The world’s loneliest tree… and its ironic fate

A recent post on Damn Interesting drew the Ranger’s attention to a tree he’d vaguely heard of, but of which he never really knew the story.

Arbre du Ténéré in 1961. (c) Michel MazeauThe Tree of Ténéré in 1961

The Tree of Ténéré (or l’Arbre du Ténéré) was an acacia in the Ténéré desert, an area of the Sahara in Niger. It was the very last of a once-great forest, and towards the end of its life it was in fact the only tree in a 400 kilometre (250 mile) radius. This made it an important landmark, one which was marked with respect and affection by travellers in the great desert. Continue reading The world’s loneliest tree… and its ironic fate

You want a treehouse like this.

Who wouldn’t want a treehouse like this? Community-minded arboricuturalists Monkey-Do built it in Arundel Square, London. To fully appreciate it you need to check out the photos showing more detail.
Arundel Square Treehouse (c) Monkey-Do CIC

So, why is this particular play structure different to the pile of pallets your dad nailed up in the apple tree at the end of the garden?  Continue reading You want a treehouse like this.

The veteran takes a final bow

Walking in the leafy fields surrounding Quarr Abbey, on the north of the Island, the Ranger discovered a spectacular and sorry sight: a great veteran field-oak had succumbed to the recent storms and split asunder, with both sides having crashed into the ground.

Quarr oak

One side is broken off entirely, and the fragment that is still standing is profoundly fractured. In the season the field is normally the home to beef cattle, and so any regrowth from the stump will be so low as to be browsed off. So it’s unlikely that the tree will long survive this last, dramatic chapter in a life that has spanned centuries. Continue reading The veteran takes a final bow

Why I changed my mind and signed the ‘Save Our Forests’ petition

Hooray for the Telegraph, creakily mounting its well-worn soapbox to draw our attention to the forthcoming sell-off of Forestry Commission land.

Coppice hazel, Borthwood Copse

The controversial decision will pave the way for a huge expansion in the number of Center Parcs-style holiday villages, golf courses, adventure sites and commercial logging operations throughout Britain as land is sold to private companies. Legislation which currently governs the treatment of “ancient forests” such as the Forest of Dean and Sherwood Forest is likely to be changed giving private firms the right to cut down trees. The Telegraph, 23 October

Now this sounds like the sort of thing all right-thinking environmentalists should campaign against. And possibly it will prove to be so. But this Ranger isn’t so sure: there’s not enough detail in the announcements so far to really know if this is a good or a bad thing. But more to the point, some of the reaction to the announcement has been worryingly misguided. If we do ever need to run a public campaign to save our forests – as well we might – we need to do some serious re-educating pretty sharpish. Let me explain why. Continue reading Why I changed my mind and signed the ‘Save Our Forests’ petition

Save our Forests: this time we’re serious

At last, the Save our Forests campaign has developed some teeth, and, unexpectedly, a brain. From some rather unpromising beginnings, an internet-mediated discussion has occurred, a kind of public consultation, if you like, taking place without the assistance of the government. The resulting emergent campaign has turned out to be impressively well-rounded.

Save our forests

Today a letter appears in the Sunday Telegraph, accompanied by an impressive front-page splash. Finally the issues seem to be getting some serious airing – and it’s perhaps no coincidence that instead of breathless hand-wringing about private firms cutting down trees (which is already how the national forestry estate is managed, mostly) the campaign now appears to take some account of the realities of forestry industry. It has also put clearly at the front of the debate the key issues of public access and biodiversity. Continue reading Save our Forests: this time we’re serious

Conker fights: official rules

This seasonal submission from a Ranger’s Blog reader suggests a new historical and literary way to play the traditional game of conkers. All suggestions for variant rules will be considered!

