Thursday, 1 November 2012

The humble Orkney sycamore tries hard.

Sycamore in autumn, Orkney
Look can you see it? The trees here are trying so hard to put on a show for us. Its time for autumn to hit the local sycamores (Acer pseudoplantanus, to you botanist types) and colour them up. Peer hard and lean in really close, here in Orkney, we're ablaze with autumn colour. Ok, squint real hard and imagine this IS a blaze of colour. Its TRYING. Trying really hard. I focused my inner colour and helped it along, but I'm not sure I made much difference. Unless crispy brown was the look I was after. I don't think after a couple of gales and a bit of snow, its up for much more. Poor leaves, best shed them and go to sleep Mr tree.
Sycamores are often the largest tree you'll see in Orkney, they're really tolerant to wind and salt. Whilst there's a lot of chat for those 'in the know' about whether or not this is a 'native' or an 'introduction' way back in Celtic times, who are we to say. The main thing is that they make 'real (ish) tree' sized trees here, whilst some argue their monotony is bland, I rather like thier tenacity. Hey its a tree, here that's quite an acheivement in our gales and soggy soils. 
Orkney sycamore, leaves attempting autumn tones, with salty wind burnt edges.
So we can embrace its humble attempts at resplendant autumnal glory. See past the gale induced shrivelled brown edges, and bask in its last stand of hues and colours before those nasty pesky winds rip their leaves from them forever. Life in Orkney is resiliant, so fear not, autumnal help is at hand, here come the lichens to save the can always rely on a pesky algae+fungi miscreant to muscle in, can't you? I like to think of lichens as the sea (aglae) meeting the forest (fungi), and having a party, quite fitting in Orkney I think.
How beautiful are they? A beautiful 'collective' splendid show here on Jenny's tree. Who say's cat sitting doesn't pay, I was able to stalk her trees whilst she was away and feast on lichens.
A riot of Orkney lichens
Whilst they're quietly here all the time, once the leaves depart in a (mini) blaze of glory, the rich colours of the lichens take centre stage. Am I right? I do hope so, I do like to see a good collective of lichens rampaging about the place. Keep up the good work miscreant symbiants. Lichens are awesome, a rather cunning partnership of algae and fungi growing in perfect harmony together. Sometimes cynobacteria come to the party too, but its a bit early for talking about bacteria I think.
Lichens in all their wonderful forms.
Lichens come in all shapes and sizes from miniture tree like (fruitcose), tree hugging (foliose), rock/tree clinging (crustose) and a few other types, fascinating little things. I've no idea how they all manage to fit inside those tiny colourful patches (microscope generally required). So, to all fit in such a tiny space, I'm assuming they take shifts or time share or are just REALLY good chums. And, they do really good colour! But I'll stop now, or you'll think I'm attempting to be a lichenologist, which I'm not.
Lichens colourfully resplendent in Islay - Image from this website, from a few old chums.
So to leave the lichens alone, and let the Orkney trees sleep, most of us take a trip 'sooth' at this time of year and goggle at trees a blaze with the same tenacity the hardy local sycamores try to. However whilst we might have to peer for autumn colour in Orkney, on the mainland, unfettered by gales, and a cooler end of season climate, they (the trees) tend to be a bit more flownsy and become 'boldly' dressed in their autumnal glad rags. I do like a tree in a good glad rag mood, its just so jolly. So those of us more 'northerly challenged' often head down the A9 through Perthshire's 'Big Tree Country' is one of the most stunning sights at this time of year. And if colour is what you're after this is of our favourite 'tree fix spots'  one of my favourite places, its the home of The Hermitage. [Mr K the rings are bought......., I just need a suitable frock to match my wellies and a strong rake for my hair.]
The Hermitage, trees showing a bit more autumn colour
So if you see many a car with a person appearing to be feasting on trees at this time of year, (look for lots of pointing and gawping at trees) it might be one of us 'islanders' escaping for a bit of a tree fix. We did this last weekend. And it was great, thank you nature. We also found trees being 'bold' in Edinburgh when we trundled slightly further south. Cities are cunning, their trees hide by buildings. Very cunning indeed you hardly notice them at all  they just kind of lurk until they turn all autumal and shouty. That one is about to get a 'ticket' from the boldly coloured chap polishing cars (!) for being so colourful. He's just jealous that tree is far bonnier than him.
An Edinburgh tree lurking in secret, I'd like to say it was a sycamore, but sadly I never got close enough to introduce myself.
Our trip had nothing at all to do with the manchild reaching 18 and requiring accompanying to a dim sum feast in Edinburgh. If you happen to be hungry in Edinburgh, head for Siagon Siagon. They do exceedingly good dim sum.
Siagon, Siagon - Edinburgh
 Not that I had any on my tree mission, no no, see my bowl is empty, not a dim sum in sight. It was absolutely ALL about the trees. See there's another one hiding in Princes St Gardens. No ones noticed it yet, its not gone all glam and aumtumnal yet. Just wait, they'll spot it soon, or given the 'tram' craziness going on, it might just get away with glamming up in full autumn colour in broad daylight. The place is chaos, no ones noticed the trees further down shimmering in yellow, they're just walking on by. You see tram chaos is good for the trees.
Trees lurking in Princes St Gardens, Edinburgh
And now that we've seen several hundred fold mainland tree species (including some slightly more showy sycamores than the Orkney's beasts) reseplendent in their autumn colour (breifly) for this year, we've headed home. Whilst the humble Orkney sycamores slowly fall asleep, exhausted by their exertions this autumn I think we'll all agree they attempted to produce a fine show for us, prior to slumber which no doubt will follow another gale robbing them bare. Then they can then allow the lichens to shine whilst they take a well earned rest from the winter gales. In the mean time I'll continue to admire the lichens or maybe I'll be hiding in the colourful bracken, pretending I'm a giant surrounded by the rich autumn colour of their fronds, akin to a taspestry of trees on the hill side, colouring up nicely for us.
Autumnal bracken, Rackwick, Hoy, Orkney
I must get a better coloured hat, but the pigtails work well I think.
And what am I hoping you take from this ramble?
Lichens are miscreant rampant symbionts partying hard in a tiny space.
Orkney is perhaps not the Scottish county to come to for a riot of autumn colour. Perthshire has the edge on this one, but only just. The sycamores here try really hard. There's always next year.


