Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Strangler

Back in 1597, writing in his Great Herbal or Generall Historie of Plantes, the herbalist John Gerard observed that " “Wood-binde or Hony-suckle climeth up aloft, having long slender woody branches........oftentimes winding it selfe so straight and hard about, that it leaveth its print upon those things so wrapped”...........























... just like this honeysuckle, growing in Hollingside Wood in Durham, is doing. It's climbing up a young rowan and the end result looks like a life-or-death contest between two writhing serpents.























The tightly coiled honeysuckle has scarred the rowan trunk but as the tree trunk expands it's beginning to grow over its strangler....























.... and lower down, near the base of the tree, the bark has almost completely healed over the top of the honeysuckle's stem. Give it a few more years and the honeysuckle stem will be absorbed into the lower part of host trunk entirely - a climber inside its host. So who is strangling whom?

The tree is struggling but the honeysuckle is thriving - and coming into leaf nicely.

For more on honeysuckle, click here.

18 comments:

  1. Oh, I thought this happened only in the tropics. Appearances are so deceptive- the mild Honeysuckle is such a strong invader!

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  2. I think this is the only climber that we have here that does this to its host, lotusleaf. Its victims make great curly walking sticks.

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  3. That was fascinating Phil. What with Honeysuckle, Ivy and Russian Vine some trees have a hard time to survive.

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  4. I was going to commong on the host making fabulous Harry Lauder walking sticks Phil but you beat me to it. What I didn't know is the honeysuckle trunk was fully absorbed by the host - fascinating.

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  5. I have a Honeysuckle trying to do that very thing to my Amelanchier Canadensis. Interesting that it becomes fully absorbed.

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  6. A great post. It also climbs with amazing symmetry.

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  7. Fascinating Phil. I didn't know the Honeysuckle was completely engulfed either.

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  8. I've just dashed out in-between showers to photograph a stick I made from Hazel strangled Honeysuckle, found growing on Arnside Knott several years ago
    https://picasaweb.google.com/110361230804093891776/Stick#5582113938239473890
    thought you might like to see ? feel free to use photo - cheers Danny

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  9. I've seen this a lot especially in beech woodland. At Gibside (near the Octagon pond) there is a triangle of beech woodland where there's a lot of this. What I haven't appreciated is the host/climber relationship; I've always assumed it was ivy on beech and hadn't looked too closely. I'll pay closer attention to the respective species involved in future.

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  10. I guess they're all scrambling to get their share of the light John!

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  11. Hi Andrew, I think maybe this example is fairly exceptional, with rowan trunks growing a bit faster than some other trees that are strangled...

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  12. Hi Toffeapple, I suspect that Amelanchier might have harder wood that offers a bit more resistance to the honeysuckle..

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  13. A fast climber too Adrian - great for covering old trees trunks and the like. Our shed used to be smothered with it - until it collapsed!

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  14. Hi Keith, I think this probably only happens with fast-growing trees that have softish bark..

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  15. Danny, that is truely a work of art, a thing of beauty.... thanks for the link

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  16. Hi Dougie, there's a lot of honeysuckle in woodlands around here but often you don't notice the flowers because it blooms way above your head ... it never flowers in shade.

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  17. Sorry if this is "off-topic" but I've been reading about Great High Wood and Hollin(g)side Wood for an assignment, and notice the variation in spelling. It's Hollingside Lane, Hollingside House, etc, but all the maps say Hollinside Wood. I wonder if it's an old corruption or whether one is a misspelling, or perhaps there's another reason. I notice most of the Durham University webpages use "Hollingside Wood". I am trying very hard not to get distracted by this mystery, and I'm not succeeding!

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  18. Hi Dougie, I've always known it as Hollingside but you often find these discrepancies between older and newer OS maps. Locally we have a small village called High Beechburn which is High Bitchburn on old maps. I suspect the older names come from surveyors who asked what places were called and wrote down variations based on local accents of the people they asked.

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