The oak and ash race

Ash before oak – we are in for a soak

Oak before ash we are in for a splash

In reality oak pretty much always  comes into leaf before ash. In the last fifty years oak has always leafed before ash. It has not always been this way – in the 18th century when it was less mild ash did often flower before oak – thus the quote.

Climate change has changed all of this – usually oak leafs in late March-May which is about two weeks earlier than 30 years ago. Ash usually leafs during April and May, about 7-10 days earlier than 30 years ago.

Not this year though.

I have 5 oak trees and a number of ashes.

Four of the five oaks are just coming into leaf but so are all the ashes – it is a dead heat.

Ash coming into leaf

Oak buds

I can’t really explain this as it has been a mild winter in a warming world so oak should have beaten the ash by quite a distance – any ideas?


Mystery tree with a mystery berry

There is a tree / shrub growing in the grounds of Lazenby House on Prince of Wales Road (next to Hope Hall) at the University of Exeter where I work.

Here are the fruits – anyone got any idea what it is? It is not a native and I guess it was planted as part of the exotic collection.

Mystery solved via Social Media – it’s a Strawberry Tree


Autumn leaves

I had 5 minutes to spare before I went to a lecture yesterday so I had a walk around the grounds of Exeter University near to the Queen’s Building. I really like the arboretum at the University and in the autumn / winter you can often get some spectacular colours.

I’m not entirely sure what species this is but it looks like a oriental maple?


I wasn’t the only one to have been attracted to the arboretum – someone had spent a long time putting together this rather impressive leaf / cone art installation – very Andy Goldsworthy!


Beech in autumn on Dartmoor

I was on my way to Lydford Gorge last week and diverted briefly onto the road Bridestowe. There is a lovely avenue of beech trees running down the road which I thought might make a good picture and capture the essence of autumn.

Beech 1
Beech leaves turning to gold

Beech 2
Beech isn’t native to Dartmoor but it is a huge component of our hedges and woodlands

A botanical mystery

A friend of mine was up at the Squash Club in Exeter yesterday and showed me some leaves and the fruit of a tree he had found in Heavitree Park – it was obviously not a native species but nevertheless it was a challenge I couldn’t ignore!

Black walnut leaf
The leaves looked a bit almondy …..

Black walnut fruit
The fruit looked a bit peachy …..

Black walnut nut
And the nut looked bit walnuty…

But none of it was quite right – overall it looked like a walnut but common walnut has a terminal leaf not just pairs, walnut fruits are quite oval and not round and walnut seeds are not quite that shape.

Collins tree guide
I looked it up in my Collins Tree Guide – a great easy to use book and it turned out to be a black walnut – an American species often planted as an ornamental species – for the nuts to taste good it needs to be a bit warmer than it is in Devon but nevertheless nice to see and solve the mystery.