Saturday, March 13, 2010

Older Elder


Most elders Sambucus nigra growing in hedgerows never achieve much more than large shrub-size and are usually short-lived, but when this species does have space to grow it can become quite a handsome tree, with deeply fissured bark on its trunk. This individual (double-click for a larger image) grows beside the road between the Derwent reservoir and Blanchland and like many mature elders it's playing host to a dense covering of lichens on its branches and twigs, that look very attractive in the spring sunlight.

The yellow lichen is a Xanthoria species - probably Xanthoria polycarpa - that forms a dense covering on most of the older elder twigs.



Elder seems to be favoured host for this lichen - most trees seem to have some and many are smothered in it. I wonder what it is about elder bark that that makes it a favoured host?

For more posts on tree ID click here

14 comments:

  1. What a fantastic tree Phil. I'm not too clever with my trees but will keep an eye out and try to spot more Elder in future. I do love trees covered in Lichen and Fungi, nice to put names to some of them. Can you recommend a site for Lichen I.D.?
    Cheers John

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  2. Hi John, it look terrific this morning when I rounded the bend in the road and saw it lit up with morning sunshine. There's a useful Natural History Museum introductory interactive key at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/jdsml/nature-online/lichen-id-guide/index.dsml that's helpful for the common species. The best book is probably Frank S. Dobson's Lichens: An illustrated guide to the British and Irish species, which has them all in, illustrated in colour. It's expensive (£34) on Amazon but worth having a look at at the library maybe...chers, Phil

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  3. These lichens do look spectacular in the sunshine at this time of year. Roadside works of art.

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  4. You have such interesting posts here. I'm glad I found your blog and I shall be featuring it at my side bar for the week of Mar 15-20. Keep up the good work.

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  5. It must have been a stunning sight to see it lit up in the sunshine. In the first photograph it reminds me of a piece of sea coral..... albeit a large one!

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  6. There is a fine looking Elder in Scotch gyll woods at Morpeth covered in that Lichen which on a sunny day makes the tree stand out. I always wondered what the species of Lichen is. Thanks for the wonderful post.

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  7. Thanks for sharing this Phil! We have a red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa)here in Washington State, but I've never seen anything like the tree you showcase here. The Xanthoria growing on it are spectacular! I did find an interesting reference(*) with brief mention that Sambucus bark is high in nutrients and has a particularly high ph making it an attractive growing surface for epiphytes. Perhaps this partially answers your question?

    *Bacidia adastra, B. brandii and B. neosquamulosa found in North-
    Eastern Poland. 2004. Kubiak, D and L. B. Sparrius.GRAPHIS SCRIPTA, 16, pg 61-64.

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  8. Hi Keith, It probably looks equally fine when it's in flower and in fruit ... must remember to go back at the right time of year..

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  9. Hi Autumn Belle, thanks for the kind comments. I've really enjoyed visiting your blog - it must be great to have a garden in a place where you don't have to worry about frosts..

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  10. Hi Lesley, yes, I think it's one of the most lichen-encrusted trees I've ever seen.

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  11. Thanks Nigel, dying elder trees are often host to jelly ear fungus too - seems like they attract hangers-on!

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  12. Hi Lalita, Thanks for digging out that reference for me - I'll check it out. Most kind. I've seen Sambucus racemosa growing in Scotland and there's one that I know of growing here in County Durham, but it's not large enough to have acquired much of an epiphytic flora. Really enjoyed your post on the crocus floral pigments - they are just coming into bloom in my garden now.

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  13. The Xanthoria looks like Xanthoria parietina to me. It's one of the most common lichens on both trees and rocks.

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  14. You may well be right Stuart - next time I'm passing I'll collect a sample and heck it out...

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