3rd September: A crab apple tree outside No. 49, apparently
rotten, fell down on a gusty day. Luckily David Giles, our resident
photographer, was on hand to capture the event.
4th September: This time a neighbouring tree was noticed swaying
in wind. Islington Tree Department were alerted and swung into action again!
Tony Campbell comments: 'They noticed the same ganoderma fungus around its
base that had brought the tree down the day before and said it shouldn't be
left up overnight. Hence the contractors dealt with it that evening.
Questions obviously arise about our trees in general. Although they were
inspected earlier in the year, they are going to need to look again at
them all again. Since most of the trees on the north side are crab apples,
I asked the tree officer if they were particularly prone to ganoderma infection.
He didn't think this was the case, but it must put a question-mark over the
Some of our trees are well over 30 years old. Since, because of urban stress,
etc., they aren't expected to last more than 40 years, we must assume that a
number of others will fall or have to be felled. A fact of life I fear, but
I assume they will replant, perhaps with a greater variety next time, and with
trees of more suitable size.
Pictures courtesy of David Giles Photography
See more of David's work at
Our trees are widely different in size, shape and colour,
as well as in their seasonal adaptations. They belong, broadly,
to seven species. The majority along the odd-numbered side are
Crab Apples. The pinging of the fruit on the ground or car roofs
is well known to insomniacs. The number of vibrant colours crammed
into one of their fallen leaves is a delight, even if their
ever-spreading roots are a challenge to the tree gardeners.
Most of the remaining trees are species belonging to the sorbus genus - varieties of Rowan
(three instances at the Southgate Road ends), Common Whitebeam (nos 28, 54, 55, 79, 80),
Swedish Whitebeam (9, 10, 72, 75, 92), and the (surely unfairly named) Bastard Service Tree
(48, 68 - a Rowan/Whitebeam hydrid). Very different in the shapes of their
leaves as well as their overall size and outline,
the sorbus have one obvious common feature: they all have berries, which, starting
green or yellow, turn orange or scarlet in the late summer. The cream-coloured
underside of the leaves of the larger Common Whitebeam is distinctive.
The remaining trees comprise a hybrid Cherry (38, 41), with the distinctive
horizontal lines round the bark and the bulbous base to which the more
delicate upper part was grafted. Some of the trees' outlines are reminiscent
of a child's set of wooden shapes. Most noticeable are the cone-like Rowans
and the pyramid-shaped, rough-barked Turkish Hazel (2, 59). Besides the
shower of small dead branches the latter throws down, in recent years it
has started to produce nuts. Courtesy, perhaps, of the squirrels, the
two trees are now beginning to be circled by the weird cups protecting the
hazel nuts. These have an octopus-like assortment of tentacles, apparently
made of plastic and dreamt up by the props team on a horror movie.
Can you now tell a whitebeam from a Turkish Hazel? Visit the Tree Gallery to find out.
As well as the pavement trees there are mature Limes in two front gardens roughly opposite
each other near Wall Street (9, and a heavily pollarded one by 18), and another on the
Southgate Road corner. These are larger and older than any of the official trees and would,
if their basal growth was unchecked, spread right across the pavement. A number of trees in
front gardens complement the street trees with attractive shapes, flowers or leaves, and with
their spring blossom or autumn colour, especially the brilliant fire-red of the Stag's-horn
Sumac (one of which, sadly, blew down in the gale of January 2007).
The trees do not 'belong' to us, even though they were paid for by residents. In the 1970s,
at the instigation of Bill Bayliss, long-time resident, and then chair of the relevant
committee, Islington Council decided to go green. They planted the trees and are responsible
for their maintenance, along with an estimated 10,000 others in the borough - a density claimed
to be greater than anywhere else in London.
Theoretically, there is a four-year pruning cycle. Ours were last cut back, heavily, in 2006,
with many of the lower branches removed, particularly those over the road. As a result some
now have an irregular shape. A few of the trees have grown too large, which was not intended.
They were supposed to be relatively low-growing varieties. In some cases, they were grafted
onto hawthorn rootstock, which curbed their growth.
Unfortunately, the trees - now some 30 years old - are showing signs of stress. The Whitebeam
outside No. 11 blew down in January 2007 and a Swedish Whitebeam by No. 60 was diseased and
had to be felled. Others have suffered serious damage from large vehicles (especially skip
trucks and removal vans).
As planned, the dead crab apple outside No. 67/69 was felled and replaced with a Sweet Gum
(Liquidambar styraciflua 'Worplesdon') which has a crimson/yellow leaf effect in autumn.
Outside No. 60, they have put a Common Alder, but a slower-growing, 'cut leaved' variety
(Alnus glutinosa 'Laciniata'). More recently a Ginkgo was ceremonially planted by Councillor
Polling outside numbers 11-13 where the tree blew down in January 2007. A new tree has also been
planted outside No 16 iso the overall result has been to increase the number of trees by one.
Happily,the Swedish Whitebeam outside the end house (No. 92) was pronounced
healthy, because the fungus on the street side (Flammulina velutipes -
edible if you are feeling intrepid) feeds on dead wood and so is no threat to
the tree. However, another example of the same tree by No. 75 has both
ganoderma and another fungus, and is not likely to live for many
Did you know that Whitebeams are suitable as street trees because
the hairy underside of their leaves (on both Common and Swedish species)
reduces evaporation and hence makes them more drought-tolerant?
Tony Campbell, September 2007 (revised March 2008)