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Plant pigments - the xanthophylls

Plant pigments – the xanthophylls

by Chris ~ 15 November, 2017 ~ comments welcome

The chlorophylls (and there are several different types) are the main light absorbing pigments in land plants.  They are located in the chloroplasts of the palisade and spongy mesophyll layers of the leaves.  The chlorophylls mainly absorb red and blue wavelengths  of light.   Apart from the chlorophylls, plants have other pigments - often termed the accessory pigments - notably the carotenes and the xanthophylls. Read more...

The Monthly Mushroom : Fly Agaric

The Monthly Mushroom : Fly Agaric

by Jasper ~ 3 November, 2017 ~ comments welcome

We find them growing in fields, on parks, lawns, even between our toes, but most of us commonly associate fungi with woodland habitats. At this time of year, our forests are positively bulging with them.  Far from the view of their mushroom and toadstool fruiting bodies, their mycelial root system of thread-like hyphae are crucial for breaking down fallen leaf litter and decaying dead wood, returning once living matter to the soil. Some, like the Armillaria or Honey Fungus, are less beneficial, parasitising living trees, stunting their growth and even killing them outright. Others however, play a much more crucial role in our woodland ecosystems. These are the mycorrhizal species.

The term mycorrhiza comes from the Greek words “mykos” for fungus and “rhiza” for root, and describes the types of fungi that form symbiotic relationships with plants. Those that penetrate plant root cells are called endomycorrhizal or arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Read more...

"Action Oak" - should oak tree research be funded by DEFRA or by charity appeal?

“Action Oak” – should oak tree research be funded by DEFRA or by charity appeal?

by Angus ~ 31 October, 2017 ~ one comment

Oak trees are under threat through disease and climate change and it will cost serious money to research causes and solutions.  This could be paid for either through general taxation or by an appeal for charitable donations with help from high profile people such as celebrities and the Royal family.  The rate of required spending on oak disease is increasing.  It is proposed to set up an "Action Oak" charity appeal spearheaded by Woodland Heritage - an organisation based in Haslemere just 10 miles from the Forestry Commission's research arm at Alice Holt in Surrey.

Many people will wonder why the government isn't doing more directly through DEFRA Read more...

What the bees see .......

What the bees see …….

by Chris ~ 25 October, 2017 ~ one comment

Flower-visiting insects evolved in the Cretaceous Period (about 100 million years ago) -  a time when the major flower groups (Monocotyledons and Dicotyledons) came into being.  Flowers have a number of “ploys’ to encourage pollinators to visit them - for example, by their colour, scent, reflectance, size, outline, temperature, motion and nectar guides. The latter are markings or patterns on the petals and floral parts to guide bees, bumblebees or other pollinators towards the nectar and to encourage pollination.  This link (click here) shows how a flower might appear to a bee or butterfly - due their sensitivity to U.V light. Read more...

How George Peterken helped to save Britain's ancient woodlands, and his new book - "Woodland Development"

How George Peterken helped to save Britain’s ancient woodlands, and his new book – “Woodland Development”

by Angus ~ 20 October, 2017 ~ one comment

I met up with George Peterken, the man who has probably done more than any living person to protect Britain's ancient Woodlands.  He continues to study woods in fine detail to find out how they actually work and he has written a new book, "Woodland Development" where he explains how a 70-year study of Lady Park Woodland in the Wye Valley has revealed detail on how a broadleaved woodland develops.  Young trees that are just slightly larger than others at the beginning tend to stay larger: "within the first decade, probably sooner, those which are destined to become big trees will have already established themselves as the larger saplings - it's like the boat race: getting an early lead means you probably win in the long run."   Read more...

The Great Storm of 1987 - 30 years on.

The Great Storm of 1987 – 30 years on.

by Lewis ~ 16 October, 2017 ~ comments welcome

It is now some 30 years since the “great storm’ which was (probably) the most ferocious weather event to arrive in the U.K in the last three hundred years.  Winds that reached 115 mph wreaked devastation across the southern parts of the country.  At the back of the weather front that brought this wind was a hook-shaped airstream - the “sting jet” which created particularly severe gusts of wind.

Eighteen people died; and the repair bill was probably in the region of two billion pounds.  Amid the chaos of destroyed homes, blocked roads and railway lines, loss of power and telecommunications, it was estimated that some fifteen million trees were uprooted - in woodlands, forests, arboreta, parks and city streets.

That October was wet so the roots of trees were sitting in sodden soil, and the leaves were still on the branches.  In consequence, when the gales / storm arrived the trees offered considerable resistance to the flow of  air so that they were literally torn from the ground.  It resulted in the loss of ancient (and modern) woodlands - and the damage to property and communications. Read more...

feed the birds .......

feed the birds …….

by Lewis ~ 7 October, 2017 ~ comments welcome

At this time of year, berries and other fruits form a valuable part of the diet of many wild animals, but particularly birds (such as blackbirds, thrushes,  fieldfares and redwings) and small mammals.  They will feast on berries and fruits through the autumnal and winter months.

Many fruits of hedgerow and garden plants are berries.  Botanically speaking, a berry is a fruit formed from the ovary of a single flower and the outer layer of the ovary wall develops into an edible, fleshy portion (the pericarp). Berries are generally juicy, rounded, brightly coloured, they may be sweet or sour, and inside there may be many pips or seeds - they do not have a ‘stone’.  The tissues of the berry will be rich in sugars, starches, some protein and various minerals.  Read more...

The Monthly Mushroom – The Shaggy Inkcap

The Monthly Mushroom – The Shaggy Inkcap

by Jasper ~ 1 October, 2017 ~ 3 comments

As any seasoned mycologist will tell you, there’s much more to mushroom hunting than mere foraging. The sheer beauty of their manifold shapes, colours and patterning makes many specimens ideal photographic subjects. Then there is the joy of learning how fungi are situated within a broader ecosystem, with different specimens associated with different plants, trees and microhabitats. There is also the satisfaction of positive identification and the excitement that you may have stumbled across a rare specimen in a place they’ve not been spotted before, and of being an active member of a community contributing to this still obscure knowledge base (if you wish to get more involved in this aspect, the British Mycological Society have both a website and a lively Facebook discussion group (where people post their pics). Read more...

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