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The anatomy of a hedge

The anatomy of a hedge

by Lewis ~ 30 September, 2016 ~ 2 comments

A hedge or hedgerow is made up of a number of parts or habitats.   It may offer

  • the main bulk of the hedge - that is the trees and shrubs
  • the bottom or base of the hedge - which is a strip of land with its own species, a mix of annuals and perennials, some herbaceous others more woody.  The base of the hedge can be quite variable, sometimes being narrow and light, or wide and dark (perhaps, supporting a badger or rabbit run)
  • a bank that supports the hedge and there may even be an associated ditch (a different habitat in itself)
  • a border or verge - an area of adjacent land which may be arable, pastoral or man-made in nature e.g. highway or managed in some way - mowed, grazed or sprayed.

Read more...

Beware the Giant Hogweed

Beware the Giant Hogweed

by Chris ~ 9 February, 2015 ~ 4 comments

The giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) belongs to the same family as the wild parsnip – the Apiaceae. It is sometimes referred to as the giant cow parsnip, or the giant cow parsley or the cartwheel flower. Like the Himalayan Balsam, the giant hogweed is an introduced plant (it comes from the Caucasus and Central Asia). It arrived in the U.K. in Victorian times, being used as an ‘ornamental plant’ – perhaps to add ‘architectural interest’ to gardens.

By the late Nineteenth Century, the Giant Hogweed had spread from the gardens where it had been cultivated, and was to be found ‘wild’.   It is now to be found across most parts of England, and is found on verges, hedges and rough ground. Like the Himalayan Balsam, it is associated with rivers and river banks. The Giant Hogweed spreads by seed, and is dispersed by wind and water (swept along in streams and rivers). Read more...

Cats as predators

Cats as predators

by Lewis ~ 14 March, 2014 ~ Comments Off on Cats as predators

Cats have been been 'domesticated' for many thousands of years, and currently stand as the most popular pet in the world (according to Wikipedia).  It has been suggested that the Egyptians were the first to domesticate the wild cat.   Though the association with humans probably pre-dates their domestication, recent research suggests that cats were attracted to ancient farming villages - perhaps by the supply of rodents  (rats / mice).  It is possible that cats are descended from african wildcats that 'self - domesticated' somewhere in the Near East.  A kitten has been found buried alongside human remains in Cyprus; this dates from some nine and half thousand years ago.

However, more recently, the BBC’s Wildlife program focused on domestic cats and wildlife.

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Invasive species – Rats.

Invasive species – Rats.

by Chris ~ 8 September, 2011 ~ 2 comments

Rats (brown and black) have been ‘camp followers’ of humans ever since we adopted a ‘settled’ existence.  In modern cities, it is often said that one is never more than 20 yards from a rat.  Whether this is true or not, rats have been a pest throughout the millennia, most notably associated with the spread of disease such a bubonic plague but also Weils Disease (Leptospirosis). Read more...

Invasion of the killer shrimps

Invasion of the killer shrimps

by Chris ~ 24 June, 2011 ~ 4 comments

No, it is not the title of a new Stephen King novel but the arrival in the UK of Dikerogammarus villosus.  This large freshwater shrimp has its home waters in the region of the Caspian and Black Sea.  However, the opening of the Rhone-Main-Danube canal has allowed it to progress through the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and France. Read more...

Invasions and introductions…

Invasions and introductions…

by Lewis ~ 19 January, 2011 ~ 3 comments

The native community of the U.K. is limited when compared to continental Europe.  The last Ice Age saw vast, thick glaciers covering much of Scotland and the Lake District, and all parts of the U.K. experienced a deep and long lasting arctic climate.    Plants and animals could only repopulate the land as and when the glaciers retreated and the climate improved.

Such movement was possible whilst the U.K. was still connected to Europe (Doggerland see the blog on “Our Changing Flora” ).  However, about 9500 BC, a giant flood broke through the ‘rock dam’ in the region of the Straits of Dover.  The flood washed away billions of tons of material creating the English Channel and separating the U.K. from Europe. Read more...

Ancient woodland part 2

Ancient woodland part 2

by Chris ~ 2 December, 2010 ~ comments welcome

The wholesale destruction of ancient woodland through farming and forestry has diminished but new roads,  bypasses and the installation of infra-structure & services (such as utilities & power lines) can still be a problem.  In recent times, new or different threats to ancient woodlands have emerged to upset the balance of woodland ecosystems.

In the 1960’s and early 70’s concern focussed on the effects of air and acid rain pollution .  Such pollution was characterised by the deposition of sulphur dioxide and its derivatives (sulphuric & sulphurous acid), plus various nitrogen oxides. Read more...

Dog's mercury

Dog’s mercury

by Chris ~ 28 October, 2010 ~ 44 comments

Dog’s Mercury (Mecurialis perennis) is sometimes referred to as ‘dog’s cole’. It is a perennial and is found in woodlands (particularly beech and oak); and in shady places (like dense hedgerows); it is found widely throughout Britain (except Northern Scotland). Its distribution in Ireland is much more limited.

It can spread by means of its underground rhizomes (stem-like structures that penetrate through the soil) and when it finds suitable conditions,  it may form a carpet of plants. There is some evidence that high light intensities inhibit the growth of the rhizomes. The plant can be quite invasive – especially in shady places. Read more...

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