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born 1788 ~ died 2010

Based on the estate records of Blenheim Palace we had thought that the woodland containing the OneOak tree was probably planted in the 1850s, making the tree 160 years old.

Once that the tree had been felled we were able to use dendrochronology (tree-ring counting) to provide an exact date.  Leading dendrochronologist Daniel Miles, of Oxford Dendrochronological Laboratory, collected seven discs from the main tree stem and from one branch immediately after felling. Our original thought that the tree was about 160 years old proved to be a large underestimate.

The lowest sample disc, taken about 30 cm above ground level, proved that the tree was 30 cm tall in 1790. The tree probably generated naturally in 1788: making it 222 years old when felled in 2010.  It was almost the height of a two storey house by the time of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

The OneOak tree started growing the same year that:

  • the London Times was first printed
  • the beginnings of the French Revolution
  • Mozart composed his last symphony
  • Lord Byron was born

Read more about the OneOak dendrochronology

Moss expert or Bryologist Jacqueline Wright collected moss samples from the OneOak tree on the day that it was felled.  Jacqueline volunteers for Shotover Wildlife which is a voluntary organisation founded to research and communicate the importance of Shotover Hill for wildlife. Jacqueline has written the following article for the OneOak project.

Green Fuzz!

Mosses are the green fuzz that everyone knows about but no one notices. It was the same for me until I was shown a moss capsule under a hand lens. I was entranced. How could anything so small be so utterly exquisite? This is moss! A miniature world of natural wonder, stems and leaves so tiny you need a handlens to experience their beauty. Velvets, silks, glowing satin sheens and translucent layers of light are all part of the deep, lush world of mosses.

Life can be such a rush that the timeless world of these bryophytes (mosses and liverworts together) is of little consequence to anyone. But make space to quietly and attentively focus down on the green carpet beneath your feet and you’re in for a treat. And so it is for the mosses of the One Oak project.

As the various forest researchers fell upon the tree on the One Oak Felling Day, and set to work measuring and weighing the trunk, branches and twigs, so I too clambered over, under and between, handlens at the ready to see what mosses were to reveal themselves in the tree canopy, beyond the sight and reach of any human-sized moss hunter during its life as a standing tree.

Mosses love wet weather and they were swollen full of sleety rain on Launch Day, with their cushions and mats lending a soft carpeting layer to the trunk and branches of the One Oak, each moss showing off its own rich vibrant green, bronze, olive or gold.

Beautiful Latin!

As well as their sheer beauty, they have the loveliest Latin names, so given that whichever language is spoken, everyone worldwide knows which plant is being referred to. Try the poetic rhythm of these; Porella platy-phylla, Cepha-loziella ham-peana, or Chilo-scyphus poly-anthos. Like little songs of nature. Or if you want a longer one: Bryo-erythro-phyllum recurvi-rostrum, a tiny moss with a big ego! When broken down into their constituent parts like this it can be appreciated how descriptive and useful the names are in helping to understand the plant. For example, Bryo-erythro-phyllum recurvi-rostrum means moss (Bryo), with red (erythro), on the leaf (phyllum), with curled under leaf margins (recurvi), and a ‘beak’(rostrum) on the capsule.

All mosses and liverworts have also been given English names and this can help if you are not used to Latin.

Each moss has its own particular attributes that makes it a unique species. Often these features are at the cellular level and a microscope is needed to identify them.

Four different growth forms

There are 4 distinctive growth forms of Bryophytes and knowing this can help you make sense of the plants that you see around you.

In acro-carpous mosses the capsule (carpous) arises from the apex or tip (acro) of the upright stems. In pleurocarpous ones the capsule grows from the side branches or ‘ribs’ (pleuro) with the plants forming widely spreading mats.

For the liverworts, thallose and foliose growth forms can be readily picked out as different; thallose plants consisting of flat plates or ribbons of green tissue that don’t have separated stem and leaves, in contrast to foliose ones that have their leaves in rows down each side of a distinct stem.

