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Flowers, nectar and 'mad honey'

Flowers, nectar and ‘mad honey’

by Chris ~ 13 July, 2018 ~ 3 comments

Nectar is a sugar-rich liquid produced by special glands on a plant.  These glands are normally associated with the flowers - but not always.  Floral nectaries are often found at the base of the petals so that a visiting insect picks up or deposits pollen whilst collecting the nectar.  The visitor thus 'helps’ the plant to reproduce / set seed.   Common pollinators are bumblebees, bees, wasps, moths, butterflies and hummingbirds;  less common pollinators are flies, ants, possums and bats.

However, nectaries can be found elsewhere on a plant - on leaves, leaf stalks (petioles), stems and fruits; these are extra-floral nectaries. Read more...

Wood spurge and The Euphorbias.

Wood spurge and The Euphorbias.

by Lewis ~ 11 July, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Wood spurge can be seen at this time of year, its yellow-green floral structures (cyathia*) appear in late spring to early summer.   The wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides) is a perennial that can grow to a height of about 80 cm.  It flourishes in relatively dry locations, such as the dry shady areas under trees and may colonise an area quite quickly - by means of its underground rhizomes  (indeed, it can become quite invasive).

The wood spurge is a member of the Euphorbiaceae (aka the Spurge Family) - which contains some 2000+ species distributed across the world.

Read more...

Comfrey,  Symphytum officinale

Comfrey,  Symphytum officinale

by Lewis ~ 10 July, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Comfrey is a perennial plant that belongs to the family known as the Boraginaceae.  Plants in this family are characterised by being particularly hairy.  It is grows in damp places - like ditches, river banks, the sides of streams.  Comfrey can grow to a height of 1.5 metres - with a strong central (and hairy) stem .  The basal leaves (near the ground) are stalked and large  (see image below) - being some 15 to 25 cm in length; they are also soft and hairy.  Leaves higher up the stem are narrower and lack obvious leaf stalks (petioles) - see featured image (adjacent). Read more...

Silicon in plants

Silicon in plants

by Chris ~ 9 July, 2018 ~ one comment

Oxygen, silicon and aluminium are the three most common elements in the Earth’s crust; the aluminosilicates (and related compounds) make up up much of the inorganic skeleton of the soil.  So, though silicon is abundant in nature, silicon is rarely talked about in terms of plant nutrition.  People speak of nitrates, phosphates, potassium, and NPK fertilisers,; however, the Chinese make use of some thirty million tons of silicon fertiliser a year.

Certain plants are known to make use of silicon (especially the grass family - the Poaceae, formerly the Graminae).  Plants take up silicon (in the form of monosilicic acid) and transport it within their tissues, often depositing in the form of silica aka silicon oxide (SiO2).  In grasses, silica can make up 2 - 5% of the dry leaf mass. Read more...

Woodland bird monitoring

Woodland bird monitoring

by Chris Colley ~ 27 June, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Each of our team members looks after a number of woodland sites across the UK, and recently we were contacted regarding one of our latest additions to the Woodlands.co.uk portfolio, Coed Craig-y-Pandy, aka Pandy Wood, near Llangollen in North Wales, by someone known locally as Nicky ‘the bird lady’.  Apparently this site has been part of a long term scheme of monitoring nesting birds and nest boxes, and we were being asked permission for this to continue.

Myself (Chris) and local area manager Jon went to meet Nicky one afternoon to find out more of what she does and how it benefits our local birdlife.  We were given a tour of the nest boxes in the woodland – most of which were empty as the young birds had already fledged -  but we were treated to a look inside a couple of boxes where the chicks were still being fed.  Nicky explained that the birds we were looking at were close to fledging themselves, and that she would be back to check the boxes again to see what happened. Below are some photos of the baby birds we saw.

Nicky also showed us that she had ringed the birds in the nests, Read more...

Insect migration, the windscreen phenomenon and declining populations.

Insect migration, the windscreen phenomenon and declining populations.

by Lewis ~ 25 June, 2018 ~ 2 comments

The migration of animals can have a massive impact on ecosystems  - think of the migration of the enormous herds of caribou across the Alaskan plain.    Each caribou may eat 3 kg of vegetation a day.   With them come predators and parasites, and their waste (urine and faeces) contribute to nutrient and energy inputs to the ecosystem(s).     An understanding of the migration of large animals & birds and ecosystem processes is well established, but the effects of large scale insect movements or bioflows have not been intensively studied (with the possible exception of locust swarms).   Read more...

The Monthly Mushroom: Stump Puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme)

The Monthly Mushroom: Stump Puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme)

by Jasper ~ 15 June, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Rather than applying to a single taxonomic group, the word puffball covers a broad range of distinct species of ball-shaped fungi that are typically commonly spotted around the fields and forests of the United Kingdom from Summer through to late Autumn. If you look at the first part of the Latin name describing the genus of the various different types lumped together under the puffball handle, it becomes clear they are less closely related genetically than their similar appearances suggest.

For example, there are the Common Puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum),Meadow Puffball (Vascellum pratense), the Brown Puffball (Bovista nigrescena), the Mosaic Puffball (Handkea utriformis) and the Giant Puffball (Calvatia gigantea). The most obvious distinguishing features between them are their sizes. Read more...

Naming Woodcock Wood

Naming Woodcock Wood

by Chris Saunders ~ 13 June, 2018 ~ 2 comments

We made our way along a narrow track, through young birch and old chestnut coppice. It had been recently cut to mark the boundary between our wood and the next. Down a muddy bank and into thick bramble that marks the beginning of the stands of old pine. There was plenty of water flowing in the stream in February. It came up out of the bramble, a partridge like bird with a flash of russet brown. What was clear was the immensely long beak. It had to be a woodcock. It was a bird that was new to me. I checked it out at home. Yes, the perfect conditions for this shy bird. Read more...

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