Princes Park, 19th November 2017

Princes Park in south Liverpool was designed by Joseph Paxton and opened in 1842, one of the first parks in England to have public access. There is an active “Friends” group, who have been planting many unusual young trees in the last few years. Many of them have QR codes attached, enabling people with smartphones to look up the tree’s name and description.  To see their current tree list, go to the FOPP website. Under “About us” there is a menu item “Park Trees”. At the bottom of that page the QR numbers are listed, each leading to names and descriptions. On each description page, at the bottom right, is a link to a map of tree locations.

Our main target today was one of the very few remaining trees on our I-Spy list, an Incense Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens. The foliage is said to smell of shoe polish, although when we sniffed it we found only a faint aroma. It was worth 20 points, which we doubled by correctly answering the question “How does this tree get its name?” (Not hard – it’s because of the scented leaves, wood and resin.) We now have 1265 tree points.

We admired the lovely rusty-red foliage of the Dawn Redwood, which is one of the very few deciduous conifers, then headed down to the area near Windermere Terrace to look at their collections of Thorns and Rowans. There isn’t much to see at this time of year, and we should plan to return in both spring and autumn, to look at the flowers and the fruits. Sadly, we found some trees missing, both the Midland Hawthorn “Paul’s Scarlet” (their number 18) and the Vilmorin’s Rowan (their number 24). We lunched in the sunshine, overlooking lake, then set off around the west side. The Silver Maple Acer saccharinum  (38a) has very deeply-cut leaves, which we have previously mistaken underfoot for Oriental Plane leaves, when we were here on the MNA short (and very wet) walk last month. This is what Silver Maple leaves look like. They very rarely go red, just yellow.

Their Autumn-flowering Cherry Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ (30) was blooming demurely.

They have a Foxglove tree, with its huge leaves, and we were amazed to see that it appears to be in bud already.

We stopped by a big old tree with gnarly bark and deeply-cut palmate leaves. Was it an old Silver Maple?  No, the seeds were hanging spiky balls, so it was definitely not a Maple. Was it a Sweet Gum? The fallen leaves didn’t have that tree’s characteristic aromatic scent, so we concluded that was probably an Oriental Plane Platanus orientalis. I wonder if it is as old as the park, 175 years old?

Up on the west bank of the lake are two multi-trunked Chinese Privets Ligustrum lucidum, which we saw in copious flower in October, but they have now gone over. They are tall, attractive evergreen trees, and the flowers, looking like ordinary privet on steroids, are said to be wonderfully scented. Pity we missed that. There were just a few little ripe berries.

Our autumn colour seems to have finally arrived. The Beech leaves are coppery and on Saturday at Carsington Water all the Field Maple leaves were a lovely bright yellow. This fabulous little crimson Maple was on a steep bank in Princes Park, and there are so many species and varieties, they are nearly impossible to identify. Intensely red is all I can say!

We now have just eight trees left in the I-Spy book year challenge. I would have loved to get them all, but it isn’t going to happen. Here are the ones we are still missing.
1. The English Elm, now almost completely extinct in England following Dutch Elm Disease.
2.  Wayfaring Tree. It’s one of the Viburnums, and lives on chalk, so we won’t find it around here. I asked the Cheshire WT ranger about it, and she confirmed there definitely weren’t any in Cheshire, so not much hope for the rest of Merseyside.
3. Wild Service Tree is quite rare, and although native, is said to be found only in pockets of ancient woodland.
4. The Pencil Cedar is one of the Junipers, which are all very rare in Liverpool. The only ones we have found so far are in Calderstones Park, in the Old English and Japanese gardens, all heavily topiarised, and I don’t think any of them were Pencil Cedars.
5. White Cedar, which isn’t a cedar at all, but is Thuja occidentalis. We are very unskilled at conifer identification, so if this isn’t listed on a park’s tree map (which it isn’t) we have little chance of noticing it
6. Cider Gum. The common Eucalyptus of waysides and gardens is the Snow Gum, and we’ve seen plenty of them, but no Cider Gums.
7 and 8 are Norway Spruce and Sitka Spruce, both very common trees nationally. I am almost ashamed to admit to not finding any, and my Scottish relatives are laughing their socks off, but Spruces are trees of higher, colder climes. Mitchell says definitely that Sitka Spruces are absent from town parks and gardens, and that sickly Norway Spruce are occasionally found in gardens as planted Christmas trees. I don’t feel so bad now.
If anyone knows of an example of one of these eight missing trees that the Sunday Group could easily find in the few remaining Sundays of the year, I’d appreciate a heads-up!

Public transport details: Bus 75 from Great Charlotte Street at 10.04, arriving Princes Avenue / Kingsley Road at 10.15. Returned from Princes Road / Princes Gate West on the 75 at 2.30, arriving Renshaw Street at 2.40.

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