Conkers © Mr_Benn

William Duke of Normandy was quite content in France playing ‘Conkers” with local dignitaries. However in 1065 during a severe storm, his last chestnut tree was struck by lightening and died. It is for this reason that in 1066 he invaded England, as England was reputed to posses the finest Conkers. This is why today William I is also known as William the Conkerer. Continue reading Conker fights: official rules

Why do Naturenet readers want to kill everything?

After the Ranger’s spam rant you’d have thought that he’d have had enough of ferretting in his server stats. But no. Inspired by the popular “How you got here in…” series posted on Village Idiot The Ranger has been looking at the various things you lot type into search engines before you arrive, blinking, at The Rangers Blog. Here’s an unexpurgated sample from the last 10 hours:

… how can I kill a neighbour’s tree

rubbish tips gloucestershire

ivy how to kill ivy

how to kill ivy

copper nail kill tree

what kills cane toads?

copper nails

wildlife blog

copper nails and trees

can squirrels be shot

copper kills trees

august 2006 sunset magazine

forest ranger home …

Do you see a pattern? It’s perhaps not too subtle: a kind of genocidal tinge. The Ranger has often wondered what it would be like to meet the readers who use the various pages on Naturenet. Maybe, based on this, it might be better if he didn’t!

More cherry, vicar?

Look at all those cherry trees. Lovely blossom, eh? Cherry is these days an almost ubiquitous tree in urban environments, and for a few short weeks in spring casts a delightful pink haze across our towns and cities.

Cherry blossom © Xerones

This year the Natural History Museum has started a survey of cherry trees, because they’re not all the same. Cherry trees are really easy to spot, especially at this time of year, and there are some good online resources to help ID them including a very impressive interactive cherry identification key, with a slightly more practical print-out-and-keep version too. It’ll be fun to see what sort of cherry you’ve got in your street, park or woods; and also helps with a wider scientific project to study urban trees. So go on, check out a cherry today! (thanks to Jon Heuch via UKTC)

Deathcap mushrooms: “The south-east Asian Problem”

This week saw the inquest into the death of a woman on the Isle of Wight who ate the deathcap mushroom Amanita phalloides and died.

Amanita phalloides © Archenzo
Amanita phalloides, the deathcap mushroom

Amphon Tuckey died in 2008, two days after eating a meal of cooked Amanita with her sister-in-law and niece, Mrs Kannika Tuckey, who survived despite becoming gravely ill. Both women were from Thailand. Deathcaps are responsible for 90% of all fatal mushroom poisonings in the UK and are said to have caused the deaths of both Roman Emperor Claudius in 54AD and Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI in 1740. They look innocuous enough, are pleasant to eat, and once you’ve eaten enough – and a small amount is enough – you’re highly likely to die an unpleasant death and no treatment will save you. But despite this common fungus growing pretty much everywhere, incidents of Amanita poisoning, let alone deaths, are almost unknown.

So what went wrong? Why did Mrs Tuckey die? Back in 2008 when this incident occurred, I was indirectly involved, as it involved a wild species (possibly) on council land. At that time I had do do some very quick research into Amanita poisoning and the risks thereof to satisfy concerned senior types who were advocating the immediate elimination of all fungi in public places and other such unachievable goals. Whilst I was easily able to calm down the over-reactors, something else I discovered on the way was very interesting. Now the inquest is over and done with I thought it might be time to bring it out. It has something to do with Mrs Tuckey’s country of origin. Continue reading Deathcap mushrooms: “The south-east Asian Problem”

Where did you get that hat?

It had to happen eventually – I’d been wearing that old hat for years, and eventually I lost it, somewhere in a wet field near Reading. Yes, gone, the very hat that appears in my picture on this blog. Still, it was probably for the best. It was a tatty old thing that had seen much better days – it didn’t even keep the rain off particularly well.

The Ranger's old hat

Look at the state of that hat! It looks as if it’s been sat on many times. You can probably guess why it looks like that. So this spring I went down to SCATS to see if they had any Barbour hats. Continue reading Where did you get that hat?