Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Not quite ready to shave

Old Man's Beard will soon develop its fluffy seed heads, which hang hairily over bushes and trees through the winter.

But right now they are more like sea anemones.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Fern spores

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


One of the last flowers of summer, knapweed is still flourishing at Filnore 
and supplying nectar for bumble bees and others.

Another source of nectar, one or two scabious flowers can still be seen too.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Wild arum berries

 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.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Comma makes a pause

A comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album) basking in the sun.  A century ago commas were rare but since then they have increased and are now common (or should that be comman?) but no-one knows why.  

Their raggedy outline gives camouflage protection when they rest with their wings closed over their back; the underside of the wings is a dark, dead-leaf colour, all except for the small white c-shape or comma.

photo: urban butterfly garden - thank you

Comma caterpillars feed on stinging nettles, elms or hops.

Alan was out with his camera and snapped this one perched head down, the rare "inverted comma" he suggests :o)

He also spotted a speckled wood

and the last of the black and orange caterpillars of the cinnabar moth feeding on ragwort.

These three photos: Alan Watts

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Filming at Filnore

Very excited to see this group of young people filming a new web series yesterday.

The scene, as far as I could tell, involved a certain amount of animosity between the two protagonists (right).

Great to see that FW is now a sought after filming location.
I'm eagerly awaiting the release of this production.