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Oak seedlings are thriving

posted on September 15, 2010

We are delighted to report that about 50 young oak seedlings have been raised successfully by Nicholsons, ready to be planted at the OneOak site this coming Winter.

If you have been following the story about the seeds so far, you will know that the OneOak tree did not produce any viable seeds in the Autumn before it was felled.  However, with the help of school children and the staff at Blenheim Palace we did manage to collect acorns (oak seed) from some of the wonderful ancient oaks around the Blenheim Estate.  These fifty oak seedlings have been skilfully raised by the nurserymen and women at Nicholsons during this summer.  We will need to bring in some additional 200 other oak seedlings ready for the planting of the site this Winter.   Every one of the 250 children who watched the tree being felled, and who have been working in so many other ways with us in the OneOak project, will soon be returning to the woodland to each plant one young tree.

Our thanks to Jane King for the photos, and our admiration to Nicholsons for their green fingers.

You can read more about the seed story by searching for ‘seeds’ in the search box.

Category: The Tree

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OneOak tree weight competition – the winning answer

posted on September 6, 2010

In May we launched an online competition to Guess the Weight of the OneOak treeread more.

The competition closed at the end of August and we have one lucky winner who will receive a beautiful hand-carved bowl, made by master craftsman Martin Damen (see Martin Damen’s website).

The winning answer of 14.662 tonnes was only 277kg out from the correct answer of 14.385 tonnes (14385 kg).  Two runner up prizes will be presented, for the next two nearest guesses of 15.100 and 15.421 tonnes.

Foresters use tables to estimate the volume and weight of timber from a tree but these exclude the crownwood.  As you can see below, the crownwood actually weighed more than the tree’s massive stem; effectively 58% of the total weight.  This answer seems to have foxed even some of the best scientists who had a go at estimating the tree’s total weight.

The complete weight details:
Stem to timber height        6036kg
Branchwood to 7cm           6137kg
Branchwood 7 – 4cm          1000kg
Lop&top < 4cm                  1212kg
Total Wt                           14385kg

Thank you to Ian Craig and colleagues of Forest Research who worked tirelessly over two days in the cold and wet to weigh every limb, branch and twig of the OneOak tree, and who then completed some serious number crunching in the laboratories of Forest Research at Alice Holt.


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The OneOak tree may be older than we thought

posted on June 28, 2010

Dendrologist Daniel Miles, of Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory, has started work on the samples he collected from the OneOak tree when it was felled in January.  Work in studying the tree rings to estimate the tree’s age and to look at its growth history is not yet complete.  However, Daniel has revealed some stunning news:

  1. All slices have now dried out with this spell of warm weather, and radial sections have now been cut, and the surfaces have been planed and sanded to a very high standard of smoothness, essential to ensure every ring can be clearly seen and measured under the microscope.  Even so, there is a band of rings in the first large branch, 33 feet above the ground, which was found to be rotten.  This branch has had a very serious injury to it sometime in the past and had virtually died, with a band of exceptionally narrow rings which will be almost impossible to measure, let alone count.  This is the branch that they had hoped to use as a brace at the Wallingford Museum but was found to have a rot pocket when cut; this is directly related to this band of very narrow rings.
  2. Another interesting fact is that the preliminary ring count of the base of the tree, at one foot above the ground, is about 225 years, so the tree seems to have started growing shortly before 1785.

So, the tree experienced some form of major damaging event in its past, and it is about 65 years older than we thought.  The exact details have yet to confirmed but a planting date of 1785 or before would place its planting during the major landscape design phase of the Blenheim Estate undertaken by ‘Capability’ Brown.


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A new generation of OneOak trees germinate

posted on June 24, 2010

In November we wrote about the children collecting oak acorns from the many beautiful oak trees around the Blenheim Palace Estate (read more here).  2009 was not a good year for oak seed collecting as very few trees had produced many acorns.  We had feared that even the 50 seeds that we thought looked healthy, still might not germinate.

Oak seedlings growing in the hands of Nicholsons

Oak seedlings growing in the hands of Nicholsons

Under the skillful watchful eyes of tree nursery Nicholsons we are all delighted that many of the acorns have germinated.  A new generation of OneOak trees are now growing strongly.

We will soon be planning the replanting of the woodland area where the OneOak tree was felled.  We will have to add another 200 or so oak seedlings to our own Blenheim seedlings, so that every child involved in the project can plant a tree.  The replanting will probably take place in February 2011.


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Nature evolves at the OneOak site

posted on May 17, 2010

Nature is repairing herself at the woodland where the OneOak tree was felled in January 2010.  Foresters at Blenheim Estate have also given nature a helping hand by leaving habitat piles.   Piles of branchwood have been left to provide homes for wildlife, for small mammals such as voles, and for insects and fungi that thrive on decaying and dead wood.  These piles of wood will also return essential nutrients to the soil and help the next generation of trees to grow.

