Identifying fungi

This is a picture  of a bracket fungus on an oak tree in the park. The mycelium, which is the main part of the fungus, is growing invisibly inside the tree. This beautiful outgrowth is the fruiting body, part of the fungus’s reproductive system.

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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.

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Vandalism fatally damages SCP trees

The vandals are back. Last night we got this message from DKG:

“Just returned from a walk around the park with Chris S. Unfortunately the vandals are back. Four trees have been ring barked in the copse in Village Green, the same area where we had trouble last year. If it was children they knew what they were doing, looking closely at the damage, they were not using small pocket knives.

I dread to think what will be damaged next. Especially with the summer holidays approaching. Once people think it’s a good idea to damage trees in this way, where/what next? “

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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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