December 2015 The   last   few   weeks   have   seen   the   autumn   leaves   put   on   another   spectacular   display. The days   when   we   had   late   evening   sun   lighting   them   made   it   hard   not   to   just   stand   and admire.   It   is   also   the   time   I   remember   my   grandmother's   larder   filling   with   various shaped   bottles   filled   with   all   sorts   of   concoctions.   I   was   sent   out   on   my   bike   with   bag and   "shopping   list"   of   the   ingredients   required.   Elderberries,   for   wine,   sloes,   for   sloe   gin, rose   hips,   for   rose   hip   syrup,   crab   apples,   for   crab   apple   jelly,   sometimes   combined   with rose   hips.   (Try   the   website   bbcgoodfood    for   a   recipe   for   this   one)   and   blackberries,   for blackberry   vinegar,   all   usually   featured   on   the   list.   Some   of   the   resultant   products   were delicious   others   were,   shall   we   say,   an   acquired   taste!   We   are   lucky   in   that   there   are   so many   old   hedgerows   around   here   and   they   contain   a   variety   of   plants.   I   decided   to   have a quick walk round and see which fruits and seeds I could find.
Notes from a field - Bob Sheridan
Langham in Rutland
The   most   obvious   is   the   hawthorn   which   this   year   has   produced   a   huge   crop   of   fruits   in   shades   red and    orange.    There    are    actually    two    species    of    hawthorn,    the    common    hawthorn     and    midland hawthorn .   They   can   be   distinguished   by   the   leaves   of   short   shoots.   The   common   hawthorn's   leaves are   deeply   divided,   almost   to   the   mid   rib   whilst   those   of   the   midland   hawthorn   are   less   so,   reaching less   than   half   way   to   the   mid   rib.   At   this   time   of   year   another   way   to   identify   them   is   by   their   fruit.   The common   hawthorn   usually   has   one   seed   in   each   fruit   whilst   the   midland   hawthorn   usually   has   two. This   gives   rise   to   another   name   for   the   midland   hawthorn,   the   two   styled   hawthorn.   The   style   is   the part   of   the   flower   that   takes   pollen   to   the   ovule   and   if   you   look   carefully   at   the   end   of   the   fruit   you   can often   see   the   remains   of   them .   Unfortunately   where   the   two   types   grow   together   they   often   cross pollinate   so   in   some   cases   hybrid   forms   can   be   found.   I   collected   some   samples   to   photograph   (the results   can   be   seen   on   the   village   website)   and   found   a   stowaway   when   I   got   them   home.   It   was   a hawthorn   shield   bug .   There   are   quite   a   few   of   them   about   this   year   but   they   are   not   often   noticed   due to their excellent camouflage. The   blackberries    have   produced   a   bumper   crop   although   the   fruit   has   tended   to   be   rather   small. There   are   a   fair   number   of   sloes ,   the   fruit   of   the   blackthorn,   although   there   doesn't   seem   to   be   as many   as   last   year.   The   elder   bushes    have   fruited   well   and   are   weighed   down   with   masses   of   purple black   berries.   The   squirrels   have   been   busy   and   beat   me   to   the   hazel   nuts ,   the   remains   on   the   ground   prove   that   they   have   had   a   good   feast.   Wild   cherry   trees   provided   a   huge   crop   of   small   fruit   for   a variety   of   birds   and   disappeared   as   soon   as   they   were   ripe.   Rose   hips    seem   to   be   plentiful   on   some plants   but   sparse   on   others.   This   may   be   because   they   are   different   species.   There   are   many   wild roses,   some   known   as   dog   roses,   some   known   as   sweet   briar   and   several   others.   I   have   tried   in   the past   to   identify   them   but   I'm   afraid   this   soon   ended   up   a   dismal   failure;   they   all   look   very   similar   to me!   Another   berry   that   seemed   attractive   to   birds   was   that   of   the   dogwood .   Not   so   common   but   it does   occur   in   the   hedges.   Garden   escapes   can   also   be   found   like   the   snowberry    which   can   form   a large bush covered with, what look like, white polystyrene balls.