Squamish – Sea to Sky

We’ve just returned from an amazing couple of weeks spent on and around Vancouver Island in British Columbia and I’m still processing all the sights and experiences. Vancouver island is extensive, BC is huge and Canada is just colossal – I’m aware that we only scratched the smallest surface of this stunning destination but I thought I’d share below a few of the highlights from the trip. First stop, Squamish!

This town is nestled between the mountains and the sea and claims the title of ‘the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada‘. I can see why… whilst my fingers itched to join the climbers scaling boulders and pitches all around, we had only a few days and there was adventure enough without taking to the vertical!

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A view of the Strawamus Chief, taken at sunset from Smoke Bluffs with Squamish town nestled below

The Strawamus Chief hangs above the town and we were lucky enough to have a perfect view of this iconic mountain from our window. At night you could watch the stars wheel overhead whilst mornings would see the peak revealed or otherwise concealed by rolling clouds which permitted glimpses in silhouette before billowing it back into obscurity.

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Starlapse over the Strawamus Chief

We walked the Chief trail which can take you up to all three consecutive peaks of this enticing prominence. Although time conspired against a view from the peak, the route up from Shannon Falls was spectacular – a combination of natural path and the built elements such as log-steps and boardwalks required to surmount the otherwise impassable. The forest which hugged the base and through which the path ascended was our first real view of the eerily beautiful bryophyte-hung conifers which we were to become familiar with over the next few weeks.

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Shannon Falls etching its way through the deep conifer forests which crowd around it

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A grey second day took us out along the Mamquam river which empties into the Sound at the foot of the town. The salmon runs were just beginning and we walked through the gravel banks amongst saplings and driftwood to watch their backs breaching the ripples as they spawned in the shallows.

These runs bring the eagles in the winter where thousands can be seen taking advantage of the fish – the record count in 1994 was 3,769! Sadly we were a little too early  as they peak in November.

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The humped back of a spawning male pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuska) breaching the water in Mamquam river.

The salmon die after spawning and we saw many dead along the gravel banks, as well as failing and foundering in the river itself. This seemed a sad sight, but the runs of salmon from the oceans to the rivers, and their subsequent demise in freshwater, are a vital ecosystem function in transferring nutrients from one location to the other. The fish are caught or scavanged by a wide variety of species, from bears and eagles to mink, otter, gulls and vultures. This is transferred to the land through droppings, but also manually moved by bears in particular who will take the fish into the forest but often feed only on the most select parts, leaving the rest to be scavanged or simply to break down and decompose. One study in south-eastern Alaska found that up to 25% of the nitrogen in the foliage of trees was derived from spawning salmon which makes this miraculous migration a key component of the forest ecosystem.

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One of the many salmon carcasses which contribute to a vital upstream flow of nutrients

Our stay backed onto Smoke Bluffs and we took a couple of walks in the trails which weave through this forest. With huge boulders scattered amongst the conifers, and no shortage of mountain bikers willing to throw themselves down them, the trails were somewhat more challenging than the average stroll through the woods but all the more exciting for it. Whilst the evidence of others was apparent, we found ourselves alone; the sense of stillness and quiet in those woods was unlike everything I’ve ever experienced, shielded by high canopies above with all sounds softened by the sea of ferns which lapped the edges of the trail. Down low too were some beautiful lichen forests, emulating their larger neighbours in miniature.

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Lichens growing within a bed of moss upon the rocks in Smoke Bluff park

One our last day, before heading on to Horseshoe Bay to catch the ferry across to Nanaimo, we caught the Sea to Sky Gondola for a bird’s eye view of the landscape. Sea to Sky is the name of the route and the region, and it’s not hard to see why – the view from the 885m high peak out across Howe Sound shows what a stunning combination of the elements this place is!

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The view out over Howe Sound from the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola

At the summit station were creatures which I first thought to be butterflies, but on closer inspection realised were grasshoppers. I think these are Trimerotropis species and their sustained bouts of flight were unlike any I have seen our UK species do. These noisy ascents would last 10 seconds or more and had the air of a display about them – this is something which females of the genus are known to do when receptive to mating. Whilst conspicuous on the wing, they were perfectly camouflaged against the rocks, disappearing if you took your eye off them only to reappear precisely where you left them!

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Trimerotropis grasshopper on the rocks at the Sea to Sky summit

Next stop – Vancouver Island!

