany lost some 30 million cubic metres of timber (between 1945 and 1949) to bark beetles. Spruce is a commercially important species, with perhaps some 800,000 hectares in the UK.  On the continent, the beetle has also been found living in pine, larch and douglas firThe beetle was found in Kent last December.  The special measures restrict the movement of spruce in a 50 km area around the outbreak.  Details of this area can be found here. Read more...

Tannins, tea and trees

Tannins, tea and trees

by Chris ~ 12 January, 2018 ~ comments welcome

We come across tannins in various foods and drinks.   They contribute to the taste of a cup of tea, a mug of coffee or a glass of wine.  Tannins contribute an astringent taste - a sensation of “dryness” in the mouth. Tannins are molecules made by plants - they are complex polyphenols built from several phenolic molecules.   A phenol is  made from a hexagon-shaped carbon ring with one or more hydroxyl groups (-OH) attached to it (see diagram).

They are generally water-soluble molecules and they can combine with proteins, cellulose, pectins etc.  Tannins are generally stored in the vacuole of plant cells (as are various oils, resins, crystals of calcium oxalate etc).  Collectively, these materials are sometimes referred to as ergastic substances. Read more...

A problem with mistletoe ?

A problem with mistletoe ?

by Lewis ~ 2 January, 2018 ~ one comment

When you look around this week, you might see suspended from the ceiling or a light fitment - a rather sad and shrivelled piece of mistletoe.  Mistletoe is well known for its connection to Christmas, in particular for the custom of “kissing underneath the mistletoe”.  The mistletoe has separate male and female plants; it is DIOECIOUS.  It follows that the male plants will not produce berries and they have no commercial value - as they do not yield berry-laden sprigs for Christmas decorations.  This use of mistletoe may be rooted in festive legends of 'fertility and life giving powers'. Read more...

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 ~ 3 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...

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