Tree following: June

It turns out that choosing to follow an absolutely humungous tree on a residential street isn’t just a problem because you have to lean out of the window to take photos. It’s also difficult because you can’t get a very good view of what’s going on. I might have to resort to watching my tree through binoculars, but that would make me look even more suspicious.

I like to observe the natural world in close detail but clearly I’ll have to wait until the leaves and seeds start falling off my tree if I don’t want to look like the neighbourhood busybody. So for this month I’ve taken a few pictures that show the whole tree in all its glory.

tree portrait

And glory does seem to be the right word for a fully leaved silver birch. I love the contrast between the green of the leaves and the paleness of the bark, and the way the foliage hangs down like waterfalls.



I did manage to capture one silver birch detail. I’ll confess that it’s not actually on ‘my’ tree, but on another one in the street (you can just see it in the background of the top picture).


At first I thought it was a new branch sprouting. But that doesn’t really seem right. It’s a long way down from the other branches and to me it looks more than anything like a silver birch seedling. I’ve read that silver birch seeds take root very easily in quite poor soil: that’s one reason why they are among the first species to colonise bare ground. So I’m wondering if this is in fact a seedling, possibly from ‘my’ tree, growing in a little pocket of organic matter caught in a neighbouring trunk. I’d be interested to hear what anyone else thinks.

You can see my previous tree following posts here and here. (May’s post fell victim to essay deadlines!)


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Tree following: April edition

There are a few problems with my tree following project. First of all, I am not sure what the neighbours think about me leaning out of the bedroom window and taking photographs. I am worried the people in the house opposite might think I am trying to spy on them.

across the road

The thing is, my chosen specimen is so enormous that this is the only way I can get a decent view of the individual branches.

From this angle you can see how splendid the tree is looking in the April sunshine. All those partially-opened leaves make me think of a gauzy veil.

healthy branch

Unfortunately I can’t see the leaves in any detail because the branches are so high up. I probably should have thought of that before! It’s quite reassuring that Lucy, the founder of this lovely tree-following project, has also chosen a tree that is difficult to observe from ground level.

Like Lucy, I find more than adequate compensation in the bark. Of course, the bark is what gives the silver birch its name and it’s one of the reasons I love this species so much.

silver bark

This classic silvery bark is fairly high up. About the first metre and a half of trunk is black and craggy. According to the Woodland Trust, this is a sign of age, since the pale bark ‘sheds layers like tissue paper’.


I’ve been wondering how old my humungous tree is. It’s one of two in our short cul de sac, which is actually called Silver Birch Avenue and presumably takes its name from the fact that there were silver birches growing here when it was constructed. Our house was built in 1906, when Edward VII was on the throne, the Liberal party was in power and England beat France in the first international rugby match (I love Wikipedia). The Royal Forestry Society says silver birches rarely live more than 100 years, but this one is so big that I do wonder whether it was part of the original planting.

There’s quite a lot growing at the base of my tree, including dandelions, goosegrass and chickweed, all of which are edible.


There’s not enough here to make it worth picking them, but perhaps I will take a walk in the woods later and gather enough to make weed pakora. I use this recipe – absolutely delicious