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Woodland and hedgerow plants - the primrose.

Woodland and hedgerow plants – the primrose.

by blogs at woodlands ~ 5 March, 2021 ~ comments welcome

Primroses were said to be the favourite flower of Benjamin Disraeli, indeed he wrote of them that he liked primroses so much better for their being wild “they seem an offering from the fauns and dryads of the woods”.  On his death, Queen Victoria sent a wreath of primroses to his funeral with a note ‘his favourite flower’ (though it is not clear whether this referenced Disraeli or her late husband - Albert).

Primroses are generally regarded as the harbingers of Spring, indeed the name Primrose comes from the latin for first rose - Prima Rosa. In different parts of the country, the primrose sometimes has other names such ‘Easter Rose’, ‘Lent Rose’ and ‘Early Rose’.  Its scientific name is Primula vulgaris. Read more...

Plants - chemical factories

Plants – chemical factories

by blogs at woodlands ~ 28 February, 2021 ~ comments welcome

It is a sad fact of life that the plant sciences do not receive much attention, indeed university botany departments and herbaria have been ‘lost or subsumed’ into faculties of biological sciences.  Like some species included on The Red List of threatened species, the botany degree is seemingly on the road to extinction.  Study of herbarium specimens can provide valuable information about climate change.  For example, a study comparing the distribution of olive stomates of present day plants and preserved herbarium specimens has shown that the number of stomates per unit area of leaf has declined as carbon dioxide levels have increased.  Herbaria can also yield information about the changing distributions / ranges of plant species, and the phenology of flowering and similar events. 

Despite the declining profile of botany within universities, the fact is that without plants, we would not be here.   Plants not only provide us with oxygen [as a by-product’ of photosynthesis] but also Read more...

Restoring and rewilding initiatives.

Restoring and rewilding initiatives.

by blogs at woodlands ~ 26 February, 2021 ~ comments welcome

At the end of the last Ice Age, the British Isles were recolonised; plant and animal species from the continent moved across the 'land bridge’ (doggerland) that connected us to Europe.  Trees, shrubs and plants began to move into the areas ‘released’ from the ice sheets, forests formed in many places.  At first, the forests were largely coniferous and they extended across the north of the UK to swathes of Europe and Asia: they formed an enormous area of boreal coniferous forest.  This vast array of trees provided shelter and food for a variety of animals -  wolves, lynx, elk and many other species. 

Since the Ice Age,  forests and woodlands have been cut down for farming; trees felled for timber, sheep and deer ate young shoots and stopped native trees (like the Scots pine) from re-growing. Read more...

Greenhouse Gases, Goats Willow and sheep.

Greenhouse Gases, Goats Willow and sheep.

by blogs at woodlands ~ 19 February, 2021 ~ 2 comments

Recent times have seen a recognition that livestock farming contributes to global warming.  Ruminants such as cows, sheep and goats produce methane as a by-product of their digestion, not only that but their urine can release nitrous oxide - another potent greenhouse gas.  It has been suggested that farming might account for some 10% of UK emissions.

However, some new research (published this January) conducted by Professor Chris Stoate (of The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust) suggests that there might be a way of mitigating these emissions by changing the diet of certain ruminants slightly. Read more...

Woodland and hedgerow plants : the foxglove

Woodland and hedgerow plants : the foxglove

by blogs at woodlands ~ 15 February, 2021 ~ comments welcome

Whilst Foxgloves are familiar as plants found in cottage gardens, they are also widespread in woodlands and hedgerows. They may be particularly obvious in woodland clearings or areas where coppicing or felling has taken place as they can readily colonise disturbed ground.  If flowering, the foxglove is recognisable by its tall ‘spike’ of pink to purple flowers. The plants are biennial, existing as a rosette of leaves in the first year and then producing the flowering shoot in the second.  The leaves are rather soft to the touch, and downy due many small hairs on their surfaces (see images below).

Foxgloves are favoured by bumblebees which ‘disappear’ into their tubular flowers in search of nectar.  The flowers, which hang downwards, have a wide ‘mouth’ [often with hairs] and provide a ‘landing stage’ for visiting insects. Read more...

February’s Fungi Focus: Antrodia carbonica

February’s Fungi Focus: Antrodia carbonica

by Jasper Sharp ~ 9 February, 2021 ~ one comment

There is an aspect to going out on a fungi foray, and indeed looking at all parts of the natural world (I’m sure insect hunters will tell you the same), that makes one think of ‘Pokémon Go’.  You head out into the woods, not knowing what you’ll find, but with the awareness that some of your discoveries definitively trump others in terms of their impressiveness and rarity. Of course, not everything that is rare is particularly impressive to look at, but that doesn’t dampen the excitement when you realise you have found something that has been very seldom recorded and which you might have been the only person ever to notice in your area.  Many crust fungi can be considered rare precisely because they are so rarely recorded. Part of the reason they are so rarely recorded is because they are so rarely identified, and part of the reason they are so rarely identified is because, on the surface, many appear as relatively nondescript compared with more flamboyant members of their kingdom. You have to look long and carefully, often through a microscope, to work out what they are.  Read more...

Can woodlands and forests ‘overcome’ drought?

Can woodlands and forests ‘overcome’ drought?

by blogs at woodlands ~ 5 February, 2021 ~ comments welcome

One particular concern of continued climate change and global warming is drought.  Not only will drought affect people but also plants. Droughts can inhibit the growth of trees, or kill them.  Over time, they can change the species make up of woodlands and forests.   If woodlands and forests experience drought then this will seriously impact their ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere - they act as carbon sinks and help mitigate climate change.

Recently Tom Ovenden et al from Stirling University and Forest research at Roslin have focused on the effects of climate on Scots Pine.  Scots Pine is a widely distributed tree across Europe and often planted for its timber.  It is a ‘favourite’ with red squirrels.  The research team examined the trees in a pine forest that was planted (near Inverness) back in 1935.  They examined tree rings from trees from high and low density stands.  A ring forms each year and the width of the ring is a measure of the growth the tree has achieved in a particular year.  Wide rings indicating substantial growth.  The width of the rings was then correlated with climate records.  The rings formed in ‘drought years’ was compared to growth in average (non drought) years, and to the rings formed in ‘post drought’ years. Read more...

The BSBI New Year Plant Hunt.

The BSBI New Year Plant Hunt.

by blogs at woodlands ~ 3 February, 2021 ~ comments welcome

For some ten years now , the BSBI has organised the New Year Plant Hunt.  Each ‘hunt’ has involved people looking to see which plants are in flower during the first few days of the New Year.  The volunteers ‘hunt’ for wild flowers in their area for about three hours; and send the results to the BSBI. By doing this, the volunteers are helping build a clearer picture of how our wildflowers are responding to changes in our autumn and winter weather patterns. Read more...

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