Woodland Watch – Week 2 – 28/03/2013

Well, its week 2 of Woodland Watch and what a difference a week makes! After a brief visit from the spring sunshine, my walk this week was bracing to say the least! Last week’s soft, muddy paths were frozen solid again and wet patches on the woodland boundaries were frozen into beautiful patterns reminding me of Jack Frost from my childhood games.

"Look out, look out...Jack Frost is about...He's after your fingers and toes"!

“Look out, look out…Jack Frost is about…He’s after your fingers and toes”!

As Tree Surgeons, this late cold spell has both positives and negative effects on our work. Winter jobs such as planting and hedge laying have been able to continue a lot later than in warmer years, but cold weather can affect young spring growth.

Plants can contain up to around 90% water and in cold weather, particularly in frosty conditions, the water in plant cells freezes damaging the cell wall. Frost damaged plants become limp, blackened and distorted. Evergreen plants can turn brown and tender plants can take on a translucent appearance. Frozen ground water is also inaccessible to plants’ root systems and prolonged cold spells in spring can cause plants to die from lack of moisture.

Although the young spring ground plants don’t appear to be showing signs of frost damage, the usually jelly-like Jews Ear fungus which we spotted last week was frozen solid and brittle with a distinctly shiny appearance.

Jews Ear fungus frozen in the early spring frosts

Jews Ear fungus frozen in the early spring frosts

The hazel which makes up a large proportion of the lower canopy level in this woodland has lots of clearly visible catkins. Trees are flowering plants and in hazel (Corylus avellana) the male flowers form catkins such as the one pictured below while the female  are single red/pink flowers. I have yet to spot these tiny female flowers in this woodland but will keep a look out in the coming weeks. Pollination mainly by wind, these catkins do not need the bright colours of other flowers to attract insects to pollinate them.

Hazel catkins

Hazel catkins

Hopefully the weather over the coming weeks will warm up and we can look forward to more signs of spring. Until next week, enjoy your own woodland walks and don’t forget to send us your pictures to office@tree-creeper.com.

See you next week.