Mottled beech leaf

My copper beech from June to July: A wee bit peely wally

As I only have one day left to get in this month’s tree post I took myself down to the bottom of the garden today, camera in hand.  I wasn’t expecting any changes – the tree looked just the same from a distance.  In fact I was wondering what on earth I could fill a post with.

When I got there I had rather a shock.  All the beautiful coppery eaves were losing their colour.

Mottled beech leaf

Mottled beech leaf

My first thought was that it was lack of water. It has been very dry recently and I hadn’t thought it necessary to water such a big tree.  I was worried though as next door had built a largish building over their side of the fence. They weren’t digging down so wouldn’t damage the roots, but it would mean the tree wouldn’t get quite as much water as usual.

So the first thing I did was rush off to get the hose and left it soaking the bottom of the tree – we don’t have any water shortages here so no problem.

Then I started taking photographs and immediately noticed the aphids  – exactly the same as the ones that had discoloured the leaves of my yellow climbing rose – only this time a bit bigger and more yellow. You would have laughed if you could have seen me, having climbed up onto the old coal bunkers to get up amongst the leaves. Trouble is I was up amongst the aphids too – I had them everywhere: on my clothes, in my hair, on the camera and every time I moved a branch they all swarmed about. Lovely! There only seemed to be one or two on each leaf though so they must be really busy causing all that damage.

Aphid on beech leaves

Aphid on beech leaves

It was rather a relief that it wasn’t the drought.  After all surely a great big beech tree won’t be too affected long term by these tiny aphids.  I am wondering though about using the leaves for compost – will the eggs survive the composting process?  Let’s hope not, because I think all the big garden trees could be affected and I love my leaf compost.  I don’t really want a cold winter, but I think it would help with this problem.

I have spent a bit of time on Google trying to identify these aphids – I don’t know why but I just feel better knowing what they are.  I did find a woolly beech aphid which sounded promising, but there are no signs of any fluff as yet. I also found a pecan aphid which looked very similar, but I have to wonder what a pecan aphid would be doing on my copper beech and on my roses!

While trying to get photos of these little blighters I noticed this strange protuberance on one of the leaves – I wonder if it is an egg, or just some strange cell growth. It seemed to start on the underside of the leaf.

Red protuberance on leaf

Red protuberance on leaf

Look at the bottom of the picture – the best photo I got of an aphid and I didn’t even know it was there!

The other surprise I got this year was that the normal beech tree’s nut cases are green at the moment and not brown like the copper beech’s.  I don’t know why that should surprise me, but it did! I guess when they fall in the Autumn they are all brown.

There was something I did miss though, earlier in the year. I was feeling so clever noticing the flowers on the tree for the first time, but I completely missed the male catkins.  Apparently beech trees are monoecious. That means they have both male and female flowers on the same tree.  Handy!  It seems most other people miss them too as I couldn’t find a single photo on Google to show what they would have looked like.  So, sorry, we will all have to wait until next year to find out!

Well, the beech tree may be looking a bit peely wally** close up, but it still looks magnificent from further away, standing guard over my back garden. I think I will keep watering it now though, just in case.

**Peely wally: A mostly Scottish word meaning pale and sickly in appearance – quite often used the morning after a good night out! As in  “Ye’re lookin’ awfy peelywally, son”

Thanks to Lucy at LooseAndLeafy for hosting this great meme – there are lots of other ‘tree followers’ listed on her site.

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12 thoughts on “My copper beech from June to July: A wee bit peely wally

  1. Poor tree, but somehow they all seem to be able to cope with various insects living on them, which then keep the birds happy. I do hope they don’t have an adverse affect on your tree, it would be such a shame to lose such a magnificent specimen.

    • For all I know it gets attacked every year, but I would never have noticed before. I don’t think my trees would be alone in this either as I have seen these same aphids in my friend’s garden further inland. It is probably just a worse year because of the mild winter. I didn’t chose to be but I am gradually becoming more knowledgeable about aphids as well as trees!

    • Thanks Alistair, I am sure you are right. Great expression isn’t it. There is no doubt that blogging can take an enormous amount of time, both the writing and the reading and especially the commenting and replying! Good to hear from you again, you are missed you know.

  2. I love this post Annette. I think aphids are around everywhere most of the summer but I am sure a big tree like that can cope. You can’ t go clambering around the tree removing them all. I wonder if anyone saw you climbing on to your coal bunker with your head in the foliage? This tree watching could get us all a reputation for eccentricity.

    • I doubt any one saw me as the coal bunkers are behind the garage at the back of the garden. (They are used for leaf compost now) But then, us gardeners are a pretty eccentric lot anyway, aren’t we? I know I am! That reminds me I haven’t done an ‘Only a Gardener’ post for a while. I am sure your are right and my tree will be able to cope with a few little creatures. It doesn’t have much growing to to any more as it must be at full size.

    • Yes I think the catkins are the male flowers and the female flowers are the things I noticed that change into the nuts. I am determined to find those male catkins next year. I love your little pink tuft.

  3. An absorbing post. Will be interested to know what the little red spike turns out to be. Some kind of gall perhaps?

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