Pruning with Le Sueur in 1949

Time of Pruning by A. D. C. Le Sueur 1949

“The usual period for pruning is carried out between the months of October and March when the circulation of sap is at a minimum or has ceased altogether. But with most trees pruning can be carried out safely at all times of the year except, perhaps, from April to June in the case of young trees and others in which excessive ‘bleeding’ takes place. As regards the danger to the tree this appears to be somewhat overrated. Beech wounds on trees of about 30 years in age, cut in May have bled for days without ill effect and, in fact, the wounds healed* faster than others made in winter.

Summer pruning seems to check the new growth to some extent, when dealing with street and other trees requiring frequent pruning. This is perhaps and advantage. The presence of leaves however, is apt to make the operation rather more difficult. Winter pruning, preferably on mild days, is quite sound practice, although it is realised nowadays that as healing* takes place more quickly during the growing season, pruning during the period April to September has certain advantages.”

Today, healing as a term has been replaced by occlusion of a wound.

The real advantage of summer pruning is that tree defences are active and the spores of fungal pathogens less abundant than in Autumn or winter

David Dowson

Pruning a fruit tree with pruning shears

Image: Pruning a fruit tree, via Adobe Stock.

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Le Sueur on Old Trees

A.D.C. Le Sueur, a former Superintendent of Burnham Beeches, revised his first edition of The Care and Repair of Ornamental Trees in 1949, which included a chapter on the preservation of very old trees. The following are some of the conclusions that he came to 71 years ago.

“In old trees as time goes-by they gradually die down-wards towards the trunk.

A low-crowned short tree will last longer than a tall one.

Extensive prunings must be done very cautiously, as old trees do not shoot in the same way as younger ones.

Extensive excavation to clear rotten wood from a trunk cavity is not recommend in all cases.

Using shelter/wind breaks is very important in protecting old trees from wind damage.

Where damage is expected it can be prevented by bracing.

The practice of draining hollows by boring a hole through the trunk to act as a permanent escape pipe is, for very obvious reasons, not recommended.

The removal of large branches from old trees should be done with the greatest caution.

The fertilizing of very old trees should be avoided as far as possible or done with the greatest of caution. Artificials with heavy nitrogen should never be used.”

Of course, the other side of the recommendations that also appear in the chapter advocate the use of the following:

“Water must not be allowed to lodge anywhere in the tree, a free run off must be made even if it means cutting away healthy wood.

Plastic bitumen can be used as a coating, cement used to fill a cavity, holes can be blocked by wedging creosoted timber in them and filling with cement, branches with a hollow cavity can be dealt with by ramming a sack soaked in tar or creosote and wedging in position with creosoted wood.

Water cups found in beech must be drained off or emptied and filled up with a creosote wash and concrete.”

Together we mustn’t let these old observations by dedicated men go unheard or unseen. Le Sueur counted tree rings from wind-blown trees and found the age of Burnham Beeches to be little more than 350 years old which today makes them approximately 420 years old. Worth a visit to see them, I’d say!

David Dowson


1890s sepia image of Burnham Beeches

Image: 1890s view of Burnham Beeches, public domain, via

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Tree Roots and Oxygen

This is a small extract from a book written in 1934 entitled The Care and Repair of Ornamental Trees. The author A.D.C. Le Sueur was the Superintendent of Burnham Beeches, a member of H.M Forestry Commission’s Advisory Committee for S.E. England and a member of The Executive Committee of the Royal Forestry Society of England and Wales.

“The root system of a tree needs air just as much as the leaves. This fact is not generally well recognised. Tree roots consume oxygen and give off carbon dioxide, and if the air supply is checked, growth will be seriously affected. A supply of oxygen is also required by the micro-organisms which break down mineral and organic matter to a condition in which they can be used by the root system.

Interference with air supply can take place in various ways. The piling of soil over roots is a common cause of death, especially if clay is used. Apart from the supply of oxygen a lack of free air circulation results in accumulation of carbon dioxide given off by the roots, and if this is heavily concentrated the roots may die. Displacement of air with water, faulty soil texture and the blanketing action of well-trodden soil over a root system can have the same affect.

Faulty soil conditions are responsible for ill health in trees to a far greater extent then is disease. No amount of repair pruning, fertilization can restore a tree to health if the conditions under which it grows are not as they should be. A knowledge of the way in which a tree grows is of the greatest importance to arboriculturists.”

Given that 86 years has passed, what has arboriculture done with that knowledge that would make the author proud of us? Can we, or should we, being doing better having had the knowledge all this time?

David Dowson

Tree roots in a sunny forest

Image: Tree roots in a sunny forest, via Adobe Stock.


