Ivy flowers

The park’s ivy flowers between September and November; each plant’s flowering season is quite short but a succession of plants flowers all through the autumn. The flowers are small, green and yellow, and so insignificant-looking that many people don’t realise that that they are flowers at all.

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Jerusalem artichoke

A message from Ian:

May be of interest to you:   Jerusalem Artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus, identified by Lindsay Moore [County Recorder Flora].  Ali and I found it along the stream near the bridge at the bottom of the Blackthorn Tunnel.  I’ve added it to the Census.  Unusual, probably from some bird dropping seed. 

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Seed dispersal

Seed dispersal is an annual problem for a lot of trees and shrubs.  If seeds just fell down and germinated under the parent tree, they would compete with the parent for nutrition, water and eventually light. Trees need a way to send their seeds away to a new environment where their germination will not pose a threat. Read on:

Acorns

Oak trees produce thousands of acorns every year. Somebody has worked out that an oak tree can produce ten million acorns over its lifetime. In a good year, they carpet the ground under the tree.

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Red tailed bumblebee

Twelve year old photographer, Neave Duggan, has sent us pictures taken in the park of a male red tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) feeding on creeping thistle flowers.

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Weeds

The Weed Act of 1959 requires landowners and occupiers to control the spread of five species of injurious weeds: ragwort, creeping thistle, spear thistle, common dock and curled dock. The Weed Act’s purpose was to increase the productivity of arable land and to protect livestock at a time, post WWII, when self sufficiency seemed at lot more important than ecology.

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Creeping thistle

Like ragwort, creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense) is classed as an injurious weed by the Weed Act of 1959. Our hedges and edges are full of it: beautiful, pollen-rich, heavily scented flowers, buzzing with invertebrates, followed by seed heads elevated on stems sturdy enough to support seed-eating birds. Gorgeous.

 

Photographs by DKG

A common spotted orchid, photographed today by Julie Newble.

More orchids here

    Common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)

Ring barking

Ring barking or girdling can kill a tree. It happens when the tree’s bark is removed right the way round its trunk. Accidental girdling may be the result of a carelessly used strimmer, or over-tight wires and ties; it might be mammals gnawing on the bark or, in the case of deer, rubbing their antlers against it.

Continue reading “Ring barking”

Blackthorn

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) is the earliest of our native flowering trees.  In late February it is very distinctive: masses of creamy white blossom on bare black branches. Now, in April, the small nondescript leaves are opening and the plant becomes just one of the many spiny and spiked elements in our hedgerows. In the autumn, blackthorn is once again easily identified by the blue-black fruits we call sloes.

Blackthorn fruits prolifically;  the sloes are very bitter but become more palatable after the first frost. Neolithic peoples dried them to sweeten them and archeologists have found straw lined pits full of sloe-stones, which suggests a method of preservation we no longer understand.

The blue part of a sloe’s blue-black colour is a bloom of yeast; sloes will ferment on the tree and intoxicate the birds that eat them. While there is no proof, it is hard to believe that neolithic people didn’t make sloe wine.

The tree’s thorns, hardened in urine or in a chimney, were used as pins, skewers and awls.

Blackthorn wood is tough and resilient and takes a fine polish. It makes excellent tool handles (the earliest examples we have date from the Roman period) but has been used to make blunt instruments, cudgels, knobkerries, shillelaghs, for a lot longer than that. With judicious pruning and a little patience, blackthorn will produce a thick knobbly stick with a lump on the end.

Black Rod’s black rod is supposedly a blackthorn stick.

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Pictures: Google Images

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