Sunday, 31 August 2014

Ivy Flowers and Burdock

As the flowers of Burdock fade, you can see the fruits forming. These are the burrs that children (and silly adults) delight to throw at other people so that they catch on their woolly coats or jumpers.
  Some more common plants that use people and other furry animals to spread their seeds about are goosegrass, herb bennet (or wood avens) and agrimony, which seems to specialise in socks.
While while most plants are preparing their fruits and seeds for autumn, the Ivy is just producing its flower buds. 

These will provide a last feast of nectar and pollen for insects before the frost cuts short their buzzy little lives.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Spangles and currants - very galling

Some of our oak trees are now showing yellow blotches on their leaves.

If you look underneath the leaves you find lots of little brown sequins.  These are spangle galls and are caused by a tiny gall wasp called Neuroterus quercusbaccarum. 

They fall to the ground in autumn when the leaves fall, and in the spring fertile female wasps emerge and lay eggs on oak buds. These cause not spangle galls but red currant galls on the young oak leaves and catkins in May and June. 
This time both male and female wasps emerge from the galls and this results in eggs laid on the oak leaves. These cause the new spangle galls.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Puffing and bubbling

As I have been writing this blog about the natural phenomena in Filnore Woods since 2012, there is inevitably a bit of repetition.  But that is the way of things.  The cycle of the year is a never-ending repetition of itself. Here are two things spotted this week again:
First the Giant Puffball which appears annually in the grass at the welcome area just inside the gate.  This is the fruiting body of a fungus Langermannia gigantea, and if someone hadn't kicked it it would have grown even bigger.
My second spot is that the stream, which has been dormant all summer, has woken again following the showers we have been having. 

If at any stage this autumn you see the pipe under the stream crossing blocked up, please unblock it to prevent flooding.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Berries ripening on Guelder Rose

Bushes of Guelder Rose are ripening up already.
These berries will be scarlet soon, bringing some colour to the woodland edge and providing good bird fodder.

Elderberries are also ripening so all you jelly makers and wine brewers can get picking.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Ragwort pulling

Today volunteers from among the Friends of Filnore Woods went on a 'ragwort pull'. 

Although Ragwort ('wort' pronounced to rhyme with 'Bert') is a pretty yellow flower and a good nectar source for insects, it can spread to neighbouring farmers' fields where it can prove harmful or even fatal to horses and cattle if included in hay or silage.  So we need to control it.  We won't eliminate it because it is very good at spreading by its windblown seeds, but we can maintain it at a low population.

You loosen the roots with a fork and then pull the whole plant up and dispose of it by composting so that none of the toxins get back into the food chain.
The leaves are very ragged, which helps ditinguish it from another plant with a yellow flower head flowering at this time - the Perforate St John's Wort.  Compare the raggedy leaves of Ragwort . . . . . 

 . . . . . .with the neat pairs of leaves on the Perforate St John's Wort below.  If you hold a PSJW leaf up to the light you can see the translucent dots, like little perforations, that give it its name.
And the flowers are quite different too.

Saturday, 16 August 2014


This little purple flower, Selfheal,  can grow up to 20cm high.
But usually, when I see it in my lawn it is no more than a couple of centimetres and spreads like fury. 

It has been used as a healing herb for centuries, for wounds, minor injuries, sores, burns, bruises, sore throats, liver complaints, inflammations and allergies. 
John Gerard in the 16th century said "there is no better herb" and Nicholas Culpepper in the 17th century said it was called selfheal "because when you are hurt, you may heal yourself."