Thursday, November 09, 2017

A return to Emthree

It is nearly 14 months since I wrote about Emthree, the Square Metre Project, so it is high time I set down some new observations.  Access has been restricted lately due to a wind-thrown incense cedar, Calocedrus decurrens whose top narrowly missed Emthree itself but brought down much of the medlar tree blocking the route in and out.  The medlar branches have now been cleared and this has let more light back into the area.

Though the photo above looks a bit of a jumble it is (to me) full of interest.  The silver birch slightly left of centre appeared as a seedling 13 years ago in 2004.  There is a sallow, Salix cinerea, like a slanting grey stick immediately to the right and further right still a hornbeam, still in leaf, which has to be carefully pruned to keep it as a one meter high column.  Towards the top right hand corner is the top of a young oak tree and there is a holly at the base of the birch.  The leaves against the dark background top centre are of small-flowered sweet-briar, Rosa micrantha.

To the left of the birch is the slender grey trunk of an ash with hazel, still with leaves, at its base.  Although they cannot be easily seen, there are field rose, Rosa arvensis, and hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, in the mix.  All these plants have appeared as seedlings of their own accord and I often reflect that if a piece of ground was characterised by its supporting naturally regenerated birch, sallow, hornbeam, oak, holly, ash, hazel and hawthorn, it would be thought of as woodland, possibly ancient.  It illustrates too that its often unnecessary if not undesirable and expensive to plant trees for woodland creation when they will come up of their own accord, though seedlings are harder to protect from nibblers than tree-guarded saplings (Emthree's trees have been regularly attacked by rabbits and deer but struggle on).

This new close encounter with Emthree also produced a couple of fungi: the orange yellow hairy curtain crust, Stereum hirsutum, growing on a dead twig and what I think is an oakbug milkcap, Lactarius quietus.  This species is associated with oak trees (note that there is one of these in Emthree) and the 'bug' part of the name is due to the fact that it is supposed to smell like bed bugs.  'Quietus' can mean, in English, 'something that causes death' or, in Latin, 'peaceful' or 'bland'.  This species is not described as poisonous and, if from Latin, the specific name may refer to its rather inconspicuous nature.  I also liked the description of the cap in Common British Fungi by Wakefield & Dennis (1950): "of a peculiar dull reddish-brown (somewhat like cocoa with milk)".