When the massive OneOak tree was felled the woodland instantly changed.  The absence of the majestic spreading crown of the OneOak tree was stark although more winter sun warmed the woodland floor. Marks in the leaf litter from forestry tractors and hundreds of trampling feet were still visible two months later.

Now that Spring has arrived the transformation of the site is well underway.  Bluebells are in full bloom and the first fronds of bracken unfurling, even in between the tractor treads and around the stump of the OneOak tree.

We look forward to returning in the Autumn to plant the next generation of oak trees.  Click on the images below to see more.


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Guess the tree weight competition – win great prizes

posted on May 13, 2010
Weighing the OneOak tree

Enter our free competition and you have a chance to win some super prizes.  Simply try to guess the weight of the OneOak tree.

For perhaps the first time ever in science, an entire mature oak tree has been weighed; from the massive main trunk down to the smallest twigs at the tips of the branches.  Scientists from Forest Research have now completed their calculations on the OneOak tree and we now know the entire weight of the tree … but we are not telling you – at least not yet!

Prizes include beautiful wooden hand crafted items, made from the wood of the OneOak tree by leading traditional woodworker Martin Damen.  Winners will also receive a Year’s Subscription to Living Woods magazine.

What do you think the OneOak tree weighed?

Read more and Enter the competition

skechers irvine

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The secret world of the OneOak mosses

posted on April 22, 2010

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


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Children sow a new generation of oak trees

posted on November 5, 2009

Niel Nicholson of Nicholson Nurseries visited Bladon Primary school today to help sow the next generation of oak trees.

We have already posted the story of how difficult it has been to collect acorns this autumn see here. With help from many of the staff of Blenheim Palace, the total number of seeds collected by the children and other volunteers across the whole Blenheim Estate amounted to one bucket-full. The year 2009 has certainly not been a good year for oak seed generation. Not only were there few seeds but many were not viable.

Niel showed the children how good seed (acorns) will sink in water and the children then worked to separate the floating seeds from the healthy sinking seeds. It was disappointing to find that from our collection only 50 were probably healthy seeds. The children counted 1380 acorns that were non-viable!

Undetermined the children got to work sowing the 50 healthy seeds in the rootrainers. Nicholsons will raise the seedlings in their nursery in North Oxfordshire with help from the children during the year. Let’s hope that as many as possible of our precious 50 sown seeds germinate and then survive as seedlings.

Niel Nicholson with Bladon Primary Years 3 and 4 children and teacher Carolyn Thorne

Niel Nicholson with Bladon Primary Years 3 and 4 children and teacher Carolyn Thorne


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Difficulties collecting acorns

posted on October 13, 2009

Collecting seeds (acorns) from the OneOak tree has been a long-standing plan. Unfortunately the tree had other ideas and has produced very few acorns this year.

Growing a new generation of oak seedlings is an important part of the project as it will actively demonstrate the cycle of life and the sustainablility of growing trees. Nicholson Nurseries have kindly agreed to help the school children who collect acorns to grow them to produce oak seedlings. We plan to plant a new generation of ‘OneOaks’ in autumn 2010.

Problem acorns: small, rotten or infected with Knopper Galls

Problem acorns: small, rotten or infected with Knopper Galls

Oak trees do not produce significant crops of acorns every year. Usually, heavy crops of acorns or ‘mast years’ come once every 4-7 years. It just so happened that 2009 was not a mast year. We have looked long and hard for acorns from our OneOak tree but have found only small and half-formed acorns that would never germinate.

We decided to look elsewhere on the Blenheim Estate so that we could at least collect seeds from the cousins of our OneOak tree. Luckily, other oak woodland areas seem to have produced some acorns although the crop is still very light. Many of the acorns are small or have been infected by the Gall wasp Andricus quercuscalicis that produces the alien-looking Knopper Gall.

Andricus quercuscalicis

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Planning starts for the tree felling

posted on September 8, 2009
Planning the OneOak felling

Planning the OneOak felling

We held a meeting at the OneOak tree today. Foresters Paul Orsi and Nick Baimbridge of Blenheim Estate met with Sylva to discuss everything that needs to be done. From how the tree will be felled, to where we will site the toilets for our guests who will come to watch the tree felling at the public launch of the OneOak project.

This time of year the bluebells, that were so beautiful when we first found the tree, are long gone and the bracken is waist high. We met to discuss how we should best fell the tree from a forestry point of view. Also, because we hope many guests will come to watch the tree being felled, we need to start planning carefully so that everyone will be able to see the tree yet be safe!


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