 

Badger Territory Mapping

Last year, we carried out some badger territory mapping surveys at a site near Northampton. I took the opportunity to use a trailcam to record the badgers on the site in order to illustrate the behaviours which underlie the technique. Along with some footage of us putting out the bait and carrying out the latrine checks, I have mocked up a hypothetical site to show how the technique allows the territories to be mapped – I hope you find it interesting!


Badgers are social creatures and form social groups which typically include a main sett, a number of secondary setts (including annexes, subsidiaries and outliers) and foraging habitat. The collection of secondary setts and the key foraging areas are critical to the functioning of the social group and need to be protected when developments and changes in land use are proposed. On some sites therefore it can be valuable to understand where the territories lie. For example, if you were studying a site where a road was proposed nearby, you would want to know whether it was being routed between a social group’s sett and their foraging habitat as this would lead to a risk of mortality if they continue to access their foraging grounds across a new busy road.

Two social groups may be situated in close proximity and untangling the use of a site by one or more social groups can be a tricky business. This is where the technique of territory mapping comes into play. It is made possible by the fact that badgers have well established ‘latrine’ sites where they deposit their faeces. These latrines can be found throughout their territory but are especially pronounced at the peripheries, as they are used to mark their territory boundaries. Taking advantage of these latrine sites, the territory mapping (or bait marking) technique involves feeding badgers with a bait which contains small, inert, plastic beads of different colours. The beads are small and harmless – they pass straight through the badgers’ digestive system without any risk of harm to the animals. The bait is placed at the main sett locations and a different coloured bead is used at each sett. We can be fairly confident that only the badgers which are associated with a main sett will eat the bait placed beside it, and therefore deposit the beads along with their faeces in the latrines within their territories. We place the bait – a mix of peanuts, peanut butter and golden syrup – at the main setts for 1-2 weeks, and then monitor the latrines to see which colour beads turn up in which latrines.

Each time a bead is found in a latrine, it is recorded on the map. Over the course of the surveys, this map builds to show the territory of the badger social groups.

For more technical information on how to go about badger territory mapping, there is a Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) guidance note which you can read here and a scientific study from Delahay et al (2000) which you can read here.

If you have a site where territory mapping is required, check out Landscape Science Consultancy’s webpage here!

What did the faeries ever do for us?

I picked up a copy of a little Shire Classics book called ‘Discovering the folklore of plants’ when I was caught out with nothing to read a few weeks ago. The historical beliefs associated with our native flora and their uses can be fascinating, as can a good guide to botanical epiphets which explains the latin parts of species names to somebody like me who didn’t have the benefit/torture of latin lessons at school. This additional context can add to the understanding of a plant, its habits, uses and historical connections which often have a bearing on the patterns still present in the landscape today. I suddenly saw significance, after reading this book, in the grouping of mature holly, bay and elder outside the doorstep of our rented cottage.

As I read through the book, I began to make a note of the superstitions and supernatural beliefs which frequently seem to result in an ecological or environmental benefit. In the same way that religion historically safeguarded moral behaviour by providing an all-seeing deity to watch over our deeds, the belief in the spirits within plants often seemed to ensure good environmental practise.

Many of these beliefs seem to have been prevalent up until the earlier parts of the 20th century. It was in 1917 that the five photographs of faeries in Cottingley were published to mixed public reaction, however many people believed them to be genuine, including none other than Arthur Conan Doyle.

Incidentally, I am aware that this is rather like a topic which an under-occupied vicar may have written a pamphlet on in the 19th centurary to be read by only 3 other people. Fortunately, blogging opens up such exercises in futility to the busier masses!

Leave some fruit for the birds

Many conservation charities and wildlife organisations advise gardeners to leave some of their windfall fruits, such as apples and pears, to provide a food source for garden birds. Many bird species, particularly the blackbirds including the native blackbird and song thrush as well as the migratory redwing and field fare, rely upon fruits and berries especially when the weather turns colder and their preferred food of invertebrates is in short supply.

Before social media and gardening magazines promoted the message on behalf of the birds, appeasement of the faeries performed a similar role:

Stray fruits were left at the end of picking for the faeries, in a custom variously called ‘pixy-hoarding’, ‘cull-pixying’ or ‘griggling’”

Blackberries are stripped from the brambles today, as can be seen from their absence below 2m along most public footpaths. However, an old superstition drew a line under the feasting which would ensure provision of fruit for birds and mammals as the weather turned wintery:

‘In many English counties, blackberries are never picked after Michaelmas Day (29th September) when the devil curses them.’

blackberries...

