A couple of weeks ago a knowledgeable friend (thanks Ron) drew my attention to a tall and mature Cottonwood tree growing beside the local cemetery.

Way, way up high he said “it looks like there is a birch tree growing out of a crack or fork in the main trunk”. Finally we got along to check it out and most certainly it looks like a Birch tree is growing from the Cottonwood as you will see from the photographs. Default assumption, a birch seed lodged in a propitious crack, maybe with some dirt in it and underwent a process of self-grafting as it got its roots into the parents. Nearly looked like that.

So J and I took photographs and she did some deep reading. Sadly, we came to the conclusion that the birch-like branches are one form of young Cottonwood branches.

Why? It turns out that Poplars, Aspens and Cottonwoods are related and young wood can look like Birch – Birches not being at all related but just happening to look like young Cottonwood. Cottonwood mature bark is deeply fissured and cracked but younger branches are smooth and pale and, yes, birch-like. In fact, if you look at these photographs – it’s hard to see the detail from the ground without a decent lens; this is a very tall tree – you will see the transition from young to more mature bark. Nature can cause some head-scratching at times and even old heads like this one can learn new things.

If you want to check it out, the tree is right at the northern end of Oxford on the edge of the slope up to the cemetery.