Monday, 21 January 2013

Cedar of Lebanon?

Cedar tree in Byfield Pocket Park
My friend Oliver Tynan and I often have long conversations about this and that, and if I mention that I have been to the Pocket Park he is wont to ask, "And how is my Cedar of Lebanon doing?" Oliver and his wife Carol did lots of planting soon after the park had been created and the tree to which he refers, here looking lovely in the snow, is a prominent feature.

It is certainly a cedar but whether it is really Cedar of Lebanon, Cedrus libani... The truth is that, until it produces cones, I can't be sure but at the moment it is looking far more like a Deodar, Cedrus deodara. It is a handsome tree and, as Shakespeare didn't say, "A cedar by any other name would smell as sweet". Sadly I have never found any insects associated with it - but I'm being picky.

The oak in my second picture is a different matter altogether. Oaks support an enormous number of insects, many of them causing galls. In my much-thumbed copy of Redfern and Shirley's "British Plant Galls", the keys to those found on oak cover 29 pages - far more than for any other plant.
Pedunculate Oak, Byfield Pocket Park
21 January, 2013

In Britain there are two native species of oak. Those found in Byfield's Pocket Park are all Pedunculate Oak, Quercus robur. (Our other British species is the Sessile Oak, Quercus petraea, largely - but not exclusively - found in northern and western Britain, growing on neutral to acid soils.)
Knopper Galls in Byfield Pocket Park

I have recorded many galls from oaks in this park including the Knopper Gall, caused by a tiny wasp-like insect Andricus quercuscalicis. The odd thing is that the wasp goes through a two-stage life-cycle, one stage involving the Pedunculate Oak and the other stage requiring Turkey Oak Quercus cerris, yet I am not aware of any Turkey Oaks in the vicinity. But I am on the lookout!

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