A presumption against tree-felling

Woodland once covered the vast majority of Britain but now represents only 12% of land cover. Unsurprisingly, considering that they evolved within this vast woodland habitat, the majority of our native fauna also relies upon trees for food or shelter, from tiny invertebrates up to birds and mammals as well as fungi, lichens and mosses. It follows that every tree is sacred in terms of ecological benefit.

It was historically considered unlucky to fell a number of tree species, including ash, hawthorn, holly and elder.

 Elder was one of the most unlucky species to fell of all, as the elder mother dwelt within and guarded the tree. Her permission must be sought before the tree could be cut.

We also have these beliefs to thank for some of the standard trees present in hedgerows even to this day.

‘The ban on cutting holly means that the handsome, dark green trees stand high above farm hedges, giving visual emphasis to the landscape’

Hawthorn stands out in particular in the folklore as a faery tree which could bring some serious ill luck upon those who cut it.

‘In Ireland, a ‘sentry thorn’ or ‘lone bush’ was a faery trysting place demanding the greatest respect and especially dangerous at May Day, midsummer of Halloween when faery power was at its strongest. Farmers laboriously cultivated round these thorns in fields. Felling must be carried out for ritualistic or healing purposes only, never just to tidy the farm.’

In the modern world, trees and shrubs stand little chance of holding up a housing development or major infrastructure project unless they are home to a protected species rather more real than the faeries, such as bats or breeding birds. But even into the 1900’s, hawthorns could hold sway over the designs of developers.

When one thorn lay in the path of a railway, the track was elaborately carried over it to avoid felling. To fell a hawthorn in preparing a house site means misfortune or even death for those who will live in the house.’

Garden for wildlife

Our gardens are one of the most ubiquitous areas of potential habitat within the landscape. If only properly planted and managed, they would create green corridors which would snake through our towns and cities and turn a village into an oasis of trees and shrubs within an arable landscape. This importance to make each garden count is recognised by many wildlife charities; the RSPB, the Butterfly Conservation Trust, the Bat Conservation Trust and Buglife will all advise on species to include within the planting. The Nottingham Wildlife Trust has an ongoing campaign to create mini meadows within gardens, providing free species-rich seed mixes to help establish these little patches of biodiversity across the county.

Yet the draw of the nice, neat paving or that lovely sheet of tarmac is too much for many. Almost 1/3 of the 20 million homes with front gardens have turned them into hardstanding for cars, a 2012 report showed, whilst lazy insurance assessors require the removal of larger trees growing close to houses – often without justification – and discourage their inclusion in new developments.

Trees were traditionally viewed as protective entities and were specifically planted at the doorstep to houses in order to ward off harm.

‘Aspen would keep thieves away;

Bay with its pungent smelling leaves would keep the plague away;

Elder, with the protective elder mother dwelling within, would keep away witchcraft, lightening and evil;

Holly would also protect against lightening, as well as fire and the evil eye’

‘Rowan; the cardinal keeper of the northern cottage door keeps witches away’

‘A rosemary bush near the doorstep purges the house, and a pot on the doorstep keeps thieves and witches away.’
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Similarly, the greening of inert brick walls would help to protect the house.

Honeysuckle is a mighty barrier to the witch and, growing over the door, keeps out fever and the ill intentioned’.

Ivy if it grew vigorously on a house its occupants would be safe from witchcraft and the evil eye.’

Both of these species are fantastic nectar sources for insects during their respective flowering periods, the late flowering of ivy making it particularly important in the cycle of nectar sources for our pollinators.

Don’t pick wild flowers

As everybody knows now, the mantra of the countryside is ‘take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints’, a message which encourages visitors to enjoy nature without taking it home. Whilst many of the remedies and uses of plants within the book talk of their picking for decoration, for cures, for rituals, there are some which are protected by the faeries.