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A 6 Nations Blog

G’day. It has been a while since the last blog, maybe nothing much has been worth scrummaging for between the posts. The winds of change are once again blowing across the pitch making small but important changes in direction. The Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF) will end for the ABC Awards arboricultural qualifications this season in September 2017 and the new Regulated Qualification Framework will kick off for arboriculture. The lines of the qualifications will remain largely unchanged, students are hardly likely to notice any change in colours. Jeremy Benson Executive Director for Vocational Qualifications states “We don’t claim it will transform the qualifications landscape, but we do hope it will help people to understand qualifications a little better and to use them more confidently”. The transition to a new RFQ game will be smooth with the learning outcomes having undergone a minor review of tactics to bring them up to date following their original inception in 2011.

Tree Life will be celebrating 20 years of existence this year, the forwards of the company confirm continued provision of level 6 for September 2017. The back line is shoving hard to maintain provision and go beyond the game line with level 6 with maybe adding to our team sheet. Levels 4 and 2 remain on offer for a few more championships yet. I’m not sure how Tree Life should celebrate 20 years of training; we have some good ideas although a Tough Mudder has been counted as definitely offside! All of us at Tree Life shall need to get into a huddle for a team talk on moves and pass a few ideas around between us.

What about something new and this is not a ruck! – an ecology course aimed at arboriculturists, this has been suggested by a couple of our current students however, I need to know what the needs are. We have a specialist Ecology consultancy/training practice lined up for this so it isn’t one of our team of arboriculturists or back room staff delivering it. Anything from what is ecology, bats, mammals, newts, birds, biology, identification, ecological survey basics, habitat surveys – phase 1 and 2, ecological site assessment, role of ecologists and invasive species identification and threats. So maul this over and see if anything interests you or if you have any other off the feet suggestions. Requests via email please if this is something that would interest you, the cost would be somewhere around our usual one day course ticket price at the turnstile.

I am very pleased that the AA has an agreement with the ISA and that we shall see some benefits of an association with a very large internationally based arboricultural group. I was involved with the ISA certified arborist qualification for quite a while a few years ago and always felt that this qualification had much to offer the UK arborist. As a training provider we have coached some candidates over the years to prepare for the multi-choice test and have done so recently in the absence of a UK/I chapter. Using our coaching experience we are assisting the AA to develop a more formal approach to this. The fact that it is a multi-choice test lends itself educationally to the very practical side of tree surgery work and allows individuals to attain the equivalent of a level 2 (my opinion) qualification (RQF). More news of the developments no doubt will emerge later in the year once the players have returned to their own teams.

Tree Life will be at the AA Arb show as usual at the end of season date of 12-13th May, hopefully Spring will have more than sprung! Our theme for this year will be pollarding. A very mis-understood term in our experience. Pollarding in Ancient Rome was mentioned by Sextus Propertius, a poet, during the 1st Century BC. It has been common in Europe since medieval times and is practised today in urban areas worldwide, primarily to maintain trees at a predetermined height.

“Poll” was originally a name for the top of the head, and “to poll” was a verb meaning “to crop the hair”. This use was extended to similar treatment of the branches of trees and the horns of animals. A pollard simply meant someone or something that had been polled. Later, the noun pollard came to be used as a verb: “pollarding”. Pollarding has now largely replaced polling as the verb in the forestry sense. Traditionally, trees were pollarded for one of two reasons: for fodder to feed livestock, or for wood. To be ‘polled’ at rugby these days earns a red card! It’s not rugby as some might say with an Australian accent.

Tree Life receives many questions relating to awards, certificates and diplomas awarded by ABC Awards in line with Government requirements. Perhaps we could have a bit of overtime here and kick the confusion into touch. The Government of the time required all vocational qualifications under the QCF to be developed in sizes hence award, certificate and diploma with an idea that a student progressed from one size to another. But also that each was a qualification in its own right. The team developing the arb qualifications for ABC Awards followed that principle. However, arboriculture at that time had very good qualifications namely the

Royal Forestry Society (RFS) certificate in Arboriculture at level 2;

Arboricultural Association (AA) Technicians Certificate in Arboriculture at level 3; and the

Royal Forestry Society Diploma in Arboriculture at level 6

all operated by ABC Awards.

At present the QCF certificate at level 2 is the direct replacement for RFS certificate, the QCF Diploma at level 4 is the direct replacement for the AA Technicians Certificate at level 4 and the QCF Diploma at level 6 is the direct replacement for the RFS Diploma.

Tree Life AC Ltd chooses to offer the diploma at level 4 and 6 as a priority, a grand slam you might say, because they are the direct replacements for the older well recognised qualifications. To achieve a certificate can be a ‘fall-back position’ (not fullback) should students not achieve a diploma for one reason or another. Other training providers may only offer Awards or Certificates as they see fit which is also appropriate. Tree Life would always advise students to make the ‘conversion’ to diploma as diplomas are the direct replacements for the old highly regarded arb qualifications at levels 4 and 6. ABC chose a replacement for the level 3 qualification with a level 4 one so that we had a logical flow of levels 2, 4 and 6.

That’s full time on this blog!

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Spell chequer take to!!!!!

Well, once again a few spellcheck anomalies have kept me amused over the past year or two, so I thought it was time for another instalment. It is the gift that keeps on giving, so unless everyone starts making a concerted effort to proof read their answers before submitting, I may well be back in a couple of years’ time.

