On The Wildside

Stone Pine  (Pinus pinea) at  Dunglass.
Stone Pine (Pinus pinea) at Dunglass.

The bridge over the Dunglass Dean was the meeting point for the final excursion of the year for the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Duns Group.

This was an evening walk with the principal objective of studying the trees along the road verge and railway embankments and the fine specimen trees from the entrance to Dunglass Estate up to the Collegiate Church.

Prior to 1998 some very fine specimens of the Stone Pine, Pinus pinea, growing on the railway embankment were felled in the interests of safety. They were large stately specimens with tall trunks and big rounded heads, a distinctive character of this southern Mediterranean species.

A number of young Stone Pines were replanted and are progressing well. At the moment they resemble very large bushes rather than trees, but they are growing well, and, sometime in the long distant future they should turn into stately, distinctive trees. They have started to bear cones which are green and immature just now but will turn grey-brown when they mature.

If you buy and eat pine seeds the chances are they are Stone Pine seeds as they are harvested in many Mediterranean countries, but we are still a long way from having edible East Lothian pine seeds.

Along this part of the railway embankment are several very large specimens of the Austrian Pine, Pinus nigra, they look very dark and somber as their needles are a very dark green and the upper branches look quite black. In contrast, some nearby Scots Pine trees, Pinus sylvestris, looked much brighter with their short blue-green needles and orange-brown trunks and branches, which were attractive when highlighted by the evening sun. Other mature trees were Spanish Chestnut, Field Maple and Hornbeam.

Along the driveway inside the estate are several large Evergreen Oak trees, like the Stone Pine they originated in southern Europe where are found several species which hold their leaves throughout the winter, the ones at Dunglass are Quercus ilex. Evergreen Oaks can be a little tender, especially when young and cold frosty winds can burn the leaves and make them rather unsightly. The ones here have stood the test of time and show how relatively mild this part of Scotland is.

Another exceptional tree is a huge specimen of the Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo, which is growing at the estate entrance. This is by far the largest specimen I have ever seen. It has a great girth to its trunk and must be very old, unfortunately it lost a big branch last winter but still looks superb.