I’ve been resisting taking berry photos, trying to deny the fact that the days are shortening and the summer heat slowly fading, but I have been watching the Wayfaring trees I featured earlier this year, in the post The Wayfarer, and I couldn’t resist documenting how the glorious flowers from May have gradually been developing into luscious shiny red berries.
Here’s the latest in my occasional series of watching the trees come to life. This time, it’s the Oak tree – I’m not sure which of the Quercus species this is but I think they’re all fairly similar. First, the leaves burst from their buds, and the vibrancy of the new growth is dazzling.
And, of course, everyone knows acorns come from Oaks but perhaps, like me, you hadn’t noticed where the acorns come from. Below left are the male flowers, the catkins, dangling to catch the breeze that carries their pollen, and below right are the female flowers, tucked away, sheltered, waiting to be fertilised by the pollen and develop into acorns.
As part of this spring’s project to watch trees and shrubs come to life, I’ve been keeping a close eye on Wayfaring trees during my local walks. Viburnum lantana is a tree – or shrub, if the potential to grow 5 metres tall means it can still be called a shrub – I’ve mostly ignored in the past but now I have a much better appreciation of its beauty.
The leaf buds when they first begin to develop are brown and furry and very sculptural.
And the flowers are equally lovely. The first of these photos was taken on 23 March, the most recent just two days ago, on 4 May.
You can read more about the Wayfaring tree on the Woodland Trust website, where the entry includes the fascinating information that arrows made from stems of this tree were found on the frozen body of ‘Ötzi the Iceman’, the man from 4000-3500BC whose body was found in the Austrian Alps in 1991.
First, the black buds split open to reveal their furry brown inner parts.
Next, those brown furry parts burst open to reveal luscious purple ‘berries’.
And finally, those purple berries transform – they’re not berries at all, of course, they’re the tips of the anthers of the spiky flowers that grow at the end of the twigs and branches.
This is an Ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior), and they have a very complicated but fascinating reproduction system, which I didn’t know about when I took my photos – you can read all about it on the Tree Guide UK website here.
Field maple leaves are now bursting out wherever I walk, and they speak truth to the old saying that ‘good things come in small packages’. The tiny buds are exquisitely fashioned, covered in a soft furry outer skin that splits open to reveal the sculptural beauty of the prominent lime-green veins and much-folded pinkish-red blade.
I don’t often take landscape photos these days but the combination of sunny spring weather, fabulous trees, and what looked to my inexpert eye as good land management, plus the colours and leading lines, prompted me to start clicking during a recent walk.
This piece of countryside, about an hour’s walk from home, is a combination of farm and woodland. Perhaps a hedgerow would be better than a fence alongside this field (happily, there are a lot of hedgerows in this area) but at least there’s a wide area of ‘set aside’ where, hopefully, wildflowers will be allowed to grow. And there are some magnificent towering old trees in the surrounding landscape, to which my photos really do not do justice.
I’m off on a flower tangent this week. With no new wildflowers to add to last week’s collection and because I’ve been seeing lots of nice birds (especially Siskin) in Alder trees this week, I thought I’d focus on Alder for my Sunday flower post.
As the Alder (Alnus glutinosa) is monoecious, you can find both the male and female flowers on the same tree. I’ve frequently noticed the male flowers (commonly known as catkins), as they’re the most obvious and are very similar to Hazel catkins. Give them a flick at this time of year and you’re sure to see a shower of yellow ‘dust’ released into the air: that’s the pollen.
However, I hadn’t really paid any attention to the female flowers before and, I admit, I hadn’t really made the connection between the female flowers and the little woody cones they grow in to once fertilised. The female flowers are much smaller and found in little bunches on the stem, usually above the male catkins.
Interestingly, the Woodland Trust website says that ‘The green dye from the flowers was used to colour and camouflage the clothes of outlaws like Robin Hood, and was thought to also colour the clothes of fairies.’ And, of course, in the winter months the seeds from the cones provide essential nourishment to the Siskin, the Goldfinch and the Redpoll. What a bountiful tree the Alder is!
Holly flowers are tiny, tucked away in the crooks of branches, inconspicuous behind the mass of glossy evergreen leaves. And that’s my excuse for not having noticed them until quite recently.
I’ve since read that Holly (Ilex aquifolium) is dioecious, which, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you might remember from my March 2020 post, Wild word : dioecious, means that Holly’s male and female flowers occur on separate trees. I think the flowers I found are male, as the female flowers have small green spheres in their centres, which, if pollinated, would grow in to the red berries we all associate with the Holly tree.
A new day, a new year, new life, new hope! One of the first things I noticed during today’s long New Year’s Day walk was these Hazel flowers, the tiny pink female flower and, nearby, the long droopy male catkin. And it made me feel hopeful. Though we humans enter 2021 beset by the devastation and grief of a global pandemic, the looming disasters of climate change and environmental destruction, and, in the UK, the self-inflicted damage of Brexit, yet Nature continues its cycles of life, shining a little glimmer of light in the darkness and gloom. Let’s cling to that light and let it inspire us to make 2021 a greener, more environmentally friendly year, for the future of our planet and ourselves.