I trust as always that those who recognise their own work will forgive me. Having found errors in my own feedback on occasions I am in no position to preach…..just engage in a bit of light-hearted, mutual mockery……..

Obviously trees interact with their surroundings in a number of ways, but I was blissfully unaware that there had ever been such a thing as an ‘exchange of grass’.

I appreciate that one should always keep calm in the face of adversity, but suggesting that ‘serenity’ is a way of dealing with fire is perhaps a little too laid back.

I know everyone involved needs to take a personal interest in a tree strategy before it can be put into practice, but the reference to the ‘implantation of the policy’ seemed to be taking things just a little too far.

Even regular tree inspections can never remove the possibility of what are still sometimes referred to as ‘Acts of God’, but I suppose employing a ‘parson’ to inspect trees would perhaps improve the chances of finding such a problem. I wonder if the gradual phasing out of divine responsibility is what someone was referring to when they wrote about ‘atheistic improvements.’

‘base and truck clad in ivy’ is either an interesting disguise or the guys have been parked a little too close to the tree for a very long tea break.

I’m aware that foliage from a number of trees has given us various lotions and potions over the years, but was a little surprised to hear that when pruning the correct amount of foliage needs to be left so the tree can ‘unction efficiently’.

Certain mammals are protected by law, and some of them are very closely related to trees in a particular area; I presume the disruption of ‘bat roots’ refers to them being forced to leave a place they have regarded as home for several generations.

Many would assert that plant health controls have perhaps not always been implemented as quickly as they could have been, but to suggest that a Phytosanitary Certificate is a ‘deceleration by the exporting country’ is perhaps a little unfair.

We are all guilty of endowing trees with human characteristics at times, and though we are all aware that trees can enhance our visual environment, the claim that trees too ‘will contemplate the landscape’ is perhaps just a little too far-fetched.

I think we all have to face the fact that tree roots can spread a very long way but ‘polar roots’ are something I had never considered. Maybe they are the ‘adventurous roots’ that are often referred to?

Expenditure is a subject that certain people can become almost obsessive about, and it can cause a great deal of worry. So it is useful to know that by spreading costs it is possible to ease that ‘fanatical burden’.

I know many arbs. have a very negative view of developers, and I’m sure developers sometimes view tree officers with very little positivity, but to suggest that ‘negations’ routinely take place between the two is a little on the pessimistic side.

The protection of trees on a construction site can often be a bit of a sticking point in discussions with developers, and I know there are various ways of dealing with potentially harmful substances, but I had never seen it suggested that ‘toxic run-off will be stickily forbidden’.

We’ve probably all spoken to trees for one reason or another on occasions, but be careful which words you use: ’vowels can damage trees’ apparently.

The mental effort and anguish associated with the completion of these qualifications should never be underestimated; I can only assume it is the precursor to ‘brow rot’.

I am aware that wood, both living and dead, contains energy both for itself and other organisms, although a lump of wood is going to take some chewing: is it possible that ‘Green oak mouth’ is a condition brought about by such endeavours?

Obviously temperature and rainfall are both closely linked to air currents, to the point where long spells of hot, dry weather can apparently lead to a ‘draught’.

For centuries now mankind has exploited the seasonal bounty provided by fruit trees, but I suspect nobody to date has realised the sustenance that is to be had from deep within an injured tree, which will apparently block its vessels with ‘raisins’.

The way branches are attached, and how their unions can possibly withstand all the various forces to which they are subjected has been a subject of much recent debate, and many are still trying to get to the bottom of a sticky subject, but I had never before heard it suggested that the branch ‘excretes more leverage at the point of connection’ .

I can understand the failure of a compression fork because of the two sides not being ‘fused’ together, but I think suggesting that the tree’s ‘not fussed’ is an unfair accusation of apathy on the tree’s part.

I recall last time I did this that it was worthwhile having someone on the team called Hector, when it came to claiming woodland grants: evidently it is also valuable to have someone in the lorry called Ray, particularly if you’ve just reversed into a rotten tree, since apparently ‘Rays resist decay from spreading around the truck.’

Talking of names, it would appear that one member of the gang could end up very clean, and possibly very happy (or very embarrassed), since apparently ‘Hans should be washed thoroughly before food and drink are consumed.’

I’ve never really thought about what the commonest name for arborists is, but in horticultural circles it would appear that ‘Pete is most often used by gardeners for potting plants’

Vehicles are expensive things to purchase and maintain, so you can understand the reluctance of arborists to use decay detection equipment that involves ‘drilling into the truck’.

I’m all for talking to trees, and it’s important to explain the whys and wherefores of tree work to customers, but I’m not sure who the recipient of ‘informative pruning’ is. I suppose it’s all part of keeping trees in good spirits; then at least ‘cheery trees’ will be happy about being pruned immediately after flowering.

