After a couple of weeks away from walking through the woodland on my own with plenty of opportunity to look at the changing flora, I am amazed to see how everything has changed in such a short space of time.
Only a couple of weeks ago, the meadow approaching the woodland was covered in lush green grasses and bright yellow buttercups. Dry hay meadows such as these are characterized by mixures of grasses such as Cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata), Timothy (Phleum pratense), Common Bent (Agrostis capillaris), Sweet Vernal-grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum) and Crested Dog’s-tail (Cynosurus cristatus). I am certainly no expert on grasses and struggle to identify anything beyond the basic species, however even my untrained eye can clearly see the difference between these diverse hay meadows and monoculture manicured lawns.
This is a very different picture to just a few weeks ago when the meadow was awash with bright yellow buttercups. One of the main features of meadows is the sheer diversity of plants which they contain. Mixed in among the variety of native grasses are a great many other flowering plants. These include plantains, docks, buttercups, vetches and clovers, dandelions, nettles, selfheal, Lesser knapweed, scabious, thistles, hawkbits, Ox-eye Daisies, Yellow-rattle and on rare occasions, Cowslips.
And its not only the meadow plants thinking about reproduction. As we enter the woodland, the bluebells which we have followed since early spring when their first lush, green, leafy growth now have brittle seed pods full of black seeds.
Bluebell seeds take around 3 years to produce flowers from seed. In 3-4 years time, these tiny seeds will hopefully be contributing to the beautiful spread of bluebells covering the woodland floor.
Our native bluebells are coming under threat from competition and hybridization, habitat loss, unsustainable collection and climate change. The native bluebell’s Spanish relative is more vigourous than our native species and can readily cross-breed with it to create a fertile hybrid Hyacinthoides hispanica x non-scripta. To find out more about the future of and the threats facing our native bluebell, take a look at this link from plantlife:
Also moving from its flowering stage to producing seed is the cow parsley which we have looked at several times over previous weeks as it developed. Now, the flower heads are covered in tiny black seeds.
Cow Parsley is a biennial plant; it takes two years to flower from seed. It puts on leaves, stems and roots during the first year and then flowers the following summer. Once they have flowered they die. These plants will self seed freely unless you remove the spent flower heads. These seeds should grow into flowering cow parsley plants over the coming 2 years as they drop to the ground once mature and begin their life cycle.
Seeds are not the only way that plants in the woodland are reproducing. If you look at the underside of the fern leaves on the woodland floor, the spores are clear to see easily with the naked eye.
Sporogenesis is not a reproductive method I am familiar with, so next week we’ll have a look at this in more detail.
Until then, enjoy your own walks in the woods. We will see you next week and see whats happening in the woods and what you should be looking out for on your own travels.
From the Treecreeper Arborists Team