The RiverLife team had a fantastic tree inspection workshop with Friends of Polkemmet Country Park on Thursday, 5th September. Our 5 workshop attendees learned some things to look out for in spotting healthy (and unhealthy trees) near and around their local rivers. Among the many fantastic and diverse species in the park, we discussed identifying features of Scots Pine, Sycamore, Horse Chestnut, Lime, Beech, Aspen and Yew. We were even treated to a natural display of fungal wonders, seeing examples of Bracket fungus, Bootlace fungus, Oyster mushrooms and several more. Here are some interesting details that came out in our discussion on the night.
A Beech tree (Fagus sylvatica) that lives to be 150 years of age can produce up to 1.8 million beech nuts during its flowering periods. Of these 1.8 million nuts that fall to the ground in hopes of becoming little seedlings of their own, if the mother beech is lucky, exactly 1 will grow into a new tree. Not great odds!
Aspen trees (Populous tremula) get their latin name (tremula) from their leaves which tremble in the wind. We had an excellent natural demonstration of this on such a windy evening.
Yew trees (Taxus baccata) are one of only 3 coniferous species native to Scotland. They can live for thousands of years and one tree in particular, the Fortingall Yew in Perthshire, is suspected to be one of the oldest living trees in the whole UK at over 2000+ years old at least.
Bootlace fungus, also known as honey fungus (Armillaria), has rhizomorphs that grow like boot-laced straps and attach themselves to the roots and under the bark of infected trees before the appearance of their clustery, honey-coloured toadstools. Our group found a trio of infected Yew trees on our walk in various states of failing health.
Oyster mushrooms, or Pleurotus ostreatus, are saprophytic growing on mainly deciduous trees. They grow between summer and winter and are even edible.
Always be wary and take care when foraging as it can be very difficult to positively ID even the most distinctive of mushrooms. We recommend always asking for second opinions that can better confirm what type of fungi have been found and always forage responsibly!