Friday, June 27, 2014

Outdoor Meeting updates

A couple of outdoor meeting updates:

Parc Slip:
'We have just heard that the Visitor Centre at Parc Slip will be closed when we have our field trip there on 5th July. We shall still meet as normal in the car park but please be aware that the facilities will not be available. Sarn Services just off the M4 which most will pass on the way there will be open.'

Gower Rockpool Ramble:
The Gower Rockpool Ramble with Judith Oakley has been rearranged for Sat 27 Sept. More details to follow.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Field Trip to Clyne Gardens - Sunday 1st June

by Bruce McDonald

We celebrated the official onset of Summer with our first visit to Clyne Gardens, close to the sea and between Swansea and The Mumbles. 12 members along with two guests from the Friends of Dyffryn Gardens enjoyed the company of Tony Titchen as we skirmished with some of the magnificent trees in this scenic park.

Clyne Gardens was purchased in 1860 by William Graham Vivian with much of the work in the gardens continued by his nephew Algernon, 'The Admiral', who had a major influence on it between 1921 and 1952.

We hardly scratched the surface, as in four hours we probably covered just a quarter of the site. Scope for another visit in the future? The estate is famous internationally for its collection of Pieris, Enkianthus and Rhododendrons (they were blooming and there's a photo of one below), yet we did not get round to looking at many of these - nor the bog garden, bluebell wood, Japanese Bridge, heather beds, Italian bridge, Joy Cottage and the wildflower meadows!

So what did we see? First stop was a Persian Ironwood, Parrotia persica, originating in the forests south of the Caspian Sea and related to the Witch Hazels (photo below). There are two forms, one arborescent, the other shaped like a tree. The wood is very hard, hence the name, and a number of us proved the point by banging our heads on the low-lying branches as we weaved our way around the trunk.

Next a cedar and a less common variety than the Atlas, Deodar or Cedar of Lebanon normally encountered in parks. This was the Cyprus Cedar, Cedrus brevifolia, with its Latin name indicating its short needles (below). There are three geographical sub-species and Tony commented that this was the best specimen he had come across.

Next a substantial oak, a Red Oak, Quercus rubra. If you examined the big leaves it was noticeable how the veins continued to a point on the leaf, a 'bristlepoint'. Tony indicated that the wood of Red Oak is tougher than English Oak and in the American War of Independence this provided American warships with an advantage as they were clad in Red Oak which was more successful in repelling cannon-balls than the English ships with their covering of Quercus robur.

This is a good time of year to catch the dogwoods in flower. Our first encounter was with Bentham's Cornel, Cornus capitata. The extended stems on the flowers (bracts) were eye-catching. Tony then demonstrated how to distinguish Dogwoods from Viburnums - with the former it was possible to gently tear a leaf in half and although separated they would be held together by thin strands.
Next a Macedonian Fir, Abies borisii-regis although Owen Johnson refers to it as King Boris' Fir. Those members who could smell anything agreed that the crushed leaves gave off an odour of grapefruit. A few erect cones at the top of the tree were evident but were really only visible with binoculars.

Now one of the more common cedars - an Atlas Cedar, Cedrus atlantica, and this a glaucous version. This also sported short needles and the Atlas is characterised by ascending upper branches. A short distance away was a clump of Scots Pine, Pinus sylvestris with their reddish bark colouring, particularly in the top half of the tree. Tony suggested that this along with Juniper and Birch were the only three tree species to survive the last Ice Age.
This is also a good time of year for the Paper Handkerchief or Ghost Tree or more correctly the Dove Tree, Davidia involucrata. An 'involucre' (one of our new words for the day) is a covering and the white 'petal' is actually an involucral bract covering the flower or inflorescence with the styles and ovaries clearly visible. Next a spruce and this one the Serbian Spruce, Picea omorika. We were asked to check if the needles were flat or round, the technique being to attempt to roll one in your fingers - if it rolled it was round. Ours wouldn't, confirming that the Serbian Spruce has flattish needles. Spruces also tend to drop their cones.
A Katsura, Cercidiphyllum japonicum, gave us an opportunity to compare and contrast its opposite leaves with those of the Judas Tree, Cercis siliquastrum,  which has them alternate.  A Tulip Tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, did not appear to be bearing any flowers, Tony noting that it can take 25 years before flowering. The Chinese Tulip Tree, Liriodendron chinense, tends to have much more narrowly waisted leaves.
Next a tree with few clues as to what it was although a visit later in the year should reveal the metallic blue berries which are a bit of a giveaway. A native of Asia it has various local names such as Glory Tree, Peanut Butter Tree or Harlequin Bower Tree but Clerodendron trichotomum usually works in the UK (photo of Tony Titchen with the Clerodendron below). The crushed leaves are supposed to smell of peanuts but we found it just unpleasant and Tony commented that its original name of foetidum was appropriate. A hazel with large and very soft leaves turned out to be the Turkish Hazel, the only hazel that will grow into a tree.
Our attention was caught by a Magnolia and this had a bit of history to it. A small. multi-stemmed tree, suitable for small gardens this was Magnolia liliiflora X stellata. The story goes that eight hybrids, known as the Eight Little Girls (one pictured below), were developed at the National Arboretum in Washington D.C. and were named after the secretaries who worked at the arboretum or wives and daughters of staff. They are Ann, Betty, Judy, Randy, Ricki, Susan, Jane and Pinkie. As I have a wife, Judy and a sister, Ricki, that is the next two birthday presents sorted! We never convinced ourselves which this particular specimen was, but Ann was a strong possibility.

