The Ancient Tree Forum trip to Wimpole

Yesterday, the Ancient Tree Forum went to Wimpole, which is a 2,000+ acre estate owned by the National Trust, just south west of Cambridge, UK. Led by the head forester of the site, the day took us around a great portion of the estate, where we were shown not only old trees and their importance for saproxylic invertebrates (including many rare coleoptera and diptera), but also an ash woodland with coppice regeneration being battered by ash dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) and some woodland-borne elms enduring the devastating Dutch elm disease (Ophiostoma novo-ulmi).

Whilst the day itself began mid-morning, I – as usual – arrived very early, in order to explore. My aim was, principally, to find fungi, and I was certainly not let down in this regard, as you will see in the collection of images at the end of this post! More broadly, walking through the fields being grazed by both cattle and sheep, complete with many mature, veteran, moribund, and dead trees, in which some were evidently grazed around and others not, was a real treat. Such landscapes possess character orders of magnitude greater than standard park landscapes, which are basically lacking the grazing aspect that is culturally very important in the UK. Granted, not all parks can facilitate grazing, as people do lust for their formal parks, and letting grazing ungulates into specimen gardens is a great way to ruin the specimens (it’d be quite bizarre to see cattle roam across Kew Gardens), but those formalised gardens still lack the romantic feel of a proper English park.

During the guided tour itself, catching up with friends and acquaintances, listening to individuals contribute to matters regarding the management of Wimpole, and being around renowned experts in arboriculture, such as David Lonsdale, always means there’s things to talk about and much to learn. The intricacies of fungal associations with specific host trees, the destructive power of oak mildews, and the grazing of animals treated with veterinary medicines in the rhizosphere of mature and veteran trees, are not issues people would typically entertain, though in the setting of Wimpole all such discussions were completely contextual and highly valuable. The option of pollarding trees to manage for overhead power lines in the rural landscape might also make for interesting conversations in 400 years time, assuming the trees are still around and pollarded regularly. A far cry from why man traditionally pollarded trees, no doubt!

For those of you who are UK readers, please do check out the Ancient Tree Forum, and see if there’s a group local to you. For those not in the UK, perhaps there are similar organisations, and if not then perhaps even start one!

And now, for the myriad of photos (mainly of fungi on trees – who’d have guessed)…

A view of the house at Wimpole, which overlooks an impossibly long undulation of hills lined, either side, with trees. Visit yourself for a view of the avenue!
A view into the grazed hills of the Wimpole estate, complete with dozens of mature and veteran trees – oaks, horse chestnuts, walnuts, limes, sycamores…
Two lovely mature oaks (Quercus robur). The one on the right is at least 400 years of age, according to map records.
Before we get onto fungi, here is the Devil Squirrel high up in a yew tree.

I have segmented the below pictures into different sections, each with a title stating the fungus and the host.

Perenniporia fraxinea on Quercus robur

At the edge of a field, near to the main car park, sat this mature oak.
Hurdling fences is good exercise.
Tucked away snugly between two buttress roots!
Churning out white spore galore!
A little cross-section reveals a trama that is a light brown colour, and a tube layer a darker shade of brown. 50 shades of brown, perhaps? Just a little less exciting, for most…
A close view of the context, for those keen to see what Perenniporia fraxinea looks like inside.

Pseudoinonotus dryadeus on Quercus robur

A wonderfully broad oak, which recently shed a huge limb.
The shed limb can be seen to the left, though we can also spot the Speudoinonotus dryadeus lagain between buttresses.
Certainly a mature bracket, this will likely begin to senesce soon.
A look from another angle, just so we can appreciate how awesome this fungus looks!

Cerioporus squamosus (syn: Polyporus squamosus) on Aesculus hippocastanum

On this small knoll, are a few horse chestnuts. The one on the left is the one we need to pay attention to, because…
…it is host to dryad saddle!
Growing out from a branch wound, which may well have been the entry point for the spores in the past, too. The choice of emerging from wood not covered by bark is important, as not only may the fungus not be able to degrade the highly-suberised bark, but even if it could, producing fruiting bodies in areas lacking bark is far more energy-efficient.
Looking more closely, we can see how the stipes support the fruitiing bodies.

Rigidoporus ulmarius on Aesculus hippocastanum

A grand horse chestnut stands proudly in this formal area.
And boasts an equally grand Rigidoporus ulmarius!
Notice the white spore and colourations that liken it slightly to Perenniporia fraxinea. However, the context is different, as we will see…
…with Rigidoporus ulmarius, the trama is almost pure white and the tube layer a cinnamon-orange colour.
Here’s another small one on the same tree.
And another one, for effect!

Inonotus hispidus on Juglans regia

Exhibit 1 – a modestly-aged walnut.
Exhibiting a modestly-decimated Inonotus hispidus…
…okay, maybe massively decimated – and old!
And a second one, further up the stem!
Peeking out from between cracks in the corky bark.
Exhibit 2 – another walnut, of probably identical age.
Almost deja-vu, here…!
Looking up into the heavens.
When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back…

Inonotus cuticularis on Fagus sylvatica

Such a beautiful beech tree. Surely it couldn’t be tarnished by wood-decay fungi!?
It did a good job hiding it, but we found it!
Say hello to the internet, Inonotus cuticularis!
Somehow I managed to get this photo with my brick of a spare camera. A curious arrangement of decked and small sporophores.
A close-up shot of some chocolate gateau, for good measure. Extra chocolate sauce.
A cutting someone managed to grab!
The Ancient Tree Forum trip to Wimpole

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