Twiglet: Abies (fir; family: Pinaceae)


A genus of conifer tree in wich the leaves are crowded on the twig, often approximately in two row; they are needle-like and single, leaving a round, flat scar when they fall, thus producing a small twig.

The female cones are borne erect; they shatter at maturity, but the woody axis persists.

Many fine ornamental species are now widely cultivated for their lofty, deeply pyramidal, monopodial crowns.

To grown, the species require a most climate and are sensitive to atmospheric pollution.

There is about 40-50 species, widespread throughout the northern hemisphere, especially on mountian/alpine habitats.

Source: Oxford Dictionary of Plant Sciences

Twiglet: Abscission; abscisic acid


Topical for this time of year (in the northern hemisphere at least), abscission referes to the rejection of plant organs, such as leaves in the autumn.

This occurs at an abscission zone, where hydrolytic enzymes reduce cell adhension. The process can be promoted by abscisic acid and inhibited by respiratory poisons, and is controlled in nature by the proportions and gradients of auxin and ethylene. Other hormones may be involved.

Abscisic acid is a terpenoid compound that is one of the five major plant horones. Althought it is synthesised in the chloroplasts, it occurs throughout the plant body and is particularly concentrated in the leaves, fruits and seeds.

It has a powerful grown inhibiting properties generally and also promotes leaf abscission and the senescence of plants and/or their organs, and induces the closing of the stomata and dormancy in seeds and buds.

Its effect is antagonistic to the plant growth hormones, and it is thought to act by inhibiting the synthesis of protein and nucleic acids.

Source: Oxford Dictionary of Plant Sciences

Twiglet: Anne Frank’s tree branches out in the US


Saplings from the horse chestnut tree Anne Frank used to measure the seasons while hiding from the Nazis could be planted in 10 cities around the United States, the New York Times reports.

The Anne Frank Center USA wants to plant the trees in 10 US cities to symbolise the growth of tolerance. The three-foot (90cm) saplings would come from an ailing horse chestnut tree in Amsterdam.

Possible locations for the trees include the planned 11 September memorial, the White House and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. The center plans to issue a request for proposals for other sites.

Source: New York Times

Date: 17/04/2009

Frank was among Jewish occupants of an Amsterdam building rounded up by the Gestapo. She died of typhus at age 15 in a concentration camp.

Twiglet: Indonesian newly weds must plant trees


An Indonesian district in West Java, Garut, has started a unique program to support reforestation.

Mongabay.com reports that any couple planning to get married must give 10 trees to local authorities for reforestation efforts before the marriage will be legally sanctioned.

But it’s not just married couples that must support reforestation. Couples filing for divorce must provide at least one tree, according to Wibowo, the district secretary.

The new rules are the result of budget difficulties within the Garut district government, after the central government launched a plan to plant a million trees across Indonesia.

Source: Mongabay.com

Date: 05/03/2009

Lost golf ball found embedded in tree


A lost golf ball has been found embedded deep in the trunk of a tree at a golf club in Norfolk, UK, the Telegraph reports.

The tree had apparently grown around the ball which had probably been lodged in its branches many years ago.

It was discovered when Richard Mitchell, greenkeeper at the Eaton club in Norwich, felled the conifer and cut it into pieces, only to find the ball perfectly encased in the wood.

Club manager Peter Johns said: “It’s an incredible find.

“It was pure luck that it was discovered. If Richard had cut the trunk an inch or two either way we’d never have known the ball was there.

“We think the ball came off the first tee, went into the trees and was lost.

“It must have lodged in a fork or embedded itself in the trunk and the tree just grew round it.”

Club officials now plan to use the cross-section as unique honour board to record all holes-in-one at the short ninth hole.

The trees were felled during the winter maintenance programme after they were found to be dying and were draining much-needed moisture from the ninth green.