I’m aware that trees can be used to liven up an otherwise drab landscape, and can even promote strong emotional and even physical reactions in people, but I had never heard trees described as ‘looking un-anaesthetic.

It is impossible to separate arboriculture from social history, and I suppose politics has to come into that as well. In many ways a stake and a newly planted tree do follow the mantra, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” but I’d never thought of using stakes to support trees as being the ‘communist system’

Next time you’re considering which trees to buy from a nursery keep an eye out for the ones with woodpeckers in: apparently the ones with a good ‘stem tapper’ are the best. I suppose a vast collection of branches to perch on and berries to eat could explain why ‘trees can provide a heaven for birds.’ Talking of birds, I can only assume that the way ‘a crow reduction alleviates biomechanical stress’ is by reducing the weight of large birds roosting, and building heavy nests.

A CCF managed woodland inevitably contains many varied aromas for visitors to experience, some more pleasant than others: I’m not sure I would enjoy encountering the ‘scents of permanence’.

We shouldn’t underestimate the thought that goes into repairing a damaged sewer: you can only install a pipe liner in a damaged underground service if your ‘brain is not deformed’.

Work sites can be messy places; fluids can be spilt; situations can become inflamed. I think I’ll leave you to come up with your own interpretation for ‘The designated feeling area must have an impermeable ground cover, and any spillage must be reported to the team leader’, who will hopefully have visited the local bakery earlier in the day to stock up on the necessary ‘buns to soak up any spillage of liquids’.

I know it’s reasonably coastal tolerant, and the timber is quite durable, and I suppose winter storms are something a coastline needs a bit of protection from, but I had never thought about using holly ‘at Christmas for reefs’

We all know that nothing lives forever, and people can be very fickle when it comes to deciding what they value,  but it does seem a little harsh to only consider ‘putting a momentary value on trees’.

Tree work over open water can be a tricky operation; hence the importance of considering appropriate measures to achieve ‘drown reduction’.

A recognised way of referring to the intensity of emotion that two people can feel for one another is by suggesting there is electricity between them. Mind you don’t get overwhelmed with emotion when carrying out tree work close to overhead services: you might come under the influence of the ‘Love conductors’.

Different people often have a different view on the precise requirements of a particular job; it would appear you can clarify the situation before putting the job out to tender by considering ‘perspective contractors’.

Obviously if you are going to do anything at all underhand to protect trees in the face of development, you need to make sure nobody knows. That must be why cranes on construction sites need to be ‘poisoned carefully to avoid conflict with RPA’s’.  It appears one way of reducing that conflict is to make them enter and leave the site in a single line: I presume that’s what ‘processionary measures’ are.

It obviously makes for a good design if everyone involved has an innate feel for which plants work well together, and has an intimate understanding of different trees and shrubs, but there is something slightly disturbing about ‘groping plants together ’.

When one is looking for a reliable supplier of hardy nursery stock, it’s important to find someone who is prepared to go out of their way to meet their customers’ needs. All the more encouraging then to discover they have a ‘compliant procedure’.

I presume the damage caused to trees near pubs is what was being referred to when someone suggested protection is needed from ‘lager mammals’.

It has to be said that weeds do seem to sneak up on you sometimes, and I suppose it would make sense to play them at their own game; in which case woodchip is the way to go, as it is very good at ‘surprising weeds’.

Speed of effect is always going to be a consideration when designing a planting scheme, and riverside schemes are no exception. The thing to do apparently is find some ‘fast rowing plants’ – oarchids maybe?

As arbs. we are frequently ready to jump to the defence of a tree accused of causing damage to a building, looking for any other possible reason we can find. It would be a bit of a gift if one discovered that over doorways and windows, the load was actually only being supported by ‘lentils’.

Finally I have found the path to salvation; apparently deep ploughing can lead to ‘a soul with a much improved structure’!

Many thanks to all the contributors,

Andy Summerley

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A Windy Blog 2016

Well the leaves have all blown away at this time in February apart from those stuck in neighbours’ gutters and of which they are still complaining about to their local authority tree officer.

The winds of change are always blowing or should be in business so that a business remains ahead of its game. Ofqual is hardly a business but they are in the business of education and made trade wind changes that affected vocational education big time a few years ago with the introduction of the Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF). This rather changed the face of the assessment processes moving from a summative process (testing at the end of a period of learning which is traditional and high risk for students) to a formative process (conducting assessments along the learning path and using the mechanisms to assist learning called assessment for learning (AFL)). The effects, like a whirlwind, took assessment essentially into the house of the training provider and away from external examiners.

Five years down the line a storm wind brewed and QCF has been washed down the drain along with the existing rules. A monsoon followed and Ofqual were flooded with complaints related to the inflexibility of the QCF system and its assessment processes. When the storm became a light wind a new frame work emerged (Oct 2015) called the Regulatory Qualification Framework – “a single, simple system for cataloguing all qualifications regulated by Ofqual.” (Ofqual 2016) Jeremy Benson Executive Director for Vocational Qualifications states “We don’t claim it will transform the qualifications landscape, but we do hope it will help people to understand qualifications a little better and to use them more confidently”.

