Royden Park, 26th February 2023

It was a good day for mystery trees, but our first corker was immediately identifiable, a yellow-flowering Mimosa seen from the bus, growing next to the Esso garage in Greasby. How did that get there? We took the bridleway west of Frankby Cemetery, sheltered from the chilly wind. Two horses and riders came past us. In the adjacent open field were Redwings, and a few busy Goldfinches. There is an old sandstone wall along Montgomery Hill, and we stopped to look at this fern emerging from it. Something unusual? No, I think it’s Common Polypody Polypodium vulgare.

Happily, Royden Park’s walled garden is open again now that they have repaired the damage caused by 2022’s winter storms (see my blog of June 2022). There were plenty of little birds flitting about – Robin, Dunnock and various tits, and it is ready for spring.

The shrubs are starting to sprout, including Forsythia, catkins on the Contorted Hazel and this red Dogwood.

Next to some old metal steps and doorway was a small tree breaking into blossom, looking rather Japanese. It’s the hybrid Viburnum bodnantense, one of the loveliest examples I have seen.

Just outside the gate are several very tall trees, which are some sort of conifer. The bark looked rather “primitive”.  The foliage was so high up we had to use binoculars, and it turned out to look a bit like Yew. Not that of course. Some sort of Redwood? After consulting books at home I am leaning towards them being one of the Silver Firs, genus Abies, which are known to grow straight to that sort of height. Perhaps Grand Fir because of the flattened Yew-like foliage. (Added later: more likely to be the European Silver Fir Abies alba, which has that white bark.)

On Roodee Mere were the usual Mallards, Coots, Canada Geese and Moorhen, one Common Gull and a Black-headed Gull with no dark head plumage at all.  A former park ranger of our acquaintance is said to have been on the radio last week, opining that the ones with black heads are the males! (In reality they all have the same plumage, they just change at different times, probably depending on their age.). A Buzzard called overhead. The park managers have been busy felling old trees and clearing Rhododendron, with patches of new tree planting. They have been clearing shrubbery in Frankby Cemetery, too, although we spotted a very pale shoot of Flowering Currant emerging from Laurel shrubbery.

The Cemetery lake had Moorhen, Coot and Mallard. This pond also had signs up warning passers-by not to feed the birds because of bird flu. We noticed that the Mallards had an early reflex to head towards us, but stopped very soon, and didn’t approach the bank, so it looks like people are complying. On the way out we saw a very odd tree. It’s the bare upright conical one with reddish bark, emerging from the shrubbery.

Closer up the bark looked even more orangey, and it was fairly soft. The trunk was wide and lumpy at the bottom. Oddest of all was the display of pink buds or catkins at the top, just on the sunny southern side. What on earth is that?  I wonder if it is a Dawn Redwood?  The shape is right, and soft orangey bark is right. As for the pink stuff, Mitchell says their shoots are “pinkish-green or pale purple”, so maybe this is an effect only seen fleetingly, perhaps just for a day or two. As always, we need to look at this tree again in a different season.

Public transport details: Bus 437 (West Kirby) from Sir Thomas Street at 10.04, arriving Frankby Road opp. Frankby Stiles at 10.45.  Returned on 437 at 2.29 from Frankby Road opp. Frankby Green, arriving city centre at 3.05.

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