‘Anyone picking stitchwort is likely to be pixy-led’

‘Anyone who stepped on St John’s Wort would be carried off by a faery horse which rose from beneath him and took him for a wild ride, then in the morning dropped him off at the wayside miles from home’

‘Willowherb and cow parsley would bring death the mother of any child who picks it’

stitchwort

Let nature take its course

Weeds are often defined as any plant in the wrong place. Personally, I love seeing any vegetation greening up an otherwise inert area of concrete or pavement; I am not a fan of the Best Kept Village competition which seems to see such natural opportunism as the antithesis of a suitable village. So although this aversion to weeding doesn’t seem to be supported by the folklore in general, the note below caught my eye:

‘A self-set elder is lucky and should be given space to grow’

What’s the difference between English and hybrid-Spanish bluebells?

Native bluebells are almost synonymous with English springtime, there is little more distinctive and evocative than the haze of blue they spread across a woodland floor. However the native English bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), is not the only bluebell we have. The Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica) was introduced as a garden flower and can produce fertile hybrids with the natives – indeed the true Spanish bluebell is relatively rarely encountered but many hybrid Spanish bluebells occur especially in and close to gardens. Below is a brief illustrative guide to help you tell the difference.

1. Look at the leaves

Native bluebells have relatively thin leaves, around 1-1.5cm wide. Spanish and hybrid-Spanish bluebells tend to have much thicker leaves, around 3cm wide. The leaves of the Spanish and hybrid-Spanish bluebell often have a fleshier feel to them.

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Showing the difference in size between the leaves of native bluebell (left) and hybrid-Spanish bluebell (right), both with a 50p for scale.

2. Look at the flowers

Native bluebells are a distinctive deep-blue in colour, whereas Spanish and hybrid-Spanish bluebells are often lighter, more pale blue or pink. Look also at the shape of the flowers, the native bluebell flowers curl back at the petal tips whilst those of the Spanish and hybrid-Spanish bluebells are splayed. If you get down close, look at the colour of the anthers; these are cream in natives and tend to be a pale-blue colour in the Spanish and hybrid-Spanish, although they can be cream coloured in white or pink flowers.

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Showing the difference in flower shape between native bluebell (left) and hybrid-Spanish bluebell (right)
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Showing the difference in anther colour between native bluebell (left) and hybrid-Spanish bluebell (right)

3. Look at the architecture

Native bluebells have the flowers concentrated on just one side of the stem, giving them the distinctive nodding, drooping look. Spanish and hybrid-Spanish bluebell flowers are on all sides of the flower spike, giving the flower a much more upright appearance.

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Showing the difference in flower structure between native bluebell (left) and hybrid-Spanish bluebell (right)

4. Sniff the flowers!

You should be able to pick up a sweet aroma from the flowers of the native bluebell whilst those of the Spanish and hybrid-Spanish bluebell are generally scentless.

5. Still unsure?

The two species hybridise, and can back-hybridise to create plants more like one of the two true species at either end than the ‘standard’ hybrid. This means there can be a wide variation in characteristics making a confident ID difficult at times – however distinguishing the native from non-native is usually fairly straightforward using the characteristics above. Hybridisation with native bluebells is one of the most significant threats that the Spanish bluebells pose to the natives.

I put together a crib which shows the key characteristics of the typical English bluebells below – hopefully this will provide an useful visual aid! However the detail provided in this blog by Cumbria Botany is perhaps the most comprehensive illustrations of the two species and the hybrids in between. The BSBI crib is also valuable, but the text and terminology doesn”t make it very accessible to a beginner!

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Spring flowers

Spring flowers are beginning to appear everywhere! The weather has turned colder now again but spring is still certainly on the way – here are just a few of the species to be seen around Grantham at the moment, there will be many more to come!


Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)
This is a typical component of hedgerows throughout the country and there are plenty of examples of it aroung Grantham. Most of them are not yet in flower but this specimen growing on its own beside the river seems to be at the head of the pack! Start looking out for the white patches in the hedgerows around now – blackthorn comes into flower before its leaves unfurl which makes for a beautiful spring sight with a mass of creamy white blooms.

You may know blackthorn as sloe – the small purple plum-like fruits which can be used to make sloe gin, jam and, well, little else. These are generally harvested after the first frost of autumn so it will be a long time before these flowers produce ripe fruits.

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)


Flowering cherry (Prunus spp.)
This is another non-native but very welcome spring flower. There are two native species of cherry tree – wild and bird – but the majority of those you are likely to see around are ornamental varieties. This one is growing on Sandon Road, outside of the construction college but you can see them flowering in gardens and public spaced throughout Grantham, including the town centre.