Ofqual will not be replacing the QCF rules with another, different set of specific rules, because prescriptive design rules are not the best way of securing validity (a qualification doing what it says it will on the tin). Awarding organisations will still have to comply with Ofqual’s General Conditions of Recognition. Ofqual states “qualification regulation needs to be flexible enough to encompass qualifications across different sectors, at different levels and with different purposes. And it’s because of this that awarding organisations need to have the freedom to design the assessments that work best for their particular qualifications”. (Ofqual Blog Aug 2015)

In the cross winds that follow any new guidance ABC indicates that for their arboricultural qualifications this means very little change. However, I am hoping for no twisters but more flexibility in how the assessment procedures are conducted because, as most of you understand, the burden of portfolio production lands on the learner (we can call you students again under this new framework) and then the assessor has to mark it all. The current level 2, 4 and 6 ABC qualifications are due for a review in 2017 with introduction in September 2017. I don’t anticipate much turbulence but a zephyr (gentle) wind favourable to maintaining the quality of qualifications that we currently have.

When I have more news on the progress of the review with ABC I will make some breezy announcements through the appropriate channels. The change of framework DOES NOT affect current students or those starting qualifications prior to September 2017, current regulations and processes will be prevailing.

On another front Tree Life has faced a headwind and some uncertainty regarding for how long we will offer, particularly, the level 6 diploma qualification. Following a recent company AGM, I can confirm the current intentions with regards to the level 6. Tree Life will be offering the level 6 qualification for a minimum of the next two years with starts in 2016 and 2017. Beyond 2017 we offer no guarantee of being in a position to offer level 6. This is due to a time when Andy and I have retirement looming in our airstream. As a conscientious training provider all students starting with us have 4 years to complete which means that in 2021 we still could be marking assignments while having got bus passes in our pockets!

Tree Life has grown over the past 18 years and increased its team year upon year. That may happen on the back of a tailwind to retirement indicating that level 6 will continue to be offered by Tree Life even when sirocco (a warm wind from the desert) retirement warmth has blown through and the dust has settled. It is my intention that level 6 shall remain a premier qualification for arboricultural consultants, tree officers and contract managers and that it will be on offer from Tree Life AC Ltd for the foreseeable future. Only the winds of time can dictate how in the future that can be made possible – but it won’t be for the lack of trying!

Dave Dowson

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General release – Professional membership of the Institute of Chartered Foresters

Due to a review undertaken by the ICF recently the old and new diplomas at level 6 in arboriculture have been devalued in points required when applying for professional membership to the ICF. Concerns regarding this situation have been raised with the awarding body ABC Awards and the ICF. As a result DR Stuart Glen, membership manager, has asked that the following information be conveyed to recent holders of the diplomas.

 I will be recommending to the Professional & Educational Standards Committee (PESC) that any person in this position should be allowed to embark on our Professional Membership Entry so allowing them an opportunity to gain chartered status. This recommendation will be presented and discussed at the next meeting of PESC in September.

Any holders of the level 6 (NQF) professional diploma and the new (replacement) (QCF) diploma in arboriculture who wish to join the ICF as a professional member are invited to contact Dr Stuart Glen at ICF to discuss membership.

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‘Weather’ Professional

It has come to my attention that my profession isn’t as professional as I would like it to be, or it possibly thinks it is in some aspects of arboriculture. One of these aspects is nomenclature. This issue is no little ‘storm in a tea cup’, during the last few years I have been inundated, ‘flooded’ you could say with scientific (not Latin or botanical names these days) plant, fungi and insect names written incorrectly and spelt incorrectly in learner work and professional reports. Not only that, but common names written incorrectly too! Not only can’t learners get it right but a good number of consultants can’t get it right. So should my profession be getting it right or do we stick our heads in the clouds and say it doesn’t matter in, this, a different ‘age’ of language use (Vote below!). The thing is though, scientific names are never misleading. No matter where you are in the world every plant, for example, has only one correct name, (so long as its taxonomic treatment is not in dispute) one can always recognise it when it is written out. The current rules are followed throughout the world and I don’t think it is up to my/our profession to ignore that and allow protocol to slip down the drain.

How important is the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (Melbourne Code) adopted by the Eighteenth International Botanical Congress Melbourne, Australia, July 2011 and the separate International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants. Well, maybe Kew gardens may hold the key to this, they run a one week long course on Botanical Nomenclature led by their garden specialists. This in-depth course teaches the principles of plant nomenclature according to the International Code of Nomenclature (ICN) for algae, fungi and plants. So there you have its importance – hail Kew! There are rules to this code established many moons ago and I don’t see why they should not be adhered to by professionals working with ‘plants’. So don’t give this important matter the ‘cold’ shoulder.

In use the binomial naming system (scientific name), as the name implies, uses two words to name a particular species. (derived from Latin or Greek).

