Oak sapling in Newton Wood

Or should I say a ‘yack‘ sapling, yack being an 18th-century Yorkshire term for the oak. We also have ‘yackrams‘ for acorns1Marshall, William. “The rural economy of Yorkshire. Comprising the management of landed estates, and the present practice of husbandry in the agricultural districts of that county”. 1796. Vol 2. Page 357. Available online at https://ia800900.us.archive.org/27/items/ruraleconomyofy02mars/ruraleconomyofy02mars.pdf..

This is really a follow-on from yesterday’s post about the planting of woodland on bracken covered slopes unsuitable for general agriculture.

Newton Wood is a predominately oak woodland but with ash, lime, sycamore, hazel. It feels natural but at one time it would have been managed for wood pasture or as a source of timber.

This oak sapling has germinated and grown naturally. Probably protected from the grazing of marauding deer and rabbits by the woodland carpet of brambles.

Blackthorn also deters herbivores from feeding on the nutritious shoots and buds of young trees. An old forester’s adage says ‘the thorn is mother of the oak2Twitter. (2022). [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/isabella_tree/status/1490047340161425409 [Accessed 8 Feb. 2022]..

The Danes have a similar expression for the thorny scrub: ‘skovens vugge’, meaning ‘the forest’s cradle’3Danmarkshistorien. (2012). Overdrev og øde agre | lex.dk – Danmarkshistorien. [online] Available at: https://danmarkshistorien-lex-dk.translate.goog/Overdrev_og_%C3%B8de_agre?_x_tr_sl=da&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=sc [Accessed 8 Feb. 2022]..

Another interesting aspect of this oak sapling is that last summer’s leaves have not dropped yet despite Storms Arwen and Malik. This ‘holding on’ of dead leaves through the winter months is a tendency of oak saplings called marcescence4Wikipedia Contributors (2021). Marcescence. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcescence [Accessed 8 Feb. 2022]..

There are several theories why this should be so. It might deter grazing. The dead, dry leaves making the twigs less palatable, and more noisy to browse, thereby potentially alerting predators of their presence.

The new leaf buds might also be protected from winter desiccation, trapping snow and delaying the formation of a moisture-conserving mulch of the fallen leaves until later in the spring.

The word marcescence derives from the Latin ‘marcescere,’ meaning to wither or languish. It can be also used figuratively as in a marcescent person, someone who has withered but not fallen.

Now I wonder who I can apply that to?

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