Winter Lockdown Nature Notes: week 5

4 February 2021 | 0 comments

Lichen, blobby trees and saffron!  My week started with an extension of the lovely walk south of Bath around Combe Hay and South Stoke. A highlight was walking through the long abandoned Somerset Coal canal, with the extraordinary zig zag canal construction and endless locks. Our footpath (more like a stream) took us through this wonderful little tunnel. However, back to the nature topic, we found a huge rotting tree trunk sporting tremendous lichen. This foliose lichen, one of the common lobaria species, is called ‘lob scrob’! What an unglamouraous name compared to others , such as ‘floury dog lichen’ or ‘Norwegian specklebelly’ Next time I’m going to show you some with a decent name!

Saturday, back to catkins. Another sign of spring, many of you will be familiar with the delightful miniature red flower to be found on the hazel. I lovel the cute little round buds on a hazel twig too. Hazel is monoecious (both male and female flowers are found on the same tree), although hazel flowers must be pollinated by pollen from other hazel trees. The yellow male catkins appear before the leaves and hang in clusters.

Sunday, a 20k blustery solo tromp through the blizzard, across the hills south of Keynsham and all the way back home. Not terribly conducive to thoughtful nature spotting.

Feb 1st. Celebrate spring around the corner, I saw my first crocuses. Not native to the uk, but now sprinkled liberally in our woodlands, did you know that saffron comes from the crocus sativus? Okay, this is an autumn crocus and now cultivated in England, but fascinating nonetheless, and saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. All from the humble little crocus. I recommend the stories I found here from growers English Saffron .

Feb 2nd Wandering along the river Avon from Trowbridge, we came across this big bulging tree trunk. These tree bulges are called Burrs or Burls, and are still a bit of a mystery. Harmless to the tree, they are cause by some localised genetic scrambling, in some cases triggered by bacteria or viruses. They can occur either underground on the roots, or here at the base or further up. Woodworkers love them as the wood inside has the most incredible twisty patterns, but obviously cutting them off will severely damage a tree, so absolutely not to be done unless the tree is being felled.

Right by the bridge in Bradford on Avon is this enormous tree. I’ve really struggled to work out what it is, possibly the common lime, given it’s massiveness, types of bud and old hanging fruits? I just did not expect such a giant trunk.  Looking up on the tree age calculator (by trunk size) it is over 250 years old. And is it one tree or two? Wonderful, anyway.

And finally, Thursday. A short canal walk via the shop to buy more wine. Say no more.


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