The first word we use to describe a plant is the generic name (genus). The generic name must be capitalized for example Quercus. The second word we use is the specific epithet (species). The specific epithet must be in lower case for example robur. Both words must be emphasized, italicised when typed or underlined if hand written. After that cultivar names are not latin and therefore are not italicised for example, Quercus robur ‘Fastigiata’. With varieties Pinus nigra var. nigra – var is not italicised as it is not latin. No winds of change here then.

Common names are written in lower case unless at the start of a sentence or the name reflects a place or a proper noun for example London plane, Norway maple, Scots pine and English oak. However, common names can be confusing; a plane tree in England can be known as an American sycamore in the USA. The name sycamore actually derives from the Greek language συκόμορος (sūkomoros) meaning fig-mulberry (Ficus sycomorus) this is also sometimes called the sycamore fig. As confusing as the jet stream positions!
Now the mist has lifted on this topic we are just as well to know of the origin of nomenclature. It is early 17th century: from French and from Latin nomenclatura, from nomen ‘name’ + clatura ‘calling, summoning’ (from calare ‘to call’). A Nomenclator in Rome was the title of a steward whose job it was to announce visitors. The current system of using Latin to name biological organisms was developed by Carl von Linne (1707-1778), more commonly known by his pen name Linnaeus, about 250 years ago. Simply a ‘system of naming’. Linnaeus was the son of a curate and grew up in Småland, a poor region in southern Sweden and the binomial system was his lasting achievement. Binomial names were used consistently in print by Linnaeus only after the publication of the Species Plantarum in 1753.

NB. Many of us, including me, would refer to the species name as the species. Technically this is incorrect, the species name, for example, robur is the specific epithet, and Quercus robur is the species. This explains why we refer all the time to species of trees as opposed to genera of trees – now the dark clouds roll away!

Just another thought on aspects that people routinely get wrong – the abbreviations. Sp. is the abbreviation when referring to a single tree of unknown species. Spp. is the plural version and Ssp. is the abbreviation for sub-species. None of which should be italicised.
Also, sometimes in more advanced botanical writings you might come across a letter, name or abbreviation after the binomial for a species. An example would be Allium cepa L. (Allium cepa L. is the common table onion.) What does the “L.” stand for? The “L.” stands for the authority, i.e., the individual credited with assigning the binomial to the species. In this case, “L.” stands for Linnaeus. Well, when you start pumping the available research it never rains but it pours in more technicalities for a ‘simple’ system of naming! Brings tears to your eyes it does! Onion, Ok you are still with it.

As you the learners have found out Andy and I get a bit frosty when it comes to having names written correctly. High pressure? quite rightly so, at level 6 in particular! If professionals can’t get it right, who can? We should all be on a crusade to improve our fellow professionals’ presentation of plant names. The reward is that elusive pot of gold, self-esteem and satisfaction and of being a professional and of doing an excellent job.
Don’t forget to add in those little indicators x and + signs in the right place that say so much in recognition of hybrids!

One final pointer – almost everyone routinely uses a first column heading on a survey or inspection form containing the word SPECIES – but if one then only uses common names and just writes oak or cherry – that ain’t a species – it’s a genus! How’s that for a whirlwind finish?

Dave Dowson

Feel free to comment below too!





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Beware of reliance on the spellchecker!! Otherwise known as ‘tripe roof reed inn!’

In this age of reliance on technology, the old-fashioned eye deer of actually reeding threw work bee four it is handed in for a cess meant a piers two have bean widely abandoned. Learners just sit in front of there pea seas, tie pin a weigh, hitting quays sum wear close too the rite lettuce on there key bored, and leave in the spell cheque err too do the wrest. They simply weight to be tolled buy an inanimate object, weather watt they have written makes scents or knot, and wear awl the miss steaks are, witch, lets fay sit, wood be a miner mirror cull! The dock you meant is then printed out, awe saved in a phial, and in dew coarse, handed inn four sum won too marque.

Personally, be fore submitting anything for screw tinny, eye wood rather cheque it myself to make shore that wen pea pull reed it, it does come a cross prop err lea. Aye no it makes four an easier life, butt two weight for a machine to point out mist aches, seams tummy two be rather lazy; oar may bee eye have bin miss lead in the passed? The problem of cores, off on a rises wen the words are oak hay, butt the con text is a drift. It maybe that own ley won letter is wrung, butt the machine dozen no, bee cores it still seams wright two a devise with no a billy tea to thin kit threw.

Air knee weigh, eye just thawed I wood share a phew of my favourite spell cheque mow mints with ewe; they do make watt can bee a rather tedious job slight lea more bare able. I hope the contributors (who shall remain anonymous, but will probably know who they are) will four give me for including psalm pulls of there work. Be a shored that they awl helped to Brighton up my other whys sum watt boar ring daze.

Apparently, one of the worst times of year you can prune a tree is at “bird burst”: I can understand that would be a problem. Constantly being splattered with pieces of exploding pigeon when you’re trying to just get on with your work would be truly irritating; not to mention all the health and safety issues connected with rapidly dispersing feathers and entrails!