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    1. Andrew how nice for you to pop by. I'm on blotanical although I must confess I'm not on there as much as I'd like. I've popped over and had a look and found a few familiar faces over on your patch! Goodluck with your endeavours! I may well give you a try.

  2. My dad always tried to get to Scotland in the October half term when I was a child - we used to spend the week near Aberfeldy, usually, in the heart of Perthshire, revelling in the scenery. Alas, I don't make it back so often any more, but we have just had a few days in Norfolk, and although it doesn't quite make the grade that Perthshire does, it was pretty good, and we really enjoyed it. There aren't a lot of trees in the Fens, so we have to make the effort! Thanks for sharing your photos xx

    1. Morgan I had a peek at some of your adventuring. Looked great. Perthshire is really something at this time isn't it. There are a few trees here, so like you we have to make the effort! Thanks for popping over.

  3. Your poor little Orkney sycamores! They're trying very hard, I'd like to applaud their efforts :) Loving the description of your trip :)

    1. Oh Jan thank you. The trip was a whirlwind as always. I blame the manchild entirely for picking a university as far away as possible. Not that I'm taking that personally of course. It was fun. 48 hours of trees, grub, snow, skiing and cinema too. Perfect whilrwind trip.

  4. Rings frock hair? You have a celebration coming up? Congratulations! Wish you both every happiness.

  5. Diana, the family joke is that if we ever actually MAKE it to getting married, most folk will faint I think. But, we do now have a prime location (which to be fair hasnt' actually moved) and rings. The frock and the rake for the hair will be harder to find. thank you for your good wishes, its very appreciated!

  6. Lichens are miscreant rampant symbionts partying hard in a tiny space.

    An awesome statement, very poetic and profound; just thought I'd point that out :D

    Vix (vl2588 from MSE)

    1. Aw thanks Vix! I do like a good rampant symbiont partying hard. Love lichens, the ingenuitiy of two species partying in a tiny space is just mind blowing!

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