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double samara of sycamore

Winged seeds

by Chris ~ 13 November, 2019 ~ comments welcome

What do the seeds of ash, sycamore and maple trees have in common?  They all are enclosed in a wing-like structure that helps them disperse - away from the parent plant and indeed each other.  Wind dispersal is also known as anemochory.  Effective fruit / seed dispersal provides a tree's offspring with the chance to colonise a new area, and reduces competition for resources with their parent and siblings; it also reduces the likelihood of infection with pests and pathogens. 

A single Ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) can produce thousands of fruits (also  known as keys) in large clusters attached to the tips of its branches. Read more...

Making a stool from green ash at the Sylva Wood Centre

Making a stool from green ash at the Sylva Wood Centre

by Angus ~ 8 November, 2019 ~ comments welcome

I learnt 10 lessons in making my greenwood stool:

1. It's hard work using an axe to reduce a triangular piece of wood into a cylinder but less hard work than using a draw knife to reduce the timber down to size. With both tools, axes and draw knives, you soon learn to work with the grain and how to make the tools work for you.

2. Using a drawknife is extremely satisfying but it's "the wrist action" that matters - to avoid the blade digging into the wood.  Because you have a hand on each end of the drawknife you can't easily injure yourself, but this didn't stop one of my course-mates from digging the corner into her leg.  This created a small nick that justified getting out the first aid kit. Read more...

Rosy bonnets

November’s Fungi Focus: Rosy Bonnet (Mycena rosea) 

by Chris ~ 5 November, 2019 ~ comments welcome

For well over half of the year, I rather struggle to come up with a suitable subject for these monthly mushroom blog posts. As we now, however, find ourselves at the peak of the season, the explosion of suitably fetching candidates that have appeared over the past 4-6 weeks alone has left me wondering where to place my focus this time.   The past October seems to have presented a particular abundance, even by usual standards for the time of year, if the various specialist fungi spotting and forager forums and social media sites have been anything to go by, with many seasonal species popping up simultaneously across the country. “It is always around the 15th October that, seemingly out of nowhere, the honey fungus suddenly appears in the woods.”, the BBC Woman’s Hour website claims and sure enough, it was on this exact date but a few weeks back that I popped down to my local park and found the specimens snapped for this recent Woodlands  posting. Read more...

The Botanical Gardens in Lausanne.

The Botanical Gardens in Lausanne.

by Angus ~ 2 November, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Don't go to Lausanne without dropping into the gardens - Lausanne's botanical gardens are free and central, and just a short walk from the train station.  Despite being by the centre of town, they extend to over 4 acres and they house hundreds of plants from around the world and from across Switzerland.

They call it a "living museum" and there are actually 4,000 species growing here by Lake Geneva - in rockeries, in the arboretum and in the large greenhouse.  Though when I was there,  the greenhouse was being used as a recording studio for a band - but that sort of thing is typical of Lausanne - arty, impromptu and using their space well. Read more...

Rewilding Scotland - a conference "to get it done"

Rewilding Scotland – a conference “to get it done”

by Jemma Cholawo ~ 1 November, 2019 ~ comments welcome

“Fragments are not enough,” says Peter Cairns, the project director of "Scotland: the Big Picture."  This was the overarching theme of the recent rewilding conference I took part in.   Listeners and speakers converged on Stirling last month from all over the UK to discuss topics of rewilding.  Rewilding is not just a tree-hugging campaign to bring back wolves and let the wilderness go wild, although habitat restoration, endangered species protection, the logistics of free-ranging large herbivores and the reintroduction of their natural predators are all valuable points for consideration. Read more...

Unusual and exotic trees - the Dawn Redwood

Unusual and exotic trees – the Dawn Redwood

by Lewis ~ 29 October, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Just as the woodland blog has described the maidenhair tree as a ‘living fossil’, so the same phrase can be applied to the Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides).  All species belonging the genus Metasequoia were thought to have died out sometime during the Miocene Period.

The Miocene began 23 million years ago and ended about five million years back.  The Miocene saw the evolution of the first dogs and bears, the uplifting of the Alps and significant climatic changes such as the MMCO - the mid miocene climate optimum.  During the MMCO, the temperatures were above today’s average global temperature, which lead to drier conditions across the world with a consequent decrease in woodlands and an increase in a more open landscape.  The Metasequoias were casualties of this changing environment; the Metasequoia forests, which extended as far as 80oN,  disappeared.  Indeed, all species were thought to have gone but then in 1941, a living member of the genus was found in China - the water fir (as it was known locally).   Read more...

Medicine for bumblebees

Medicine for bumblebees

by Chris ~ 26 October, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Some 90% of the world's plants, including many food crops, rely on animals for pollination (as opposed to wind or even rarer water pollination). The contribution of honey bees and bumblebees to these pollination services is vital but they are at risk due to:

  • the effects of disease, 
  • climate change 
  • effects of pesticides and 
  • habitat loss / destruction.

Whilst it is sometimes possible to help hives / colonies of the ‘domesticated’ honeybee suffering from parasites / disease, ‘helping’ wild populations is a much more difficult proposition. Read more...

Peat - drying out ?

Peat – drying out ?

by Lewis ~ 25 October, 2019 ~ comments welcome

The blog has reported on moorland fires and the importance of peat-based ecosystems on a number of occasions.  However, a new report has raised serious concerns about the state of peatlands, not just in the U.K but across Europe and Scandinavia.   Many ‘peatlands are in a dry and fragile state’, so that rather than acting as natural carbon sinks, they start to release carbon.   Peatlands actually store about five times more carbon than forests (across Europe). Read more...

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