Exploding birds in trees would be particularly annoying to anyone below who happened to be making use of the “procreation zone”, which apparently exists around the base of a tree!! I never even knew there was such a thing, but having now been told that tree work often takes place next to a “pubic highway”, it all starts to make sense.

I wonder if there is any link with a “tree feeling licence”?  Now I come to think of it, perhaps the nearby “free-standing missionary wall” is somehow linked. From the word go there seems to be an endemic problem; there is apparently even a link between well planted trees and ‘low morality’.

Moving away from the seedier side of trees for a moment, it would appear that some trees have “habitat fetchers”; I suppose if you can’t move about yourself, it makes sense to get someone to bring things to you! They are apparently particularly important when it comes to “endangered spices”; who would have thought that certain exotic flavours were close to extinction? Even more worrying is that certain “protected spices” are more difficult to find in winter, just when you could do with a nice warm. I have obviously always underestimated the importance of sculpture in the past; it would appear that wildlife has legal protection “under certain statues”: I suppose if it applies to those that decorate the statues from above, it’s only fair that it applies to those beneath as well.

On the odd occasions when those who damage or destroy protected wildlife are taken to task, it is rare for them to actually be prosecuted, let alone ‘persecuted’; although that idea does have a certain appeal.

Obviously wildlife value can be an important consideration when purchasing new trees for planting. One nursery seems to have taken that to almost unbelievable lengths and is apparently supplying trees with “crows already established at the correct height above ground level”

With habitat potential in mind, it would appear that “cornet cuts” are the flavour of the month; I’m afraid I can’t resist the thought that there must be some kind of link with topping! When it comes to removing a tree completely, the prevailing wind can certainly be used to one’s advantage; at least I presume that’s what ‘whole sail felling’ refers to. Once the tree is down it’s always reassuring to know that you have “good quality timbre”; sounds good to me! If the tree felling is taking place in a long established woodland, there might even be a link with the “ancient tubas” below ground.

In climatic terms different trees definitely have their preferences when it comes to light and shade, but the fact that some trees do well in ‘fun sun’ was a new one on me; it must be down to all those happy little sunbeams bouncing off the leaves!

As well as physiological and mechanical implications, damage to trees also has financial implications; a concept that it is reassuring to see highlighted in relation to “dear damage”. Of course, protection can be provided for a number of hazardous situations; I’m sure there must be worse ways of spending the coldest months of the year than “overwintering in a lass house”.

When it comes to planting containerised stock, I am familiar with the practice of teasing roots, but to suggest that stakes should also be “tantalised”, elevates the degree of tree planting mischief to a whole new level. I realise not everyone takes a pride in their work, but suggesting it is acceptable to protect newly planted trees with a ‘wire mess’ is not really portraying arboriculture at its best. Slightly more disturbing was the suggestion that “pants” should be planted in woodland; no indication was given of the source, quantity or condition of the garments, or indeed the purpose of such an exercise: perhaps that’s another understory altogether? There may or may not be a link with another suggestion that I think I’ll leave everyone to interpret in their own way; namely that all “arsing should be removed from site”.

I understand the importance of maturity in a woodland, but I had never even considered the other end of the spectrum, until someone suggested that when planting you should use ‘naïve’ trees; I suppose they all have to start somewhere, but I’m afraid the preceding recommendations suggest their innocence will be short-lived! In terms of woodland management, record keeping is obviously important, but I was unaware that you could keep an entire ‘filed layer’. Looking after the trees is obviously important. Perhaps that’s where using “trees of local providence” comes into its own. There is obviously value in choosing people with just the right name to help with your woodland management; grants are apparently payable ‘per hector’.

Many of our ancient and veteran trees have historic significance, which is sometimes conveniently displayed on signs for visitors, but it is somewhat disturbing to hear that a tree has been found with a “plague attached”. Equally important are the many associated rare and endangered species of invertebrate, which deserve our care and respect; particularly the ‘venerable’ ones.

In addition to tree maintenance obviously other vegetation also needs to be controlled to a greater or lesser degree. I have always been aware of mowers and strimmers, and the sickles and scythes they replaced, but had never heard of a “long grass sword”; sounds like something that would have all sorts of health and safety implications! The wielder of the sword would no doubt work up a thirst; I can only assume ‘pour workmanship’ refers to some kind of tea-break.

On occasions trees do cause damage to our properties: one way of dealing with direct damage to a structure is apparently to ‘feel the tree’; whether that is in a physical or transcendental sense, it would certainly be preferable to removing it. Obviously such an intrusion on a tree’s personal space is correctly controlled through a licencing system, as was pointed out earlier. A suggested solution for indirect damage was to install a ‘rot barrier’; I wonder if that would entail 1, 2, 3 or 4 walls? Such a barrier seems to be at odds with the suggestion that cuttings should be placed in a ‘rotting medium.’ As well as speaking to young plants we need obviously need to listen to them as well: ‘sings of disease’ is an interesting diagnostic concept.

