A day looking at trees in Calderstones is always a treat for me, there are so many rarities to find. We intended to go into the Japanese and Old English gardens, but found them closed because of a “dangerous wall and tree”, according to the sign. But on the formal lawn and beds outside was a lovely Cornus kousa, the Korean or Chinese Dogwood, at the peak of its lovely flowering.
Then we headed for the southern boundary, stopping on the way to look at an old stump with a low cranny which had been a nest of a Treecreeper family earlier in the year. (The arrow is mine!)
We were heading for the bog garden, but on the way enjoyed the woodland path along the Allerton Road edge. There were lots of huge old trees, including this Oak in a clearing, which was probably Turkey Oak Quercus cerris. The leaves were bigger than we are used to but there were diagnostic bristly acorn cups on the ground below it.
There aren’t many birds around urban parks this time of year. The usual Blackbirds, Robins, Wood Pigeons and Magpies (and Canada Geese and Mallards on the lake), but we heard and spotted both a Chiffchaff and a Song Thrush, singing from high perches.
We lunched on the edge of the woods, where a big old Poplar was shedding copious fluff. In the words of Richard Dawkins it was “raining DNA”. The fluff surrounds the seeds, helping wind dispersal, but that means the tree must be female. However, it looked rather like an upright “Lombardy” Poplar, which are all male clones. A puzzle! Perhaps it was some hybrid of a male Lombardy and a female Black Poplar.
They have planted several interesting rarities in the Bog Garden. This is a Caucasian Wingnut Pterocarya fraxinifolia, a member of the Walnut family, with its long strings of winged seeds.
Tulip trees are always a pleasure to see, but this area has an even prettier variegated one, Liriodendron tulipifera ‘Aureomarginatum’. They are quite rare.
Our eyes were caught by this unusual Maple with red-winged seeds and leaves with single teeth on each side. It looks like one of the Snake-bark Maples, but the bark was smooth and grey. After consulting the book, I now think it might have been a Red Maple Acer rubrum. They have spectacular autumn colour, so it’s worth another visit later in the year.
Our real target was a Dragon’s Claw Willow Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’. It’s so rare it doesn’t appear in most tree books, but an old Calderstones tree leaflet has one marked. I think it might be this one in an obsure corner. The trunk and inner branches are very contorted, but it has been severely pruned and the new growth looks like sparse weeping willow. The leaves are a bit twisted-looking, so it might be the one.
On the way back we went to look at the struggling Mulberry, which appears to have nearly died some years ago. It still has lots of dead outer branches but the core is re-sprouting well and bearing immature fruit.
Public transport details: Merseyrail train from Blundellsands and Crosby at 9.52, arriving Liverpool South Parkway at 10.27. Then bus 86 at 10.352, arriving Mather Avenue / Storesdale Road at 10.41. Up Ballantrae Road to the south-west entrance to the park. I came home on the bus 61 for Bootle, and was surprised at just how widely it roamed on the way north!