In the last issue I looked at some of the fruits in the hedgerow. At the same time I collected some of the larger seeds but did not have space to write about them. The most common are winged seeds that are spread by the wind. The wings cause the seeds to rotate and slow their fall allowing the wind more time to catch them and distribute them away from the base of the tree. The evidence of how effective this can be is now obvious with the seedlings coming up quite a distance from the tree. The ash treehas a single wing and spirals as it falls. The sycamore and field maplehave a double wings which make them rotate. The lime is different in that the seeds are not actually part of the wing. The young horse chestnut and oak trees seem to have had a poor year for seeds as there were hardly any conkers. As for the oaks, of what acornsthere were, many had not developed properly. They were deformed into what is known as a knopper gall. These are caused by a tiny gall wasp (Andricus quercucalicis) that lays its eggs in the oak flower bud and chemicals produced by the larvae distort the acorn. The wasp arrived in the 1960's and spread rapidly throughout the country. The ivy seems to have more fruit than usual. The young shoots have divided leaves and scramble upwards, the older shoots have
leaves that are not divided. It is these older shoots which produce the flowers. The flowers are greenish yellow and not much to look at unless magnified. They are a rich source of nectar produced at a time when few other sources are available and much loved by hover flies and bees. The ivy bee is new species discovered in 1993 in southern Europe. It was found in Dorset in 2001 and has since spread along the south coast. (They may be something to look out for in a few years time perhaps.) The fruits are at first hard and greenbut ripen to blackat which time they are eaten by birds which spread the seeds. Invertebrates are often overlooked but during the recent warm, damp nights it has been almost impossible to avoid pairs of earthwormsstretching out from their individual burrows to mate. The large leopard slugshave also been seen in large numbers. They can grow up to eight inches in length and are usually grey with black spots or streaks. They have an unusual way of mating in that they climb up to a suitable height, produce a string of mucus and twine around each other and mate as they are suspended in mid air. The picture on the website was taken on my garden wall. The bluish mass at the lower end is actually their penises which wrap together so they can fertilize each other's eggs. The slugs, like the earthworms, are of course hermaphrodite there are no separate males and females.The sky of the morning of the 29th December was almost clear with bright sunshine. In the space of about a hundred yards I counted six robins. They were all evenly spaced in the hedge tops and singing their hearts out. A truly magical moment. Don't forget to email me your sightings, comments or photographs on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ash - Fraxinus excelsior L.
Sycamore - Acer pseudoplatanus
Sycamore, a common forest tree from Central Europe is a typical Maple but when it first came to England in the middle ages it was thought to be the ‘sycomorus’ or ‘fig mulberry’ mentioned in the Bible. In Scotland it was thought to be from the genus ‘Plantanus’ and is still known there as ‘plane’.
Field Maple - Acer campestre L.
A Native tree commonly found in hedgerows on Lime rich soils in the South and East of Britain. In the past was used for carving bowls, platters and spoons.
Common Lime - Tilia europaea L.
Possibly a natural hybrid of two wild kinds of rare native Limes. The Broad Leaved, Tilia platyphyllos and the Small Leaved, Tilia cordata. Common Lime is widely cultivated and planted in streets, parks and large gardens. The wood when dried is very stable and is used for decorative carving and items such as piano keys and shoe lasts.
Sessile Oak - Quercus petraea
There are two varieties Oak native to Britain, Sessile and Pendunculate ‘Quercus Robur’. They often hybridize and create variety of intermediate forms. The two varieties are typically identified with Sessile Oak flowers and subsequent acorns being stalkless, appearing to sit directly on the twigs and the Pendunculate, having its flowers and acorns on long stalks.