As part of the Urban Tree Festival, I'm attending an online creative writing event on Sunday afternoon. Amanda Tuke will be leading the class which will focus on writing inspired by street trees. (There may still be time to book onto the event here).
As homework, we were asked to spend at least ten minutes looking at street trees and the plants and animals that live on or near these trees.
Now Edinburgh, as anyone who has visited (or read many of my blog posts!) will know, is a very green city. We have several local nature reserves, lots of parks, two major rivers which are surrounded by nature for much of their lengths, over 43 cemeteries which are (to varying extents) wildlife havens. However, we don't have a huge abundance of actual street trees, as in trees that have been planted in pits and are otherwise surrounded by pavement.
Luckily, not far from where we live, there are a few side streets that have a good number of street trees.
The trunks of several of the trees were rich in lichens (mostly only a few pollution tolerant species as we are close to the city centre) and some had bristle mosses growing on them too. The photo below shows camouflage lichen, sunburst lichen (on this trunk it's green, but in sunnier locations, it's a bright yellow lichen) and a species of bristle moss.
I was surprised by how different the tree pits were around trees that were so close to each other. This tree for example is surrounded by grass
Close by, this tree pit looks very different
Here the short grass is mostly meadow grass and the other plants are dominated by ragwort.
In just the few streets I walked round, I saw the following species growing in tree pits:
Meadow Grass and at least one other species of grass. Chickweed, Cleavers, Common Mouse-ear chickweed; Dandelion; Mustard; Ragwort; Shepherd's Purse; St John's Wort and a small vetch that wasn't in flower.
There were, almost certainly, other species that I overlooked because they were hidden away amongst the rest.
It's not just trees that have plants growing round them though, I noticed this too
and what happens if a tree dies and isn't replaced?
It's really fascinating to take a closer look at these usually overlooked microhabitats!
I'm looking forward to Sunday's workshop!
Updated (20 May 2022) to add: You can read the writing that came out of the workshop here.
I enjoyed your post Juliet. The grass you were asking about looks like Wall Barley, Hordeum murinum, and I often see it in tree pits too. See you Sunday :)
Hi Amanda, thanks for reading, and thanks for identifying the grass. Looking forward to Sunday!
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