Saturday, April 30, 2011

Birch comes of age

20110430 Metre birch catkin 020 

The birch tree that appeared from seed 7 years ago in spring 2004 in the south west corner of the Square Metre itself, has a few green catkins among its delicate leaves.

I estimate the tree is now about 6 metres tall.

These are the first catkins that have been produced and it shows how quickly birches can reach reproductive size from seed.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

In the heat

There is much activity in Emthree in the welcome warm weather.  Many of the usual insect friends are making an appearance and there seem to be more solitary bees this year paying particular attention to North Wall which is becoming more earthy as it collapses into the mould.

Cardinal beetles are on the wing and this red-headed (Pyrochroa serraticornis) is resting in the shade under a bramble leaf.

20110422 Metre Emthree 002 The wild rose that appeared in the square metre itself in spring 2004 and which was later moved to the north west corner of the square is growing well this year, though still a long way from flowering.  On one of the leaflets I found a tiny moth caterpillar chomping little holes out from beneath a thin veil of silk.

20110422 Metre Emthree 003

Monday, April 11, 2011

Artist's conk fungus on the medlar

At the base of the medlar trunk I found a, small, hard bracket fungus.  With the help of Martin Allison, the county fungus recorder, this was determined as Ganoderma applanatum, the artist's bracket or artist's conk.

20110407 007 A distinguishing feature is the soft, thin, whitish surface underneath which if scratched leaves a brown mark.  This surface can be used for writing or drawing as with white scraperboard (or scratchboard).   The example below is on the under side of the fungus above.  It looks strangely like a graffito written over a cave painting.

20110411 Ganoderma word 001

Some artists have produced remarkable effects. Have a look at these drawings by Marie Heerkens which are somewhat better than my script:

Recent research has shown that chemicals from this fungus could be of value in the treatment of diabetic complications.  It is also said to make an excellent, if rather bitter, medicinal tea.  However, what it was excellent for (or against) was not specified.  It  can also be used for dyeing wool, some fabrics, or paper and will yield a rust colour with wool when ammonia is used as a mordant.

Ganoderma applanatum causes white rot within the host tree, which explains why a large chunk of the medlar died back last year.  I expect the rest will go fairly quickly, but some suckers may survive.  It is rather sad really as it is a wild medlar (with thorns) that came, many years ago, from the bank close to my parents house at top of Whydown Hill at the far south of the parish.  Ganoderma, mankind or medlar, we are all headed for the same destination.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Forget-me-not time again

The forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvestris) are in flower now, little sky mimicking flowers between Midsummer Pond and the western edge of Emthree.

20110407 002There is a certain vagueness about this plant, well expressed by John Hill who wrote in 1756 "It is said to be an astringent, but its virtues are not certainly known."

People used to give someone forget-me-nots if they were going on a journey on 29 February.  Since it is not usually in flower at that season of the year, this could be problematical.

Writers like it.  For example Miss Price in Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood said "I will knit you a wallet of forget-me-not blue, for the money, to be comfy."

John Neal in Goody Gracious and the forget-me-not wrote "if you get tired of being here, all you have to do will be just to pull it up out of the earth, and wish yourself at home, and you will find yourself there in a moment, in your own little bed."  I wonder what he was on.