We sailed past a Chusan Palm, Trachycarpus fortunei, which Tony confirmed was female as it was carrying berries and then had a look at some trees which exhibited twisting of the trunk - sinistral if it goes to the left and dextral to the right. A Coast Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, gathered us under its wings as we prodded the spongy bark. A fire climax tree  resistant to fire but which it needs to release the seeds from the resin-packed cones at the top. From the Oregon to Monterey area this is now probably the world's tallest tree as the Douglas Firs and eucalypts have been felled for their timber.
Glossy green leaves and floral spires on a medium-sized tree had us puzzled although Tony felt that Prunus azorica might have been a candidate with hints of Bird Cherry and Portugal Laurel. A specimen was detached so that experts could be consulted. Owen Johnson subsequently confirmed this was Prunus lusitanica! A holly provided Tony with an opportunity to mention that lightning is less likely to strike a smooth-barked tree like holly than one with rough bark although if you are caught in a thunderstorm avoid trees altogether! A beautifully elegant lime also refused to reveal its identity so had to offer up a specimen for further analysis. Owen confirmed this was Tilia platyphyllos.
And next was a Stuartia, in this case pseudocamellia, which was not only covered in blossom but had carpeted the ground underneath with its flowers:
A Brewer's Spruce, Picea breweriana, was the next favourite, its elegant weeping form described as 'lugubrious'. There are two white lines on the needles. And a weeping beech also cascaded downwards although the orientation of the branches was to the left. Time for one last encounter and this was with a multi-stemmed Himalayan Chestnut, Aesculus indica, also known as the Indian Horse Chestnut. Whilst the number of leaves varies the predominant number was seven (or more) in contrast to the Horse Chestnut's seven (or less) - if that helps! Indica is later-flowering than hippocastanum and the floral candles on ours were only just beginning to open.
The top pond:
Our thanks to Tony for another interesting, informative and entertaining day. A list of the more interesting trees noted at Clyne Gardens by Tree Guide author Owen Johnson follows.
Bruce McDonald
Photos by Bruce McDonald and Margaret Samuel
weeping spruce:

 Acer capillipes, Acer crataegifolium, Acer X freemanii 'Autumn Blaze', Acer pensylvanicum, Acer pycnanthum, Betula kenaica, Betula utilis SSP. jacquemontii, Callitris rhomboidea, Cedrus brevifolia, Cupressus macrocarpa, Davidia, involucrata var. vilmoriniana, Eucryphia moorei, Fraxinus americana 'Skyline', Juglans mandschaurica, Magnolia campbellii var. alba, Magnolia doltsopa, Malus hupehensis, Malus X robusta 'Red Sentinel', Malus yunnanensis, Neopanax laetevirens, Nothofagus menziesii X obliqua, Nothofagus solanderi var. cliffortioides, Ostrya carpinifolia, Pinus radiata, Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa, Populus glauca, Prunus serrula, Pseudotsuga menziesii ssp. glauca, Pterocarya stenoptera, Quercus castaneifolia, Rhododendron arboreum ssp. cinnamomeum var. roseum, Rhododendron decorum ssp. diaprepes, Rododendron falconeri, Sorbus decipiens, Sorbus X kewensis, Stuartia sinensis, Styrax obassia, Thuja occidentalis 'Spiralis', Tilia mongolica, Ulmus 'Sapporo Autumn Gold'.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Wildlife Trackers

Why not pop over to Wildlife Trackers – You are in for a lot of fun!

Did you know there are over 20,000 kinds of insect, over 65 mammals and 230 different species of bird in the UK?

No-one has seen them all but this game is a race to spot 90 of the most common creatures.

To find out how it all works and get started click here.
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