They are called 'witches' brooms and are caused by a fungus, Taphrina betulina.
Friday, 13 October 2017
Have you noticed these tufts of twigs on birch trees? They are near post 10 at Filnore.
The fungus stimulates the tree to produce huge numbers of buds in one place. These grow into short twigs, which then die, resulting in an ever increasing mass of dead and living twigs.
Wednesday, 27 September 2017
A fire site has appeared right in front of the bench at the viewpoint. I can see why this spot has been chosen but it is rather unsightly.
Last week we came upon four young people by a fire they had lit in the woods. We explained that it was bad for the tree roots, trunks and branches. They were quite polite and put the fire out.
I mentioned that we intended creating a campfire site on the foundations of the old cowshed. We would provide logs to sit on and some wood to burn. This is the entrance to the site.
But it is a bit overgrown in there.
We'll have to get on and clear it to save our trees from scorching.
Wednesday, 20 September 2017
Friday, 15 September 2017
Now is the season of sporulation. This is how ferns produce spores which eventually give rise to new ferns. Spores are much smaller than most seeds and float in the air.
Here is a Hart's Tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) with one of the fronds turned over to show the long, brown sori on the underside.
Male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) has more divided fronds and the sori are round or 'kidney'-shaped.
Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) is more delicate and frilly
and the sori are half-moon or j-shaped.
Soft shield fern (Polystichum setiferum) is divided so that each little pinnule is like a mitten with a thumb.
Sori in this photo are pale and unripe.
Monday, 11 September 2017
Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara) or Woody Nightshade is nowhere near as poisonous as deadly nightshade, to which it is not even closely related. The green berries are the most toxic part but less harmful when they turn red.
It's just as well to be able to recognise the plant, especially for children, but don't panic. It's related to the potato and to the Christmas house plant called winter cherry, which both have poisonous berries and we don't worry too much about those.
The stems are not rigid enough for the plant to stand up on its own so it scrambles among other plants.
The small flowers are like jewels in the undergrowth. The petals are purple and contrast with the yellow cone of stamens in the centre.
Wednesday, 6 September 2017
Sunday, 3 September 2017
All that is left of the wild arum or cuckoo pint is the clump of berries, green at first, ripening through orange to a shiny red.
You can see why wild arum spreads so easily. The berries are close to the ground and, once ripe, don't have far to go to meet the soil.
They look rather evil and are slightly poisonous if eaten but don't taste good, so are not very tempting.
Next spring the arrow-head leaves will pop up in January,
followed by the flowers in April.