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Christmas quiz with prize for the first 40 valid entries

Christmas quiz with prize for the first 40 valid entries

by Angus ~ 9 December, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Christmas is a good time to go for a woodland walk .... and for presents.

For children, there's nothing better as a motivator than a quiz.

So we are offering to send entrants a prize of a woodlands notebook and tree poster which we will post to you as soon as we get your entry if it's valid - maximum 40 prizes. Read more...

coniferous forest

German forest dieback : waldsterben 2

by Lewis ~ 6 December, 2019 ~ comments welcome

In recent times, new or different threats have emerged to upset the balance of woodland and forest ecosystems.   In the 1960’s and early 70’s concern focussed on the effects of air pollution, particularly the effects of acid rain.  This type of pollution was characterised by the deposition / assimilation of sulphur dioxide and its derivatives (sulphuric & sulphurous acid), plus various nitrogen oxides.  This air pollution was largely due to industry and traffic.

Some of the most striking effects of ‘acid rain’ pollution were seen in the coniferous forests of Germany - where it was termed : Waldsterben [Wald=forest plus sterben=to die].  Read more...

December’s Fungi Focus: Holly Speckle (Trochila ilicina)

December’s Fungi Focus: Holly Speckle (Trochila ilicina)

by Jasper Sharp ~ 2 December, 2019 ~ one comment

I’ve written about the ascomycetes, or sac fungi, in several previous blog posts, but as well as giving a special festive twist to this December’s Fungi Focus, the Holly Speckle (Trochila ilicina) provides as good an opportunity as any other for a recap on the subject.

Quite distinct from basidiomyces, which produce their spores on specialised spore-bearing structures known as basidia found on the gills of our more familiar cap-and-stem types (or in the pores of the boletes ), the ascomycetes are characterised by the way in which they produce their spores inside tube-like sacs contained within specialised fruiting bodies known as ascocarps, which are then shot out dramatically like balls from a ping-pong ball gun into the atmosphere. Read more...

Fires, Seeds and Serotiny

Fires, Seeds and Serotiny

by Chris ~ 29 November, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Seeds are dispersed from a parent plant by a variety of means.  Some plants use wind dispersal (sycamore, dandelion), some use animals (burdock, herb bennet), some even use water (willow, silver birch, coconut and the famous coco de mer).  But in some parts of the world, such as South Africa and Australia, fire is a feature of certain ecosystems and the fire and/or smoke can be the stimulus for seed dispersal and germination.   Read more...

from wiki When a fire rages through a woodland or forest, lots of ash and other ‘material’ is left on the ground. From this debris, fungi are amongst the first forms of life to appear. Often these are the fruiting bodies of what are termed pyrophilous fungi. That is to say, they are fungi that cannot complete their life cycle without a fire and shortly after a fire, their fruiting bodies - the mushrooms appear. Quite how and where these fungi survive in between fires has long been debated. Now some answers have been provided by mycologists at the University of Illinois. It would seem that in between fires, these fungi ‘hide’ in mosses and lichens. The Illinois mycologists proposed that the fungi were present in the structures of various mosses and lichens and the burning of their ‘home’ initiated a reproductive phase of development. To test their working hypothesis, they collected soil samples, mosses and lichens from burned and unburned areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The samples were surface disinfected to remove any spores etc that might have been present on the outside, but then the lichens and mosses were examined in detail to see if the fungi were indeed present within their structures. One ‘fire-loving fungus’ - Pholiota highlandensis, was cultured from various moss samples and DNA studies confirmed the presence of other pyrophilous fungi in various moss and lichen species. The mosses and lichens may be acting as ‘protective shields’ that burn away during fire, but allow the fungus to survive. The soil temperatures during a fire would see a reduction in the number of other micro-organisms in the soil, so the lack of immediate competition would favour the pyrophilous fungi - as would the increase in soil alkalinity. It is known that pyrophilous fungi ‘prefer’ more alkaline condition for spore germination and growth of the mycelium (compared to other soil fungi). Pyrophilous fungal DNA was also found in the burned and unburned soil, so it is quite possible that their spores persist in the soil for long period of time but the fungi will only form fruiting bodies (sporocarps) after a fire. Quite what the exact trigger for this behaviour remains to be determined. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pholiota_highlandensis,_Carbofil1.jpg Аимаина хикари

Fungi that ‘need’ a fire

by Lewis ~ 28 November, 2019 ~ comments welcome

When a fire rages through a woodland or forest, lots of ash and other ‘material’ is left on the ground.   From this debris, fungi are amongst the first forms of life to appear.  Often these are the fruiting bodies of what are termed pyrophilous fungi.  That is to say, they are fungi that cannot complete their life cycle without a fire and shortly after a fire,  their fruiting bodies - the mushrooms appear.   Quite how and where these fungi survive in between fires has long been debated.   Read more...

Biodiversity and farming

Biodiversity and farming

by Lewis ~ 22 November, 2019 ~ comments welcome

We are dependent on ecosystem services . At the most basic of levels, early humans benefitted from the ‘products of nature”; that is fruits and seeds to eat, animals to hunt.   Ecosystems, like woodlands, provided shelter from some of the harsher aspects of climate and weather.  Now we can add in ‘services’ such as the provision of medicines, waste removal, nutrient recycling and recreational experiences. Read more...

HC-leaf

Europe’s threatened trees

by Lewis ~ 20 November, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Recently, the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) carried out a survey of the state of trees through Europe, specifically related to their risk of extinction.  There are some four hundred native tree species spread across Europe.  

Trees are not just essential for life on Earth (generating oxygen through photosynthesis) but they also provide food and habitats for hundreds of species - birds, mammals, insects, spiders etc. The loss of tree species has considerable ‘knock on’ effects in terms of the biodiversity of an area. Trees also provide us with timber and other materials (cork, cellulose, oils). Read more...

Unusual or exotic trees : the monkey puzzle tree

Unusual or exotic trees : the monkey puzzle tree

by Chris ~ 15 November, 2019 ~ one comment

The monkey puzzle tree is a popular garden tree.  It is so-called as when first seen in this country (in the mid C19th) by Charles Austin, he is alleged to have said that “it would puzzle a monkey to climb that”.  As the tree had no common or popular name, it became the ‘monkey puzzler’ or ‘monkey puzzle tree’.  Its scientific name is Araucaria araucana, and otherwise known as the Chilean Pine or Pehuén.  It is native to the Andes of Chile and Argentina. 

Not only is it a long lived tree (with a life span of a thousand plus years) but the species has been around for a long time (in excess of 200 million years).  It is sometimes described as a “living fossil”. A tree can grow to a considerable height - towards 150 feet with a trunk diameter of some five feet. Read more...

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