You might notice how similar the cherry and the blackthorn flowers are – they are in fact in the same genus, the prunus. This genus includes all of the cherries including familiar fruits – cherry of course, apricot, peach and plum, as well as almonds which are effectively the stone you might be familiar with and not, therefore, a true nut.

Cherry blossom viewing is one of the highlights of the year in Japan – they have blossom viewing parties and events and there are even forcasts which predict when the blossom will be in its fullest glory around the country, depending upon geographic location and weather conditions. I’m not aware that this has caught on to the same extant here in Grantham, but the flurry of whites and pinks certainly do cheer up the town as you walk through.

Cherry (Prunus spp.) blossom


Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)
One of the most widely recognised spring flowers, these are generally considered to be a naturalised rather than a native species. They are found as natives across Europe and certainly fend for themselves in this country but the first recorded colonies were in the 1770’s *. It is possible that some plants are native however, especially in the south of England, however these on the bank of Grantham College are almost certainly planted. One of the earliest spring flowers, they are probably coming to an end now as the weather begins to warm.

You do get many cultivars and ornamental varieties too – if you want to see a nice display, Easton Walled Gardens, just along the A1 south of Grantham, has a snowdrop week once a year, however you’ll have to wait until next year for the next one!

Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)


Lesser celendine (Ranunculus ficaria)
This is a small native species in the same family as the buttercup – the Ranunculus family. The small yellow flowers are another characteristic of early spring and grow in abundance due to their habit of spreading by rhizomes as well as seed. They are most apparent on warm sunny days such as this as they are only open during daylight and close up when it is dark or overcast.

They can be found in many places – they are often present in woodlands or along the bases of hedges where they can spread out into adjacent grasslands. They bloom early in the year, preceding the trees coming into leaf – when they grow beneath a wooded canopy, spring is the time when they will get the maximum amount of light. The plant will die back in May and then remain dormant for much of the remainder of the year.

These flowers were growing alongside the snowdrops on the bank of the college on Stonebridge Road.

Lesser celendine (Ranunculus ficaria)

As an extra bonus, which I didn’t even notice until uploading this picture, is a tiny little ivy-leaved speedwell (Veronica hederifolia) growing within the celendine patch – see closeup below! You can see where it derives its name from too and, in this case, the latin is a very good reflection of the English. Ivy-leaved speedwell (Veronica hederifolia)Hedera is the ivy family and folia derives from the latin for leaf; hence ivy-leaved. Veronica is the family name of the speedwells.. This species generally flowers in April – May but it must have found particuarly favourable conditions settled in amongst the celendines.

Tiny hazel flowers

If you pass a hazel in the next few weeks, take a closer look. The large dangling catkins are the male flowers and you would be hard pushed to miss them, but in amongst them on the same branches, are the tiny pink female flowers. These really are small – the pink styles in this image are only around 2mm long. These are where the hazel nuts form – it will take around 7 months before they are ripe so note their location ready for the autumn!

Hazel catkins and flowers

The pollen is dispersed by the wind and each individual shrub is self-fertile – that is, if the pollen from the male catkin lands upon one of its own female flowers, the flower will produce a fertile nut which will go on to produce a new shrub, supposing it is not eaten first!

Hazel (Corylus avellana) female flower

Hazels can be found around Grantham – this specimen was from a hedgerow just outside of the town along The Drift but there are a number of lovely coppiced examples at Londonthorpe Woods amongst others.

Hazel (Corylus avellana) female flower

Winter Buds ID Part 1 – Londonthorpe Woods

Tree identification in the winter isn’t so difficult as you might think! Broadleaf trees lose their leaves in the autumn and develop buds which remain throughout the winter and these make it very easy to work out which species is which. The Woodland Trust have produced a very handy guide to some of the most common species which shows photographs side-by-side for comparison. If you want to identify them in a little more detail, this little booklet is invaluable and provides a few more diagnostic characteristics such as the architecture and bark types. It even has a handy key which takes you step by step towards the correct identification!

Of course, one drawback of relying on the buds to identify the tree is getting to the buds in the first place, which can be a long way off the ground depending upon the tree in question. So Londonthorpe Woods seemed like an ideal place to begin.

Londonthorpe Woods is located just off Londonthorpe Lane as you leave Grantham to the north-east. The wood was created by the Woodland Trust who planted thousands of trees on the 56ha arable site between 1993-1995. The Woodland Trust continue to own and manage the site.

