Sunday, 12 August 2012

Confusion in the long grass

As the mowers are coming to cut and collect the long grass, some of our volunteers had to widen the corridor between the trees and shrubs near post number .2

The next job was to uproot as much of the Ragwort as we could.  If it spreads into other fields it could poison cattle or horses.  This is most liklely to happen when the plant is included in a hay or silage crop, so we wanted to get rid of it before the grass was taken away.

Although Ragwort is an attractive flower and a good nectar source, it spreads quickly and it is easier for us to control a few plants than wait till there is a whole field to clear.  A few plants will survive and that is all to the good as it is the food plant of the yellow and black caterpillars of the Cinnabar moth.  Allan Burberry tells me that the caterpillars retain the poisonous alkaloid inside themselves and this together with their warning colouration, protects them against birds.

Ragwort (above) is a pretty flower with clusters of yellow daisy heads with about a dozen petals each.  It is not to be confused with St John's Wort with its clusters of similar coloured flowers, but only with five petals each. 

They flower at the same time but only a fool would confuse them. Well I'm afraid I did this morning.  Allan just managed to stop me digging up the whole plant of a St John's Wort.

Martin, Allan, Alan and Steve pulling ragwort.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

While I was strimming back some nettles in the "welcome area" just inside the main entrance to Filnore Woods, I noticed a round, white boulder lying in the grass.

Closer examination revealed a giant puffball.  This is the fruiting body of a fungus which spreads its mass of white threads under the soil.  When it is full grown and mature, the puffball breaks free of its stem and rolls around, puffing spores (like tiny seeds) out over a wide area.   

Compare the picture below with the photo I posted in February entitled "an abandoned football?".

Agrimony or Aaaron's Rod

Agrimony used to be known as fairy's wand in this part of Britain and was associated with magic.  It is one of the summer flowering plants which are providing nectar for insects at the moment.

The seeds have little 'velcro' hooks on like miniature versions of the burrs that stick on to your clothes.  In a week or so's time you may find them sticking to your socks if you walk through Filnore Woods.  This helps the plant to spread its seeds far and wide.

Friday, 10 August 2012


Whether standing loftily out in the grassland or skulking on the woodland fringe, the hogweed is now at its most impressive.  We have rather too much of it at Filnore now.  We are trying to manage the grassland to get a greater variety of wild flowers.


This is why we are having the mowers in in the next few weeks, weather permitting.  By cutting the grass and removing it, we hope to lower the fertility which will favour the smaller plants and restrict the growth of the more vigorous Hogweed, Hemlock, Creeping Thistle, Stinging Nettle and the more robust grasses.