Source: Telegraph newspaper

Date: 20/02/2009

Twiglet: Trees and roots


  • First thing to emerge from a seed is the embryonic root – the radicle.
  • In most plants, this primary root will develop secondary or lateral roots that grow out away from the main root as the plant grows.
  • The growth of any root is dependent on a small ball of dividing cells just behind the root tip. This collection of cells is called a meristem; it generates new cells to extend the root and form new root tissue (such as the xylem and phloem – the conducting tissues).
  • A long tap root may develop in suitable soils, whilst, in sandy ot peaty soils, the lateral roots may dominate.
  • Studies indicate the dominance of the young tap root is often lost quite early in development in many tree species.
  • The deepest root systems are probably found on desert plants.
  • Tree roots do not generally occur too deep in the soil, with the majority of roots found in the top one to two metres.
  • Trees tend to have shallow but extensive root systems.
  • The spread of the lateral roots can be as great as the spread of the canopy or crown, even further in some cases.
  • One study showed that the root spread of poplars was three times the crown radius. This type of root system is sometimes referred to as an extensive system.
  • An intensive root system is one that is confined to a smaller volume of soil, relying on shorter lateral that have numerous fine endings. This system is seen in beech (Fagus sylvatica), which was one of the species that suffered more than most in the drought of 1976.
  • The survey of trees blown over in the October 1987 Great Storm showed that only 2-3% had distinct tap roots.
  • Oak, pine and silver fir are among the species with persistent tap roots.
  • Other species have what are known as “heart root systems”, where larger and smaller roots penetrate the soil diagonally from the main trunk. Trees such as larch, lime and birch can fall into this category.
  • A surface root system is one where the roots tend to run horizontally just below the soil surface, with a few roots going deeper and vertically. Ash, aspen and Norway spruce are examples of trees with these kinds of roots.
  • The root system depends upon the local geology, soil type, climate, drainage… so, if a local area is water logged, this will limit the gas exchange which in turn will affect the amount of oxygen the roots can get for respiration (which generates the energy needed for growth and the absorption of minerals).
  • When oxygen levels in the soil falls, root growth is reduced or stops completely — the availability of oxygen can also be reduced by the compaction of the soil.

Source: Woodland Trust

Twiglet: Horse chestnut


A native of Asia, probably northern India.

It was introduced to Europe in the mid-16th Century.

Records from Vienna refer to a horse chestnut in the 1570s, which was noted as originating from the first tree to be grown in Europe – a tree in London, which is understood to have been planted in 1550.

Its common name is attributed to the fact that young trees display a marking similar to a horse’s shoe where the leaf was attached.

Although too bitter for human consumption, they were regarded as a premier feed for livestock.

In the Victorian publication called Gardener’s Chronicle, it listed details of mutton being fed on the trees’ seeds.

It added: ” Geneva mutton is noted for being as highly flavoured as any in England or Wales.”

The terminal buds on each stem are very sticky. It is this coating of gum-like material that protects the leaf inside from the winter cold and frosts.

As the temperature warms with the arrival of spring, the rise in termpaerature breaks down the gummy substance, allowing the protective bud scales to fall to the ground.

Eventually, the resistance of the gum is weakened enough to allow the leaf inside to break through and emerge into the spring air.

Source: The Forest Trees of Britain by Rev C A Johns

Date: 1899

Twiglet: Wassailing ceremony


“Wassail” is Anglo-Saxon for “good health”, and is an ancient ceremony marked by farming communities on 17 January (old 12th night).

It involves the local community dancing and singing round apple trees in the orchard, and pouring cider around its roots before firing shotguns to scare off evil spirits.

Cider was important commodity in farming; some labourers and farm hands were paid in cider for their efforts. This meant that a good harvest of apples was essential.

The villagers selected a young girl, known as the wassail queen, who was then lifted into tree to, in turn, lift the spirits of the trees, preparing them for the spring and growing season ahead.

The villagers then placed some bread among the trees’ branches, as an offering to the trees and to the resident robins, which were the good spirits that protected the trees and ensured a good harvest.

Cider was then poured around the roots, and the villagers sang a wassail song:

Old Apple tree, old apple tree;
We’ve come to wassail thee;
To bear and to bow apples enow;
Hats full, caps full, three bushel bags full;
Barn floors full and a little heap under the stairs

After the singing of the song, the villagers made a lot of noise and shot guns were fired — this is to wake the tree from its winter slumber and to scare off any unwanted spirits.

Twiglet: Trees are farmers’ best friends


At the turn of the 20th Century in France, many flowering trees, such as hawthorn and whitebeam, were protected by law.

This was because the authorities knew that birds, which relied on the energy-rich autumnal fruits, would lay seige to springtime insects, which would otherwise damage crops.

Natural approach that delivered a safe, simple and cheap biological control.

France has had the right attitude towards trees for more than a century, yet in the UK the battle to recognise the importance of trees goes on.

Twiglet: Georgia’s New Year trees


In Georgia, each New Year, handcrafted, decorated trees sprout around the capital, Tbilisi, as emblems of prosperity and happiness.

The trees, called Chichilaki, are traditionally made from hazel and are bought by families to help them celebrate the New Year and ensure a year of wellbeing and happiness.

The sticks of hazel were shaved to resemble foliage, and decorated with a small cross, berries and evergreen leaves.

On the eve of the epithany (19 Janaury), the tree is burned in the belief that it will dispel bad memories from the previous year.

Source: National Geographic

Date: 04/01/2009

Twiglet: Holly


The holly, as a rule, blooms in May; male and female flowers are usually found on different trees; only female flowers go on to become berries, but only if pollenated by male trees/flowers.

Superstition: prickly leaves are known as “he holly”; smooth leaves as “she holly”. Whichever first comes into your house in New Year determines who rules house for coming 12 months.

(Twiglets are an occasional lighter, bite-sized look at trees)

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