UKTC Archive

Piptoporus & Fomes on birch - distribution

Subject: Piptoporus & Fomes on birch - distribution
From: Pete Hughes
Date: Dec 28 2006 19:29:12
Hello all,
/As an escape from Christmas, I took the dogs for a walk on Boxing Day to Holme Fen, a National Nature Reserve just south of Peterborough. The vegetation here is in the early stages of ecological succession (having been drained in the 1800s) with the majority of the trees being Birch, slowly being succeeded by Oak. The soil is very peaty and subsequently there is a lot of wind throw - the root plates of thrown trees are very shallow (often no more than 20-30cm), most likely to be as a result of the high water-table and the impervious blue clay not far below the surface. What I find most interesting is that there are also substantial numbers of brackets of Piptoporus betulinus and Fomes fometarius to be found on standing and fallen birch trees in various states of decay. I would guess that there are roughly equal numbers of brackets of both species, which got me thinking about the distribution of the 2 species in the UK - the literature generally agrees that Fomes is more common in the north, while Piptoporus predominates in the south.

I'm curious to know your experiences of these species. Does one or other specie appear exclusively in the north/south, or do both occur but in varying proportions? What would be the reason - does one occupy an ecological niche over the other that results in it's predominance? I also wonder why both appear in equal numbers at Holme Fen - perhaps it's due to the 'cornucopia' of a suitable food source (i.e., thousands of Betula).

If you're ever in the area, I'd recommend a visit to Holme Fen. Two points of interest are that (1) it is the lowest place in Britain, being 2m below sea level, and (2) the Holme Fen Posts, 2 cast iron posts which were both sunk vertically into the peat in the 1800s, so the tops were flush with adjacent ground. One of them (buried in 1852) is reputed to have come from Crystal Palace. As a result of the drainage of the Fens, the peat has decomposed aerobically and the ground level has dropped such that the tops of both posts are now about 4m above ground level - hence the reason why the underlying clay is now nearer to the surface.

Be interested to hear your thoughts.



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