Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Kingsdown's Stunted Oak

An email from John Carter reminded me that I hadn't had a look recently at the Stunted Oak on the shingle of Kingsdown beach.
Consulting the Kingsdown Guide (available online on Kingsdown.net), I see that Dennis Harle contributed a drawing but only a description in his article on the wildlife of Kingsdown:
'..of great interest is the procumbent oak tree which spreads, its contorted branches over a wide area of the beach.'
The tree, a common (pendunculate) oak, has a spread of branches of about 30' in diameter , and less than 5' tall at its highest point. This shape is presumably in reaction to the wind and salt from the nearby sea, and/or the difficulty in drawing adequate moisture from the thin soil - the shingle overlays chalk here, with very little soil depth.
It was trimmed a few years ago, as it was looking sickly after some hot dry summers. Judging by its leaves now, it seems reasonably healthy, but it appears not have produced any acorns this year. It would be interesting to know how old this tree is.

The trunk appears to be replaced by a number of lateral boughs from which the leaf branches sprout. Some Holm Oaks have seeded themselves under parts of the canopy, and have already grown taller - presumably these should be removed to prevent the main tree from being crowded out.

A recent posting on the RX Rye site described a similar oak on the shingle at Dungeness:

The Dungeness Oak 3rd November 2007, Saturday

As you drive to the lighthouses you pass a remarkably discrete forty year old oak tree, a metre or two from the inland side of the road on Dungeness. Its only about 1m high, due to the pressures of growing on the harsh shingle environment. Branches get scorched by salt-laden winds, and leaves devoured by the voracious brown-tailed moth. As a result the multiple stems grow sideways across the shingle rather than upwards, although they do not spread out as far as you would expect for a tree of that age. This is a phenomenon that affects a range of scrub and tree species on this site.

With luck it might end up like the massive prostrate oak tree on the shingle at Kingsdown Beach in Kent that is much older and larger. Sprawling across the shingle it is a magnificant sight. We probably don’t have any older oaks on the tip of Dungeness because until the early part of the last century the beach was grazed by 3000 sheep in the winter, and small numbers of goats all year. Dungeness Estate was remarkably clear of vegetation.

Beside the oak were some colourful fungi growing through the shingle.........
and feasting on the leaves were two insects which I took to be common wasps, but (noting the hairy thorax and abdomen and long black antennae) I assume they are something else. Any ID assistance would be appreciated.

Near to the oak and along the beach towards Deal are numerous evergreen Holm Oaks. These are common trees in the village, and grow vigorously as I can testify.....a small seedling was in our front garden when we moved in 21 years ago - despite aggressive hacking and pruning it is now huge. And we've got less than six inches of soil over the chalk.

No, that's not where we live, that's Walmer Castle, just down the road. The Holm Oaks have produced acorns this year.


John Carter said...

Thanks very much for that, Steve.
Doesn't look the way I had imagined. If I had come to your village to find it and didn't pass close enough to see the leaves, then I would probably have missed it. I will come at some point - looks like my kind of place.

Best wishes from John

steve coates wrote:
Blog duly updated!
Thanks for the nudge towards Brian Banks' interesting article on RXRye.

Hi Steve
I read on RX Wildlife, about a stunted oak tree at Dungeness and it referred to another one on Kingsdown beach, so I did a Google search and stumbled on your blog.
Best wishes from John Carter

Sharon said...

Hi Steve
I am always fascinated by the oak tree, long may it survive! It was suggested by another parish councillor that although some trees in the village have preservation orders on them he would like to see more of them catalogued and protected as in his road (kingsdown Hill) a few lovely specimens had been chopped down recently to provide more light in peoples living rooms etc. There used to be someone who looked after the interest of trees from Ringwould - alas no-one now. Might you know someone?. There is always pressure to build in large gardens and trees suffer.



Andy said...

The Oak was there when I was a child and seemed to be about the same size then, must be 70-80 years old or more.
Didn't know it had been pruned. It was attacked some years ago by a local who wanted fire wood.
The Holm Oaks that have seeded in it probably do need clearing out as they may well take over. As you know it is an SSSI area and also belongs to the Kingsdown Holiday Park I believe. Not sure who to contact about doing any work on it.

Subbuteo said...

The Holm Oaks have been coppiced (2015), and now their sprouts also need controlling. I think the two new Tree Wardens (2016) might have it in hand!

David Carey, Hadlow Tree Warden,
Kent Tree and Pond Partnership.

Kingsdowner said...

Thanks David, it was good to see the English oak emerge from the holms - will still need some controlling tho.