Friday, 30 December 2011

Bunches of oak buds

Not my best photo but it illustrates the point.  If you are not sure whether a winter tree is an oak or not, look at the buds.  More specifically look at the bud at the end of the twig - the terminal bud.  It is not just one bud but several in a bunch, and this goes for all the 500 species of oak in the world.  We only have two native oaks in Britain and they look pretty similar.  I'll tell you how to distinguish them in a later post.
Here is a little seedling oak growing amongst the ivy at the top of Filnore Lane, just next to the Paddock section of Filnore Woods.  Even in December, young English oaks hang on to their leaves.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Oaks alive and dead

This is our largest oak tree at Filnore Woods.  It used to have a partner standing right alongside.  That is why it has so few branches on one side.  The other oak tree took all the light, so branches couldn't grow.  But several years ago the other oak fell and we have left it there to be a home for fungi and for beetle larvae. 

When it is alive, an oak tree can support more different forms of creature than any other tree in Britain - more than 280 species of insect, leave alone spiders, birds, bats and other small mammals.  And even when it is dead it can still provide food and shelter to specially adapted creatures.

More about oak in the next post.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Ho hairy Ho!

Old Man's Beard, what could be more appropriate on Santa's busiest night?  The fluffy seed heads of Traveller's Joy or Wild Clematis, as it is also called, stay on the plants through the winter and are more noticeable than the small yellow flowers of late summer.  This is a climber and will go right up into the top of trees and even bend young trees over with its weight.  I took this photo this week, of it climbing up the ancient hedge between Cuckoo Pen and the Nursery Field at Filnore

Friday, 23 December 2011

Jolly Holly

This year many people have noticed that hollies have kept their berries longer. This could be that there are more berries because there were more insects to pollinate the flowers in a milder spring, or that a milder autumn produced more other food for birds to eat. The picture above was taken in my garden today.

 Only the female trees have berries but they need pollen from a nearby male tree for fertilization, when they flower in March. Holly trees in Filnore Woods are mostly too young to have much in the way of berries, but they are one of the few trees that can tolerate the shade cast by other trees, so you will often find them in shady places like beech woods.  This one below is in Cuckoo Pen. 

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Lambs tails

 A lot of hazel was planted in Filnore Woods when the big planting happened in winter 1998-99. Now that the days are getting longer we can look forward to a good display of lambstail catkins. The hazel bushes are showing the catkins already, but in January and February they will stretch out to their full length, covered in yellow pollen. These are the male flowers of the hazel. Each female flower is really tiny, like a miniature red sea anemone on top of a little bud. They appear at the same time as the catkins, but before the leaves.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

More Christmas Flowers

Also found this week on the slopes of Cowshed Field, the purply pink flowers of Knapweed.  You can see that this flower is related to thistles and cornflowers.  There are usually a lot of these at Filnore Woods in late summer, a favourite with butterflies like the Ringlet and Marbled White which are on the wing in July.  They feed from the cluster of tiny florets, which open in succession on each flower-head.

I read in the Reader's Digest Field Guide to the Wildflowers of Britain that the flowers can be used .  .  .
".  .  .  to foretell a maiden's future.  A girl must pick the expanded florets off a flower-head, then put the remainder of the flower-head inside her blouse.  After an hour she should take it out again and examine it.  If the previously unexpanded florets have now blossomed, it is a sure sign that the man she will marry is shortly coming her way."

Saturday, 17 December 2011

View from the Top

Members of Olveston Countryside Group came for a walk round Filnore Woods last Saturday.  They were very enthusiastic as for some it was their first visit.  We strolled round the new wood in the Pylon Field, spotting the various trees and shrubs planted 13 years ago.  In December 1998 it was a field of mowing grass, but the tree canopy has now closed and the grass has disappeared.

The view from the top of Cowshed Field is as good as ever.  You can see from Marlwood School in the west, all the way round past Thornbury Golf Club, Chepstow on the River Severn, Oldbury School and Power Station, Lydney in the Forest of Dean, and Berkeley to North Nibley Monument in the east.

In the distance we could just make out the circle of trees on the top of May Hill (picture) near Mitcheldean.  They were planted in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria's golden jubilee.  In 1998 we planted a ring of beech trees near the viewpoint at Filnore Woods, so that one day people on May Hill will be able to see us in the distance.