I have to admit to failing rather badly at keeping up with this excellent meme run by Lucy at Loose and Leafy. I started off well and really enjoyed watching my tree emerge from its winter dormancy. I learnt so much both from researching for my blog and from reading others, so what went wrong?
Summer is what! The garden and probably a bit too much travel took up all my time. Meanwhile the beech tree stood there, magnificent, apparently uncaring that it was being ignored for the most part.
But now it is Autumn; no doubt about it. The garden, though still flowering, has slowed down. My husband and I have also slowed down and have stopped our mad dash from one country to another – well I have anyway; I think the traveller still has a few business trips to fit in.
As it is Autumn, the beech tree is now becoming interesting again. Its leaves have started changing bit by bit. It is not as early as the horse chestnuts which are well on the way to winter bareness. Mind you, we are just back from The Dordogne and the horse chestnuts over there have far fewer leaves that our Scottish ones. That really surprised me as it is still really hot over there.
First, I would like to share a photo of a lovely beech nut that came down during a recent storm. It is not from the copper beech but I’m sure they look the same.
I hope, for the sake of the squirrels, that the nuts fatten up a it before the rest come down.
When I went to look at the copper beech yesterday, I noticed several leaves were now beginning to change colour and indeed to fall off.
For the first time I decided to have a good look at the trunk of the tree. It was really very interesting.
At the bottom it disappeared into the ground with minimum fuss – a nice covering of green moss in parts too.
Higher up the tree was showing its age, with each scar making an interesting pattern in the trunk.
There was also a fair amount of lichen, which is usually a good sign, indicating good clean air.
If you compare the rather wrinkly copper beech trunk with the much smoother beech at the front of the garden I think we can conclude that the copper beech has been around the block a bit.
As I looked at the trunk I started to think about what was inside it. I realised I didn’t remember too much of my 0-level biology so I needed to do a quick refresher cause courtesy of the internet. I wonder how many of you, as you look at your trees, think about all the sap moving up and down the trunk; water and dissolved minerals travel up from the soil to the leaves and water, sugar and minerals travel down from the leaves to the other parts of the tree to promote growth.
It is really quite amazing how it all works.
The only living part of the trunk is just under the bark where a ring of sieve like cells (phloem) are stacked to make vertical tubes to carry the food (sugars) made by the leaves to the rest of the tree. There is an inner ring of cells (xylem) which again make a set of vertical tubes to carry the water and minerals from the roots to the leaves. The most amazing thing is how the tree gets the water from ground level to the height of the tree. The main process for this seems to be the evaporation of water from the leaves which then pulls the narrow columns of water up the tree without the use of a single pump! These xylem cells die after one year and then make up the tree rings that you see when a tree is cut down. In countries with set seasons only one ring is produced every year and so this gives us an accurate measure of the age of the tree.
Did you also know that the rings can give a good indication of the weather conditions at the time they were formed? Wetter, sunnier weather lead to more growth and causes the rings to be further apart.
So next time you look at your tree, give a thought to how clever it is.