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   tree    has   a   single wing   and   spirals   as   it   falls.   The   sycamore   and   field   maple    have   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   acorns    there   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
Notes from a field - Bob Sheridan
Langham in Rutland
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   green    but   ripen   to   black    at   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    earthworms     stretching    out    from    their    individual    burrows    to    mate. The large   leopard   slugs    have   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 .