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Posts from the ‘Trees’ Category

Rest in peace number 54

RIP number 54

This is the third year I’ve attended Paul Darby’s excellent Identifying Trees in Winter course at Ravensroost Wood and thankfully this time the weather was more kind to us. A male buzzard was clearly enjoying the sunshine, wheeling up into the clear blue to put on a spirited if early mating display. Gazing through yellow catkins we did our best to see if buds on twigs were opposite or alternate, whether the texture of bark was smooth or fissured, whilst the keener amongst us scrawled down notes or made quick sketches as an aide-mémoire. All this accompanied by a proper woodland soundtrack of nuthatch, coal tit, song thrush, spotted woodpecker and a tawny owl still up from a night terrorising voles. There were one or two trees I couldn’t identify, Wych Elm and Goat Willow, but overall I was pleased I had remembered far more than I had forgotten. Read more

Wedding bells and hallucinogenics

Fly Agaric

Amanita muscaria

My former graphic assistant, David Williams, got married today. Whilst sipping champagne I spotted this little beauty from the window of the hotel where the reception was being held. It’s a bright red and white-spotted fungi called Fly Agaric Amanita muscaria often found growing near Silver Birch. Although poisonous, deaths are actually pretty rare so let’s not get hysterical. In fact it’s actually more of a hallucinogenic as it contains the alkaloid muscimol. Not that I tried it, note no bite marks, plus the mix of champagne and beer did for me.

Winter Trees at Ravensroost Wood

Paul Darby

Paul Darby carefully cutting a few twigs for identification purposes

Although I’m not exactly a dullard when it comes to identifying our native British trees, there are rather a lot of them. So when the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s Paul Darby sent me an invite to join him once again for a morning Identifying Trees in Winter he didn’t have to ask twice. I can tell an Ash from an Oak, identify Hazel, Alder, Beech, Horse Chestnut, Field Maple, Sycamore, Walnut, Hornbeam, Yew etc and can separate Hawthorn from Blackthorn even with no leaves. I can even identify some less obvious ones like Spindle but, where I struggle is with the tricky little blighters like the Willows which so often hybridise. Our venue for the day, Ravensroost Wood, proved to be a great choice as it contained many of our original native species like Wych Elm, Guelder Rose, Aspen, Small-leaved Lime and the rare almost Rowan-like Wild Service-tree. Read more