Platygyrium repens

Platygyrium repens is a handsome, bronzed species I found in the lower canopy of the One Oak

Some of the mosses found on the One Oak

Platygyrium repens, the Flat-brocade Moss was until recently a nationally scarce moss. It is now on the increase and has found a favourable home on trees at Blenheim Palace. It is a handsome, bronzed species I found in the lower canopy of the One Oak, and is a mat-forming pleurocarpous moss, with tiny but distinctive brush-like bristles at the ends of its branches. These branchlets break off to make new plants. The moss is thought to be an alien, having crept almost un-noticed into the UK in 1945 but not recognized as a new species until 1962.

Dicranoweisia cirrata or Common Pincushion looks just like one, with its many capsules splayed out like dressmakers pins. This is an acrocarpous species that loves acidic conditions, whether acid rain or acidic bark so is described as an acidophile. Oak has an acidic bark and there were a few cushions on the trunk.

Hypnum resupinatum is known as the Supine Plait-moss because of the plaited appearance of its tightly-overlapping leaves. It was growing in widely spreading mats over the deeply fissured bark.

Orthotrichum affine is the Wood Bristle-moss featuring straight-haired bristles on the delicate hoods that protect the capsules whilst the spores inside are ripening. It grows on trees and was found on the branches.

Metzgeria temperata is a thallose liverwort, the only one I found on the tree. It grows in flat ribbons and is a subtle yellowy-green, found in a patch of about 2mm.

These enchanting plants are the gateway to a completely different world. It just takes a little time, patience and attentiveness to break through into this miniature landscape. It’s just waiting to be noticed …

Jacqueline A. Wright

The OneOak tree was laser scanned today as part of ongoing research making it one of Britain’s most studied trees.

The laser scanning research was supported by Treemetrics and the equipment and work was brought to the site by Leica Geosystems and scanning specialists SCCS; the foremost provider of innovative solutions in surveying, monitoring, setting out and mapping.  SCCS were asked  to complete a detailed laser scanned survey of the OneOak tree and surrounding woodland.

The Leica C10 Laser scanner was placed in various ‘stations’ around the tree and in just over 6 minutes at each station the scanner had measured a complete 360 degree field of view.  The scanner records close to 50,000 measurements per second that result in a ‘point cloud’.

SCCS will be producing a moving video image of the OneOak tree soon that we will put online on this website.  The snapshots above provide a tantalising look at the amazing quality of images available.  The data collected has produced a digital record of the tree, including its exact position, volume and many of the required dimensions.  The 3D model is accurate to within 2-3 mm.

Watch a video 3D animation of the OneOak laser scan on our YouTube channel

For more information on the software’s or processes used please contact Senior Technical Representative david.southam@sccssurvey.co.uk and visit the laserscanning forum www.laserscanning.org.uk/forum/.

Forest Research have now provided us with the results of their analysis of the OneOak tree’s leaf area.

After taking the spectacular images of the tree canopy with the hemispherical camera lens (see post of September 18th), they used special software to calculate how much of the sky was visible underneath the tree.

Leaf Area Index analysis software

Leaf Area Index analysis software

Leaf Area Index or LAI is the ratio of total upper leaf surface of vegetation divided by the surface area of the land on which the vegetation grows read more. Forest Research calculated that the LAI for OneOak was 1.4.

LAI values can range from 0 (no cover) to 6 (dense forest cover). Apparently our result of 1.4 is quite low for a mature broadleaved woodland. Scientists will now use this value in future calculations of the tree’s biomass.

We have received some stunning images of the canopy of the OneOak tree. These were taken when Forest Research scientists visited the tree last week to measure it.

Hemispherical image of the OneOak tree canopy

Hemispherical image of the OneOak tree canopy

Using a fisheye lens fitted to a digital camera, they took hemispherical images looking up into the tree canopy. This produced a complete circular image taking in 180 degrees field of view.

The picture here is one of many taken by the scientists. Back in their laboratory they joined these all together to form a complete picture of the canopy from all angles. They then used special software that calculated the proportions of light and leaves. This gives us the Leaf Area Index.

The Leaf Area Index is used to calculate the biomass of the tree. Read more here.

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