Sunday, December 24, 2017

Hornbeam bark stripping

The picture above was taken looking down  at the one metre tall hornbeam cordon that has been with us for ten years.  I prune it back every autumn and some of summer's cut twigs with their dark green bark can be seen.  There are also some white twigs (particularly the one in the centre of the picture) from which the bark has been recently stripped and any leaf buds gone.

I suspect a vole or mouse as the probable culprit as the work is all too small and delicate for a squirrel or deer.  I hope it doesn't continue to the point where it has a major effect on the hornbeam.

The white trunk in the background on the left is the lower part of the M3 birch I talked about in yesterday's post.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Colours of birch

One of the most conspicuous features of the Square Metre at this quiet time of year is one of the root buttresses of the birch.  This tree appeared as a seedling in spring 2004, nearly 14 years ago.  The orange tan exposed root (I think it is root rather trunk) runs from the craggy base of the tree on the left for a few centimetres before disappearing underground.

I wonder why it is so brightly and differently coloured that the rest of the tree and why it has raised ridges encircling it.  It must be dancing to the beat of a different drummer than the rest of the tree, but is there any reason for it?

The trunk of the tree further from the ground is generally white with black marks but it is washed with the palest pink on the northern side and palest green on the southern, the colour mainly being on the fine strips of outer bark that are constantly peeling off.  Many of the colours in nature seem to have no especial significance and I suppose they are just evolutionary by products conferring no particular competitive advantage.

Not far from the birch I noticed a group of ivory coloured seeds on the wet fallen leaves.  I have seen similar arrangements of seeds in the past and I think they are made by mice.  However, I am not at all sure what these are seeds of.  Maybe one of the irises - gladdon or yellow flag - both of which grow nearby.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

16 December 2017

I came across a passage today that I thought had some relevance to the Square Metre project: "We know that an unseen, untouched English landscape is a myth.  We know that a long and complex interaction between constant natural processes, and more recent human activity has largely formed all the landscapes we can see today, and that landscape is indivisible from the human world."

Farley, P. & Roberts, M. S. (2011)  Edgelands. Jonathan Cape, London.

It was frosty again this morning and a couple of sulphur tuft fungi (Hypholoma fasciculare) that I found on a decaying log beside Troy Track had ice on their caps.  This species occurs quite frequently in M3 and I have recorded it between June and December.

I also gathered a few dead leaves from M3, as I sometimes do, to sort through them and see if I could find anything of interest.  On a large goat willow leaf (Salix caprea) I found an old gall of a Pontania sawfly species, possibly P. tuberculata or P. gallarum

On a spindle leaf I found, under the microscope, some deeply unimpressive microfungi - clusters of small black pimples.  They might be conidiomata of Ceuthospora euonymi, but that is largely a default speculation as I cannot find anything else in the literature that fits.

Monday, December 11, 2017

December snow

It snowed for a couple of hours this morning and I thought it worth taking a look at M3.  To my surprise none of the snow had lain on the Square Metre itself, but there was a shallow covering on the ground and vegetation nearby.

The Square Metre in the picture above is the area around the birch tree and the snow in the foreground is lying mainly on the area where the incense cedar fell a few weeks ago (flattening the bramble hedge).  I thought maybe it was warmer close to the hedge, but there was snow right up to the same hedge further up the garden.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The day of the Rowan

As I approached the Square Metre today, I saw something on the ground that looked rather like an old glove.  On closer inspection it turned out to be a fallen rowan leaf on a fallen sycamore leaf (both trees grow nearby).  Nature has its own Andy Goldsworthy moments.

Later I was looking at Planet Terracotta, a wide flower pot in Medlar Wood that I filled with woodland earth ten years ago to see what would grow there.  The picture below shows a variety of fallen leaves and (top left) a decaying medlar.  There is a plant of herb robert (bottom centre) and just above it to the right a small bugle.  However, between the bugle and the moss on the terracotta rim is what I am pretty sure is a small rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), a tree I have not recorded in the Green Sanctuary before.  This makes the number of tree species self-sown in the Green Sanctuary up to eleven: birch, sallow, ash, holly, oak, hornbeam, hazel, hawthorn, sycamore, elder and rowan.  We also have at least two wild rose species, two or three cotoneasters, privet and ivy.

And here is Planet Terracotta photographed at the edge of Medlar Wood on 24 October 2007:

Monday, December 04, 2017

Red leaves and wood chipper

There is a cotoneaster seedling in Medlar Wood, bird sown no doubt, that is normally unobtrusive, but at this time of the year the leaves turn wine red and it makes quite a distinctive feature.  Now it has more light I hope it will grow large enough to flower and fruit so that I can put a name to it.

Over in the north east corner of the Square Metre proper a bird has perched on my chestnut wood block and attacked the decaying branch behind.  I somehow doubt that it is a woodpecker.  Maybe a magpie?  Quite a large bird judging by the size of the deposit it has left on top of the block.

Friday, December 01, 2017

2 December 2017

Yesterday I pondered over Butterfly Rock.  The ever changing plateau on the upper surface currently has a loose covering of moss that has been tugged about by birds.  There is a small amount of lichen thallus from, I think, a Cladonia species and the bare surface is stained with black which maybe another kind of lichen.  Now there is much more light coming into M3 I expect there will be many changes during the months to come.

Under the undecayed chestnut wood block was a  black mite quite large for its subclass Acari.  I found some similar mites under a predecessor refuge n early December 2013.  Mites seem to me to be fiendishly difficult to identify to species level though I have tried from time to time.

What would be good would be a British Mites with workable keys and good illustrations, but I think we may have to wait a long time for that.