News about seasonal changes at Filnore Woods and how to get involved as a volunteer, if you want to.
Filnore Woods is the Community Woodland for Thornbury in South Gloucestershire. It aims to provide a diverse range of habitats for wildlife, to give people a wild place to visit and to provide opportunities for education. Find them across the field behind Thornbury Leisure Centre, BS35 3JB.
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Hazel bushes are at their most beautiful at the moment, cloaked in golden catkins
The spreading branches contrast with the vertically hanging catkins.
The catkins are the male flowers producing clouds of golden pollen. When pollen lands on female flowers, the hazel nuts begin to grow. If you look carefully you can see the tiny red stars which are the female flowers, growing tight against the twig.
And on some bushes you can still see traces of last year's nuts
Puffballs are fungi that spread their spores by puffing them into the air. When something touches the outer casing a cloud of minute spores squirts out like a puff of smoke. This happened when we just gently touched these Stump Puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme). They grow on rotten stumps and logs.
They are club-shaped with a little hole on the top for the puff of spores to come out. Simon found them near post 17.
I'm sticking to the fungal theme for now. We have few flowers to provide winter colour at the moment, but we do have the fruiting bodies of several fungi. I found these four common rotters in the log pile in my garden.
The most colourful is the Yellow Brain fungus Tremellamesenterica.
Then we have Coral Spot, Nectria cinnabarina. When this appears on my hazel beansticks I know it is time to replace them.
The next two also grow on dead wood, helping to tidy up the place by turning fallen branches back into soil. Unfortunately they don't have English names yet. This is Cylindrobasidium evolvens. It starts off as a pure white crust and then develops a pinky-ochre tinge as the surface gets warty.
And number four is the delicately mauve crust of
Peniophora lycii, which slowly and carefully paints the surface of dead sticks.
This is the literal meaning of Flammulina velutipes, the scientific name of this fungus, known in English as Velvet Shank. The bright yellow to orange toadstools have brown velvety stalks, hence the name Velvet Shank.
It is one of the few fungi that produce their fruiting bodies in winter. It really doesn't seem to mind the frost Following the 1970s outbreak of Dutch elm disease, it was the chief gobbler-up of the dead elm trees.
This cluster of Flammulina, photographed by Simon on 30th Dec 2013, is growing at the base of a dead branch on a Silver Maple tree near post 16 in Filnore Woods. I mentioned it growing in the same place, in the blog posting for 6th Feb 2012, so it's been eating away at the dead wood for several years. It's probably time to remove this branch for safety reasons, as it is leaning right over the path. But it would be a pity to lose the the Flammulina toadstools altogether. So perhaps we'll leave a bit of a stump for them to live on.
Last Sunday we had 15 volunteers at the work morning.
Mike, Roger and Andy were loading up their barrows with woodchip to move it up the path.
Rex and Louise were spreading the chip.
Further up the path Nadya and Alan were widening the path ready for more surfacing.
Really working hard!
Back at the stream crossing Simon and Steve got in the water to unblock the culvert and lift out the stones washed down by the heavy rain. Eric, Will, Cynthia, Paul and Allan meanwhile were clearing rubble near our new tool store and using it to re-inforce the track.
The stuff they found could well have formed the basis of an agricultural archaeology exhibition - or not. I think we'll just dump it.
This fungus is found almost exclusively on dead branches of Elder bushes. It's scientific name is Auricularia auricula-judae, Jew's Ear, but many people have taken to calling it Jelly Ear to avoid causing offence.
Photo taken at Filnore on New Year's Eve by Simon Harding
If you touch it it has just the feel of a human ear, slightly downy. Slightly creepy!
Even in winter many leaves persist on the ground. But because the wind blows them, you cannot always be sure which individual tree they have come from.
Most people can recognise the lobed leaves of the common oak.
Field Maple leaves resemble large hawthorn leaves. As with many maples, their leaves have five lobes like a spread-out hand.
This next one is really European but naturalised in Britain (i.e. it will grow and spread by seed quite happily here). It is the Norway Maple. The leaves are a bit like Sycamore but they have whiskery points on the lobes.
I know spring may seem a long way off, but all last summer the trees have been preparing for it. Their buds are full of promise, ready to burst into action.
Here we have alder on the left and pussy willow on the right.
The alder twigs carry bunches of unexpanded catkins. In early spring, about February, these will stretch out and produce pollen to help produce next year's seeds. You can see last years conelets, still full of seed, on the twigs. This is an important source of winter food for some small birds.
The pussy willow buds are fat and round, like little beads glued on to the twigs. These will produce the 'pussy' catkins covered in silver hairs, as silky as kittens' fur - hence the name 'catkins.' Some will turn golden, covered in pollen. These are the male flowers. But on female trees, (yes you get male and female trees in some species) the silky buds grow into little spiky fruits that produce the fluffy seeds in late summer.