Staring at oak trees

A muggy day in London. I wandered slowly down to a narrow street half a mile from the Town Hall. A resident had been complaining repeatedly about the ‘weeds’ at the bottom of the tree outside her house. I had guessed already that it was basal epicormic growth rather than weeds. What I hadn’t guessed, after her persistent bothering of us, was that none of the growth would be longer than 25cm long. Not really worth the trip, but I cut it back anyway and sent a terse email to tell her I’d done it.

This afternoon it was time for our annual check for Oak Processionary Moth. OPM is an irritant to humans and defoliator of oaks, although it is mostly a risk to tree surgeons. Most people don’t want to touch hairy caterpillars anyway. So I spent half the day staring up into the crowns of oaks. The native oaks were dense and complex, a pleasure to look at, even though the task of looking for OPM caterpillars is fundamentally rather tedious. The park also has plenty of turkey oaks, an inferior tree not just in the strength of its wood and longevity, but in the attractiveness of its crown. It is a simpleton compared to Quercus robur. Alas, it reproduces much more readily and is slowly taking over the park.

Looking up until you get a crick in your neck is never good for your mood, but I realised I had been irritable all day. Was it really our awkward residents making me grumpy, or was it in fact the hay fever that has been getting worse year on year? I repaired to the chemist for a nasal spray and will report back on any mood improvements tomorrow.