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Keeping a nature diary ~ by Margaret

Keeping a nature diary

Getting to know the trees and flowers and mosses and fungi in a wood is a bit like getting to know a roomful of people all at once. To begin with you don’t know many of their names, but gradually you work out what most of them are called, and to help yourself you probably write down the difficult ones. After a few weeks you feel quite confident.

But there is more to getting to know people than finding out their names. Also with plants. For your nature diary, you can select one plant from perhaps a dozen different species that you have, and on each visit record what changes you see. Perhaps you think that one has grown taller, another’s flowers have vanished, a third now has a companion beside it. But are you sure you remember correctly what it looked like last time? For a nature diary, it is vital that you write down, however messily, exactly what you see, with drawings, or even a photograph. And it's very helpful to have a few little inconspicuous white sticks to put in the ground beside your chosen plants, so you will know them again. In some seasons your plant may disappear altogether. Next year, does it come up in exactly the same place? Why – or why not?

For flowers, it is easier to recognise them when they bloom in March, April or May, for fungi in September, for trees all the summer, but for mosses any season will do.

What can you learn about your plants? The first and most obvious thing is where they like to grow. The trees may have been planted, but the other things are not cultivated, so why are they there, and not somewhere else, or nowhere at all? What do you think it is about the soil, the light, the other plants around, that makes this a good home for them? Perhaps your books of identification will give you some clues.

If it is your own wood, or one where you work, you may be able to influence the environment of your plant. Even if you do nothing, the environment will gradually change (if no one does anything it will get more overgrown!) and that will have an effect.

It’s also fun to watch a young tree grow, particularly if you have planted and cared for it yourself. Measurements of height and girth every year will give a convincing picture of how much your work has contributed to the wood.

Posted in: Woodland Activities ~ On: 20 December, 2006

8 comments so far

Half-term with Woodlands.co.uk | Woodlands.co.uk
20 April, 2018

[…] go for a walk (and take a notebook to record/sketch what you […]

Weather effects and woodlands | Woodlands.co.uk
15 October, 2013

[…] weather effect concerns wildlife and the benefit of keeping notes of visits to one’s woodland, a woodland diary. Not only have the seasons been earlier this year, and weeds and trees lush in growth from all the […]

Vivien Cruickshank
31 January, 2009

Hi Tracy
There are many books about wild flowers but one of the best for photos is in the series of books by Roger Phillips. So many books have illustrations which can make plants look very similar (especially if they are very similar!)

Half-term with Woodlands.co.uk | The Woodlands.co.uk Blog
15 February, 2008

[…] go for a walk (and take a notebook to record/sketch what you […]

Weather effects and woodlands | The Woodlands.co.uk Blog
29 August, 2007

[…] weather effect concerns wildlife and the benefit of keeping notes of visits to one’s woodland, a woodland diary. Not only have the seasons been earlier this year, and weeds and trees lush in growth from all the […]

Tracy Pepler
14 April, 2007

Thanks for that! we have just bought a Collins book, complete wild flowers, I think it is called. seems good so far. we are beginning to learn flower species and types, so beginning to say, well, that looks like a kind of….. which helps find it in the book! We are trying to also match them up with food we can eat too!
We have just found that we have a little spring in our new wood, and would like to encourage some plants near it, what would you suggest? it is a chestnut coppice, and at the moment the spring is in the shade, (although we may in future try to remedy that)
or, will plants just come as the wood is looked after? thanks for your time, its nice ot have someone to chat to about it!

Tracy

Margaret Hanton
11 April, 2007

Hi, Tracy!

Nice to hear from you. If you really are a complete novice, I suggest any simple book with common plants – don’t be put off if it’s aimed at children- it will have most of the commonest ones and quickly you can identify more than half of what you see.Then, feeling more like an expert, you could move on to my favorite illustrator (sorry, no photos), Marjorie Blamey, who has done a lot of books with the Fitters, and they cover absolutely everything you are likely to encounter. Have a small, light weight book – remember, you have to take the book to the plant, not the plant to the book!

Tracy Pepler
6 April, 2007

Hi Margaret

Can you recommend a book for identifying woodland plants? The ones we have are not perfect! Food for free is good, but some pictures are not as clear as they could be. I prefer photos over drawings too. Is there one you could recommend? (complete novice here!!)

Thanks
Tracy

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