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Ginkgo leaves fall later in late ‘fall'

Ginkgo leaves fall later in late ‘fall’

by Lewis ~ 20 November, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Ginkgo biloba or the maidenhair tree is unusual in many respects.  It is often described as ‘a living fossil” - as is the horseshoe crab and the coelacanth .   Ginkgo is a long lived, deciduous tree with distinctive leaves.  The leaves are fan shaped (jpg adjacent), but notched or divided - forming two lobes (hence biloba)  The leaf veins radiate out into the leaf blade from the leaf stalk - but do not form a network.  Two veins enter the leaf at its base and these split into two again and again.  This is known as dichotomous venation (see image).  The leaves can be between two and four inches long, and have a long, slender petiole (leaf stalk).   Apart from their physical appearance, the leaves of Ginkgo are unusual in term of the autumnal leaf drop.   Read more...

Air pollution and sparrows

Air pollution and sparrows

by Chris ~ 15 November, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Air pollution is a major concern in many of our cities across the U.K., and indeed through Europe.   Indeed, it is thought to be responsible for a significant number of premature / early deaths.   The European Environment Agency (EEA) has estimated that air pollution is causing around 467,000 premature deaths in Europe every year.   The main culprits are particulates and nitrogen oxides (NOx) - mainly derived from the engines of cars, vans, lorries but also boilers etc.

Now research at the University of Madrid has shown that air pollution is affecting bird populations.   Dr. Herrera-Duenas and her co-workers collected hundreds of blood samples from sparrows in rural, sub-urban and urban areas.   The house sparrow has been strongly associated with human habitation but can live in urban or rural settings. Read more...

November’s Monthly Mushroom: Common Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus)

November’s Monthly Mushroom: Common Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus)

by Jasper ~ 8 November, 2018 ~ comments welcome

It is hard not to notice when you get close to a stinkhorn. You are most likely to catch a whiff of one long before you see it. If you find yourself lured to the source of this eye-watering odour, you will encounter a fungal form that is difficult to put out of one’s mind. These two equally offensive aspects combine to make it one of the most commonly found and identified fungi in the United Kingdom.

It shouldn’t be necessary to provide an exact English translation for the Common Stinkhorn’s  Latin name of Phallus impudicus, nor the derivation of the name Phallaceae that encapsulates the entire stinkhorn family. Those with a working knowledge of French will note its defining characteristics are contained in both its direct translation from the scientific binomial name, as ‘le phallus impudique’, and its more common sobriquet ‘le satyre puant’ (‘stinking satyr’). In Japan, it is the suppon-take (pronounced ‘soup-on takkay’) or ‘snapping-turtle mushroom’, referring to the soft-shelled fresh-water amphibian whose bobbing elongated neck has its own aphrodisiac associations in Asia. Read more...

A trip to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew

A trip to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew

by Chris ~ 6 November, 2018 ~ comments welcome

A small contingent set off from Woodlands HQ in SE London to visit Kew Gardens.  A trip to Kew is always a pleasure but there were a number of things that had induced us to face the rigours of the South Circular - notably

  • The restoration of the temperate house
  • The exhibition of “a legacy of ancient oaks” by Mark Frith
  • A visit to the gallery of Marianne North’s paintings / work
  • It was a beautiful sunny but autumnal day 

We arrived and accessed the car park near the river via Ferry Lane (where there are a good number of disabled spaces - which is not always the case at certain public venues / attractions).  A short walk took us to the Brentford Gate and into the gardens.  For those with limited mobility (or stamina), there is a Kew Explorer stop nearby.   Here you can board the Kew Explorer Land train which runs each day between 11 am and 3 pm.  A complete tour of the Gardens takes  about 40 minutes and ticket holders can get on and off at any stop on the route, re-boarding the ‘train’ when ready. Read more...

Oaks by frith

Mark Frith’s ‘Legacy of Ancient Oaks’ at Kew Gardens.

by Angus ~ 5 November, 2018 ~ comments welcome

"At times the tree appeared to draw itself", says Mark Frith in describing his 3-year project to draw 20 veteran oak trees.   Mark was sponsored by Felix Dennis to criss-cross Great Britain finding venerable oak trees, most of which had been alive for 500 years and some of which were over 1,000 years old.   Many of these trees have become local celebrities such as the Gospel Oak  in Hertfordshire or the Major Oak in Nottinghamshire, part of the original Sherwood Forest.  One of them, the Pontfadog Oak which was known as Wales' National tree got into the news in 2013 when a storm blew it over - so Frith's drawing caught this one just in time. Read more...


Bees and the landscape

by Chris ~ 1 November, 2018 ~ 3 comments

Bumblebees and honeybees seem to be assailed from all sides - pesticides, parasites and viruses, habitat fragmentation, climate change all come into play.     Now a study of honeybees in the North West (of the UK) suggests that there is a clear link between their immediate landscape and the quality of their diet.

Bees collect pollen and nectar for their food    Nectar is converted into honey in the hive, whilst the pollen is converted into beebread / 'bee pollen' .  Read more...

Wildlife corridors

Wildlife corridors

by Chris ~ 28 October, 2018 ~ one comment

The term 'wildlife corridor' is used to refer to any linear feature in the landscape that can be used for migration or dispersal of wildlife.  Wildlife corridors offer the possibility of linking habitats and reducing the isolation of populations.  Linear features vary considerably in size (in terms of width and length), they may not be continuous, for example, a hedgerow may have a gate in it or an opening to a field.   The extent to which a linear feature is broken by gaps has implications in terms of its function as a corridor.  Patches of natural features or a particular habitat type can also enable wildlife to disperse / migrate - the term 'stepping stones' has occasionally been applied to them.   In a countryside that is becoming increasingly fragmented, the role of wildlife corridors has assumed greater importance.  Read more...

box moth

The Box Moth – food, sex and death

by Angus ~ 24 October, 2018 ~ comments welcome

The box moth has recently been ravaging the box hedges of Britain.  Box hedges are like jam sandwiches to these hungry caterpillars and they are making gardens and woodlands unsightly and in some places they are putting at risk the survival of traditional hedging.  Surprising as it may seem, there is an organisation dedicated to promoting boxwood - the European Boxwood and Topiary Society which celebrates and protects ornamental gardens across Europe.

Box Moths (Cydalima perspectalis) come in two forms - the common variant and the darker melanic variant.  Like most animals, their main activities are eating and sex.  The eating is mainly done by the caterpillars which eat the box leaves and create a trail of cobwebs and leaf pellets - part of an affected box bush is shown below :- Read more...

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