As the site is so large, I concentrated on the first area you arrive at if you step through the gate from the car park. This area has been planted with a number of our native species which will one day develop into a woodland much more natural in character than it may appear at present. Alder (Alnus glutinosa) and willow (Salix spp.) will grow quickly but remain smaller, as will the silver birch (Betula pendula) and cherry (Prunus spp.). The English oak (Quercus robur) on the other hand will grow slowly and steadily to rise to prominance above the canopy one day, with ash (Fraxinus excelsior) close behind. Finally there are hazel (Corylus avellana), hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) shrubs which will form an understorey, along with dog rose (Rosa canina).

Map of the plantation behind the main carpark of Londonthorpe Woods (courtesy of Google Maps).

Each of the species is described briefly below, along with a photograph of the buds to show you what to look for! Click on any of the photos for a larger image.


Alder

Alder buds are red and vaguely conical and remain quite close (appressed) to the stem. They are alternate – each bud is present as an individual rather than a pair and they alternate as you look along the twig, one to the left, then one to the right.

Alder is one of the more helpful tree species in that it often provides extra clues in the winter – the cones are generally present right through until spring time.


Willow

Willow’s are a variable bunch and as well as having several species native to the UK, they hybridise so there is even greater variety than you might expect. I think that this example might be goat willow (Salix caprea) – it will be easy to check when the buds break – goat willow produce fantastic flowers so watch this space! The buds are alternate again, lime green with redness towards the tip.

The presence of both the willow and the alder in this plantation suggests that the ground may be damp – both species are most commonly found along river banks or in other damp conditions. Like the hazel (see below for more details), the willows have been coppiced in this site.


Silver birch

Now this is a species which few will need the buds to identify – the distinct silver banded bark is visible behind the buds in this photograph!

The buds themselves are alternate and on small stems which protrude from the main twig.

Silver birch grow quickly but are relatively short lived – they are often one of the first pioneer species in a new woodland but soon become out-competed by larger, taller trees.


Cherry

Cherry is another difficult species as there are so many ornamental and hybrid varieties to choose from. The buds are alternate and dark brown with scales visible. Cherry is another species where the bark is very useful in the winter – the lines which look almost like horizontal cracks in their shiny bark are called lenticels and these are quite characteristic of cherries.

Although it is difficult to be sure of the exact species, it is likely that the Woodland Trust would have planted one of the native varieties – wild or bird cherry. Of the two, this one looks more like wild cherry (Prunus avium). Again, we can return to check this in the spring or summer!


English oak

The oak has tight clusters of buds especially at the tips. The buds are brown and have lots of scales.

One day this tree will probably tower above the others – think of the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest. For an example closer to home, there is a beautiful mature oak specimen along Belton Lane which you will probably pass on your way to Londonthorpe Woods – more on this magnificent tree in a later post!


Ash

The ash has one of the most distinctive buds – they form jet black pointed cones which really can’t be confused with much else. If you find buds of a similar shape but a different colour, such as grey, think of one of the other ashes which we sometimes encounter such as manna ash.


Hazel

Hazel buds are a greenish red in colour – a little like a red and green apple. They are alternate along the twig which itself is often hairy. Hazel provides a few extra clues in the winter time – the catkins (the male flowers) are often visible and if you look very carefully, you can see the tiny red female flowers on the same branch.

Another clue, depending on the management, is the growth form of hazel. It is often coppiced – that is cut down to the ground – and from here it sends up lots of new shoots which are often allowed to grow for several years before being cut back. The hazels in this plantation have been coppiced.


Hawthorn

The spiky shrubby hawthorn bush is fairly distinctive, even in the winter time. The spikes are generally quite visible and the buds compete with these along the twig. The buds are alternate and a similar dark reddish colour to the twigs.


Blackthorn

Blackthorn buds, by contrast with the hawthorn, are tiny little red dots which appear along the stem. The twigs are often long spikes and the buds appear along these. The colour of the bark of blackthorn is, as you might imagine quite dark, a blackish grey perhaps.


Dog Rose

Another species which you are unlikely to confuse with many others. Native roses grow lower to the ground than the other species in this plantation but can develop quite a shrubby form. The curved rose thorns, like a hawk’s talon, are quite distinctive and the rose hips, still present in January, are another key clue. The buds themselves are a slightly lurid red and grow  alternately up the twig, alongside the thorns.