Trees of the month | December 2019
David Alderman, 19/12/2019
The Holly and (particularly) the Ivy
In this festive season it is interesting to see that 41 specimens of the common ivy (Hedera helix) have been recorded on the ATI. Ivy is a climber that grows biggest on a long-lived host such as oak and one near Barnard Castle, County Durham, recorded by John Durkin is 1.34m in girth. John says “The first ivy I've recorded. Not many people seem to record ivies; this is therefore the regional champion, and seems to be the largest recorded nationally. I'm sure there must be bigger ones.”
Although it is an under-recorded species John’s discovery does indeed appear to be the thickest stem of ivy measured in the UK. However, John’s ivy can also claim to be the largest in Europe because the best recorded is growing on a building, in Belgium, and only 95cm in girth. Tree recorders in the Czech Republic and Germany have reported potential champion ivy but as yet none have been measured. It is not always possible to pass a tape around an ivy stem to measure it and so the biggest may have to be estimated.
The presence and retention of ivy is often contentious and decisions to remove it should be considered on a tree by tree basis. The winter is a good time to spot ivy so keep your eyes peeled as you walk off the excesses of Christmas and you may just find a champion on a tree near you!
The Regenerating Rowan
Recorded and verified by Simon Foulds this is a remarkable example of the survival of a rowan through self coppicing and layering. Simon describes it as “one of the many amazing trees on East Hill (near Ottery St. Mary, Devon) just downslope from the footpath. Not far from here is a 9.5 m alder coppard and 6+m beech. Well worth a visit. Most of these ancients are on old field banks now fossilised in the wood.”
The Last Ent of Affric https://ati.woodlandtrust.org.uk/tree-search/tree?treeid=196972
The Tree of the Year 2019 for Scotland is reminiscent of an ancient tree-creature from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. This Wych elm stood forgotten in a spur off Glen Affric until a 2012 site visit by Forestry and Land Scotland, and Trees for Life staff. It is the only one of its kind in the glen and likely the last survivor of some ancient forest. The Last Ent of Affric has quietly lived hidden away from the ravages of Dutch elm disease that is spreading west through the Highlands.
Giles Brockman of FLS say the elm "is significant for being the only one of its kind in Glen Affric.” While the Last Ent's age is uncertain, "its bole is of a diameter that suggests a great age. This gnarled old beauty, damaged by some great storm back in the mists of time, has regrown, and now stands like one of Tolkien’s Ents watching over the rebirth of a new native woodland in Affric."
From observations, FLS staff have concluded the tree is home to a roost of owls, following the discovery of pellets amongst the tree roots. Beyond that, little is known about this brooding, solitary tree. "The origin of this great veteran is shrouded in mystery," says Giles. "The Last Ent is growing on the rocky outflow of a mountain stream, not a place where you would choose to plant a tree, there being little soil under the moss that covers the rocks. So this must be a survivor of a forest long departed, a sentinel watching over the new native woodland growing on the slopes below."
Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed to the ancient tree inventory this year!