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Sunday, 17 May 2015

Beech branch failure

This picture is of a Beech tree branch in a wood at Todmorden, which has recently split along the centre. This is caused by the loading on the upward growing branch trying to reduce the curvature. In tree terms it is known as a 'Hazard Beam'.

These splits can be good habitats for wildlife but this branch will fail at some stage. On the main trunk there are some curious buckling ridges which show the tree has been under stress for some time.

I don't know whether it is general in the valley but in Todmorden many mature Beech are rapidly loosing vigour and collapsing. It doesn't seem to be necessarily old age that is the problem; I have seen Copper Beech loose all vigour and within a couple of years are dead.


Steve Blacksmith said...

Looks like an overgrown branch, not balanced by others of the same size the other side ?

The beech groves may only date back to the Industrial Revolution ( I have heard they were planted to supply the factories with "consumables" like wheeled skips with beech frames and wicker sides, but can't give a reference) but they are a beautiful and distinctive landscape feature in our woods.

I don't think they should be included in the new sunlit clearings project.

The bare floor is part of the distinct character and is not always bare. It can hold bird'nest orchid, old man of the woods fungus, and bramblings feeding on the beechmast seed. It's also great for kids to dash around or ride their bikes.

Philip said...

Hi Steve, You have a point about leaving old mature Beech alone. The problem now is young Beech saplings growing amongst the Oak woodlands, which will eventually overtop them and kill the Oaks.
By the way; what is the "new sunlit clearings project"?

Steve Blacksmith said...

There may be some scope for preventing the spread of beech, I agree.

The sunlit clearing project I don't give capitals to as I don't think it is a formal project, but it is the latest thinking that woodlands are often enhanced by clearing trees in areas to allow the sun in, hence more flowering plants, more bees and other insects to feed birds, etc. Calderdale Council are trying it at Scarr Wood, Skircoat,possibly other places, and the National Trust are doing it at Hardcastle Crags.

Peachysteve said...

There is an area in Rough Hey Wood which has recently had this treatment. Maybe half of the Beech trees have had all the branches and tops cut off and new trees have been planted.