Are you the owner of an ancient woodland in the High Weald of Sussex and Kent? If so read on…
The High Weald AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), the Woodland Trust and the Forestry Commission are jointly funding a Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS) Project focusing on returning ancient woodland plantations to native, broadleaved tree cover. The AONB contains some 7% of England’s Read more…
Moths, along with butterflies, belong to the taxonomic classification Lepidoptera. The name Lepidoptera derives from the Greek lepis (scale) and pteron (wing).
For information on how to distinguish between a butterfly and a moth, click here.
Almost 2,500 species of moth are thought to reside in the British Isles and these have in turn been grouped as macro-moths and micro-moths. As with most artificial Read more…
Perhaps you or someone in the family would like some help in identifying trees. If so try:
http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-5g2kv3 (an excellent guide)
Red, roe and fallow deer are to be found in the UK. Red Deer are generally found in Scotland, though small herds or populations are found in other places. Roe deer are quite common; the Forestry Commission estimates that there are some 500,000 in Britain – though at one stage, there were only populations in Scotland. The third type of deer to be found is the fallow deer; it Read more…
The horse chestnut or conker tree (Aesculus hippocastanum) was probably introduced into this country in the late 16th century. It has been extensively used in artificial plantings along roadsides – in creating avenues. In Spring, the statuesque trees are covered with white flowers, sometimes referred to as candles (see picture). Pink and red flowered forms are hybrid types.
The horse chestnut is recognisable by its distinctive shape; they have arching branches, which turn up at their ends. They also have distinctive palmate (hand shaped) leaves with prominent veins – see http://www.woodlands.co.uk/blog/tree-identification/horse-chestnut/.
Another feature that is characteristic to the tree is its seed – the conker, which is formed in the autumn within the prickly fruit. At one time, these were used as an animal feed. The wood of the tree is of little economic value.
Horse chestnuts were often planted in by local authorities, in part because of their impressive appearance but also because of their low incidence of fungal disease and pests. However, they are subject to attack by one particular fungus and also a moth. The fungus that attacks the tree is called Guignardia aesculi or the leaf blotch fungus. Reddish brown patches appear on the leaves (from July onwards), particularly at the tips and edges of the leaflets. A closer look will reveal small black pimples, which are the fruiting bodies of the fungus. Infection may result in some of the leaves falling early, but it does not usually result in significant damage to the tree.
However, infection of the horse chestnut with the larvae / caterpillars of a small moth (Cameraria ohridella) has a much greater impact. These caterpillars feed on the tissue between the upper and lower surfaces of the leaf, producing ‘mines’. These are tunnels through the leaf where the tissue has been eaten. If the leaf is held up to the light, such tunnels (if fresh) may appear translucent. The loss of the green photosynthetic tissue eventually results in the death of the leaf and early leaf fall. The caterpillars pass through several stages (instars) when the skin is shed and growth occurs. After about 4 weeks (in the summer), they pupate and emerge some 2 weeks later (again, in the summer months) as the adult moth. And the cycle of egg laying and hatching to caterpillar etc. begins again. Many types of tree are infected by leaf miners, but these do not (usually) have dramatic effects. However, the horse chestnut can suffer very severe infestations with these moth caterpillars so that all the leaves fall prematurely; the tree is basically defoliated. Conkers may be reduced in size.
The moth seems to flourish in very dry conditions. Outbreaks have occurred in the UK in recent years. The first was noted in Wimbledon in 2002, but it has since been seen in many places from North Norfolk to Newport in Wales. The moth is an invasive species, and is thought to have originated in the Balkans (‘home’ of the horse chestnut).
The spread of this pest is being monitored; if you can help or have any information then the following links may be useful:
For further information, see:
For an image of the moth, see :
Woodfairs and county shows are a great place to pick up information on woodlands and to meet people who are interested in woods. We attend about three of these each year as www.woodlands.co.uk but there are many more which we would like to go to if we had the time and energy! These can be good places to find unusual tools, to meet the forestry commission Read more…
The number of hedgehogs has declined in recent years. This is evidenced by surveys like that of the Mammals Trust UK, which has undertaken road surveys since 2001. Figures suggest that the hedgehog population has fallen significantly in the last few years, in some areas of the East and South East the fall in numbers has been particularly dramatic (see Read more…
The onset of Spring brings a variety of blue flowered plants such a bluebells, hyacinths and squills in our gardens, parks and woodlands. The bluebell is ‘easily’ recognisable. However, there are two or three different types of bluebells. The bluebell that is native to the UK has the Latin or Linnaean name of Hyacinthoides non scripta.
Its deep blue and scented flowers hang from an elegantly arching stem. It is found in abundance in many deciduous woodlands and hedgerows across the UK, though it is unusual or rare in parts of East Anglia and Scotland. The Spanish bluebell (H. hispanica) is also to be found.
It is possible to distinguish between the two species – some of the differences are listed in the table below:
|Common Bluebell||Spanish Bluebell|
|Leaves are narrow by comparison to Spanish Bluebell, about half an inch or so wide||Leaves broader, often an inch or more wide|
|The flowers at the top of the stem droop to one side||The top of the stem is much more erect|
|The flowers hang from one side of the stem||The flowers are arranged around the stem|
|The flowers are deep violet blue||The flowers are a pale or mid blue, and white and pink ones are also found|
|The flowers have parallel or straight sides and have a narrow bell shape||The flowers are more ‘open’ with a cone shaped bell|
|The tips of the petals roll back somewhat as though they ‘want’ to touch the tube of the flower||Not such obvious curving|
|The pollen is a pale cream colour||Pollen is a blue colour|
|Flowers are scented||No scent detectable|
The spanish bluebell can hybridise with the native bluebell, giving rise to types that have a mixture of the above characteristics.
The Natural History Museum is trying to map the distribution of these different bluebells and it is asking people to complete an online questionnaire about the bluebells in their gardens, local parks, hedgerows and woodlands.
If you can help, go to: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/british-natural-history/survey-bluebells/recording/index.html
If you are interested in when plants flower, or when the first butterflies / birds are to be seen then visit http://www.phenology.org.uk/. You might like to become one of their recorders, sending details of events that you observe in your garden or woodland.