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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...

Unusual or exotic trees - Laburnum (Laburnum anagyroides).

Unusual or exotic trees – Laburnum (Laburnum anagyroides).

by Lewis ~ 6 June, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Whilst not unusual, the laburnum is a poisonous tree that is native to the mountainous areas of Southern Europe. It is a member of the Fabaceae (the pea and bean family).

The laburnum is a deciduous tree,  that has trifoliate leaves i.e. each leaf consists of three leaflets (see featured image).  

In the Spring, the tree is covered with pendulous clusters of bright yellow flowers.  These flowers are responsible for one of its names -  the golden chain tree (jpgs below).   When fertilised, a pod develops which contains black seeds when ripe. Read more...

Flower colours and insect visitors

Flower colours and insect visitors

by Chris ~ 17 May, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Flowers are the means by which plants attract pollinators.   Pollinations leads to fertilisation and fertilisation leads on to seed formation and the propagation of the species.   For plants, like sunflowers, the pollinators are insects - so the plant displays something bold and eye catching for them.   However, the brilliant yellow and orange colours that we see are not what an insect sees or is attracted by.   Insect eyes (compound eyes) see the world very differently - one key difference is that unlike us, insects can see ultra-violet light.   Sunflowers (and many other plants) take advantage of this fact by incorporating UV absorbing pigments in their structure; so what we see as a ring of colour with a darker centre is for insects a more complex set of of rings. Read more...

In praise of Pines.

In praise of Pines.

by Chris ~ 11 May, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Pine trees are found across the world, there are over one hundred different species.  Many are native to the coniferous forests  (Taiga) of the Northern Hemisphere.  Their evergreen needles (leaves) offer shade in summer, and the trees may offer a degree of shelter from the winds of autumn and winter.  Gardeners and foresters 'like' Pines as they generally tolerate nutrient poor and somewhat dry soils.   In the period after WW2,  considerable areas of ‘low grade’ land were pressed into service (in the U.K.).   Areas around Thetford and Kielder were used, as were some sandy coastal sites (for example,  Holkham in Norfolk) and many large tracts of land in Scotland.  Pines are central to the business of agroforestry in places like the U.K,  New Zealand and Brazil, providing a source of lumber.    Read more...

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (and arboretum)

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (and arboretum)

by Chris ~ 25 April, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Whilst in Edinburgh recently, I was able to visit the Royal Botanic Garden.  This garden dates back to 1670 when it was established as a physic garden; now it consists of some 70 acres of landscaped grounds close to the city centre (and easily accessible on one of the tourist buses).  During the last 100 years, three Regional Gardens have also been acquired –  Benmore in Argyll; Dawyck in the Scottish Borders and Logan on the  southern peninsula of Dumfries & Galloway.  Together they constitute one of the world’s largest collections of living plants (the Edinburgh garden also houses the Herbarium - which is 'home' to some three million specimens). Read more...

Lignum Vitae - A wood so unique it was used in the first nuclear-powered submarines

Lignum Vitae – A wood so unique it was used in the first nuclear-powered submarines

by Oliver ~ 20 April, 2018 ~ one comment

Lignum Vitae, Latin for the ‘tree of life’, has a set of properties that cause a newfound awe in natural materials. Also known as Ironwood, it is the hardest and heaviest traded wood, being 3 to 4 times the hardness of English Oak. It was the alleged medicinal properties of Lignum Vitae which have earned it the title ‘tree of life’.  Sometimes brewed into a tea or as a herbal medicine; historically - it was used to treat symptoms of gout, arthritis and syphilis. Its properties / uses are still being explored. Read more...

Trees as indicators of erosion

Trees as indicators of erosion

by Chris Colley ~ 19 April, 2018 ~ comments welcome

We are all familiar with the idea of coastal erosion,  houses near the cliff edge or situated on sandy dunes fall away as the shore is battered by high tides and fierce  winds - this has been seen most recently at Hemsby in Norfolk; sometimes whole communities disappear into the sea (think Dunwich). Many areas of the East Anglian coast have been and are subject to the ravages of the sea. Read more...

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