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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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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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OneOak tree is laser scanned

posted on January 18, 2010

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/.

Category: OneOak project, SCIENCE
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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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How much wood?

posted on October 20, 2009
Phil Koomen and James Binning debating the quality of the OneOak tree

Phil Koomen and James Binning debating the quality of the OneOak tree

Wood gurus James Binning from Deep in Wood sawmill and furniture designer Phil Koomen visited the OneOak tree this week. We asked for their expert opinion as to the possible amount of usable timber we may be able to harvest from the tree. We hope to be able to make many wooden products from the OneOak’s timber and these will need good quality wood – free of knots and bends. Those parts of the tree with such ‘defects’ will be used for other things such as wood for creating heat or energy, or for smaller craft items.

James and Phil thought that it should be possible to cut some good quality timber from the OneOak tree but it may contain less than its large size suggests. There is a heavily-branched section midway up the main stem that may prove difficult to cut to produce the best quality timber.

At the end of the day, foresters only know the quality and quantity of usable timber from a tree when it is felled – so we will have to wait and see!

Category: OneOak project, Wood
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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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Leaf area measurements

posted on September 30, 2009

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.


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Stunning canopy images

posted on September 18, 2009

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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Forest Research scientists visit the OneOak tree

posted on September 9, 2009
Forest Research scientists measure the OneOak tree

Forest Research scientists measure the OneOak tree

Matt and Ian from Forest Research visited the tree today. They work with the government research agency as scientists specialising in tree measuring or ‘mensuration’.

Matt brought along a hemispherical camera – basically a normal camera fitted with a fisheye lens. A fisheye produces a picture that takes in an amazing 180 degrees field of view. We will be posting some the images that were taken with the fisheye on the website soon. Images taken looking up at the canopy will be analysed with special software that will calculate the leaf area index – effectively a measure of how much sky is visible between the leaves. This will be used to calculate the biomass of the tree.

Ian used some other equipment to measure tree height, timber height, crown width and stem diameter. Below is a picture of Ian using a hypsometer – this uses pythagoras to calculate (from a known distance from the tree + the the angle to the top of the tree) the total height of the tree. Look carefully at the photograph and you can see the distance to the tree is 36.3m. The tree measurements below it are the three different angle readings to the top of the tree. These will average at about 22.6m. However, after more readings from all directions, the final height of the tree has been estimated to be 23.9m.

We had estimated that the tree was 17.5m. We now know that we were quite inaccurate (or it grew 5+ metres in one year!). We look forward to receiving the detailed results from our friends at Forest Research, and will post them here in the OneOak blog, and on the web pages when available. You can read more on our Tree Facts & Figures page.

A hypsometer is use to measure tree height

A hypsometer being used to measure tree height

Our thanks to Ian and Matt and to Forest Research.


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