If one is unsure of anything, it is always advisable to consult the works of those amongst us who are particularly learned; there is apparently a very clever chap out there somewhere called ‘Claus Hatcheck’, but I have yet to find any of his work.

All in all, an interesting collection of slips and trips on the path to imperfection; a route I have taken myself on more than one occasion. We all have at our disposal a wealth of words, a veritably vibrant vocabulary, and an almost endless exuberance of excellent expressions; perhaps it is that very complexity, which whilst it can be used to uplift, can also determine our downfall.

The material for this linguistic lament is literally down to a lack of literacy. However, there is also a link to the lousy luck of lots of long, lonely evenings spent labouring in limbo; looking at layer after layer of lifeless, lacklustre letters, leaves and links (articles, books and websites), when one would prefer to be lubricating one’s larynx and liberating one’s liver, in the lap of luxury, with the landlord of the local. However, there is also sometimes a lack of listening in lectures, a lapse into literary laziness, and a little languishing in lethargy! So how does one achieve liberation from this loathsome legacy? – ‘Life-long Learning’!!

Posted in Changes in Arb Qualifications | 2 Comments

New Year Snow Blog Jan 23rd 2013

As many of you know the assessment process for the new qualifications on the new Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF) is by assessment of portfolios of evidence. Why portfolios you might ask, well – maybe one of the reasons, is that it spreads assessment over time and doesn’t end in lengthy final examinations, but that would be too simple an explanation wouldn’t it?

Those of you doing them (ploughing through the work) I’m sure have seen the amount of evidence required snowball since that start of the programme of learning. So what is a portfolio?  The answer according to one definition by educationalist D Baume is that it is “a structured collection of evidence and critical analysis designed to support and document learning and development towards the intended learning outcomes of the course, to be used as a vehicle for assessing attainment during the course”. Sounds a good definition to me for our level 4 and 6 qualifications, in other words there is nothing soft and fluffy about it.

Portfolios are not new to our industry and have been used with National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) for many years. Maybe they can resolve some of the current issues in assessment e.g. replacement of high stakes final examinations which tend to send shivers down a student’s spine at their mere mention, examinations that only test a narrow range of knowledge and abilities, a lack of testing the skills and knowledge that are actually required for the real world, the lack of using assessment in the learning processes and not allowing for students and teachers to adopt new teaching approaches that can widen participation of all. Most importantly, any employer worth their salt wants to know what a potential employee knows and can do – portfolios provide that evidence.

Educationally, I and the powers that be (ABC Awards in our case) need to know if portfolios can be assessed reliably and that the assessment methodologies are valid.  Is a portfolio just about assessment? If it was I would think that to be to flaky a reason for using them.

Portfolios can be used for learning whilst the evidence is being collected, or after collection, the learner can analyse and review the evidence. Through this analysis, the learner can make further sense of the work they have done, analysing and interrogating it. They can also argue as to what the evidence shows about what they have learned; what capabilities they have developed; perhaps how far they have moved towards attaining the learning outcomes of the course. Before the learner presents a portfolio for assessment, they can offer sections of the portfolio for formative assessment, and for feedback from tutor or peers – that’s a powerful benefit. The learner can use this feedback, and their own reflection and analysis, to identify gaps in their evidence and in their learning. To a degree the learner is in control of what they learn, and not frozen out of gaining more knowledge by the sole need to pass an exam. In the process the teacher takes on a role of facilitator and guide.

Specifically to me the use of portfolios in this framework can demonstrate good validity (does the portfolio test what it sets out to test) because it measures evidence against set learning outcomes and assessment criteria. Assessment by portfolio offers good reliability (can the assessment process be repeated time and time again and produce the same results) within our organisation as we standard set between assessors, internally verify assessment results and benchmark results against an external moderator. Although subjective, fairness in the assessment process can be achieved because it allows a learner to present their own work, their own analysis, their own experience, their own work authenticated by them and over a period of time (extended time in some cases!). Educationalists’ argue that portfolios are an effective form of professional development when at the ‘core’ of a qualification.

What of the slippery slope of portfolio use? Their use certainly has implications for the learner and the assessor due to the avalanche of information out there. Conceivably there is empathy to be had for each other at this stage, as the production of the portfolio can take many long hours as can the role of marking them. The learner needs to understand why and how they are used if the benefits are to be realised, this is because the use of them signifies a major shift from traditional examinations to an assessment process that focuses on learning. This current approach is foreign to most learners who are not young enough to have experienced portfolios in school or at NVQ level.

To finish, as a training centre we are taking the lead in establishing a learning community with our learners – we hail a classroom where the learners are partners and collaboration is viewed as beneficial. Portfolios are here to stick on the ground for the present in this framework and are gaining increasing use in education because of the benefits to the learning process.

Learners’, when portfolios are the means to a great qualification you have just got to grit your teeth, stay ice cool and get on with the compilation of them and not allow the work rate to slide or you to melt and turn into slush!

By Dave Dowson

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