Monday, March 31, 2008

Spring fronds

One of the freshest and subtlest signs of the rising sap are the new fronds of broad buckler fern (Dryopteris dilatata) seen here above evergreen ivy and last year's dead leaves. The delicate tracery does not stay long and turns into a rather dowdy fern later in the year. The countryside is so full of the grosser manifestations of early spring - wood anemones, primroses, daffodils - that it is easy to overlook these less strident displays. I think the fronds look good enough to eat and, apparently, the plant has been used as an analgesic, against dandruff and for gastrointestinal disturbances. Dryopteris roots have also, I gather, been used to make an alcoholic beverage called "uh" (great name) in Alaska, a practice the indigenous American Indians are said to have learnt from the Russians. As the roots are considered toxic, they might have had rather more of a buzz than they bargained for - 'uh' indeed.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Tree mosses in Killingan Wood

Two tree trunk mosses from Killingan Wood, Sedlescombe, East Sussex. The small tuft is the crisped pinchusion (Ulota crispa) and the green dreadlocks the skinny form of, I think, cypress-leaved plait-moss (Hypnum cupressiforme). It could be mammilate plait-moss (H. andoi) but this is normally golden green. Both are growing at about chest height.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Witches butter

I think this is the fungus called Exidia plana, but it might be a gross form of Bulgaria inquinans as the two species are similar. Whatever, we have always known this as 'witches butter', though it is said to be inedible despite its bramble jelly appearance. It was growing on a dead oak trunk in one of our local woods.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

A spring walk in the wood

Today with my seventieth birthday fast approaching I decided I should take a bit more excercise, so I went for a walk in the wood up the road. The hawthorns and a few hornbeams are leafing, the anemones are out (though rather few this year) and the leaves on the early purple orchids are well-advanced. I took a few photos - of a liverwort new to me (but quite common), even scalewort (Radula complanata) growing on an ash trunk in round patches at chest height; I visited the spurge-laurel (Daphne laureola) which seems to be doing rather well this year. I photographed a patch of anemones, a patch of polypody fern, a toppling tree with orange Trentepohlia algae, and I found a small, battered, red plastic hedgehog deep in the litter. It reminded me strongly of 'Wilson', Tom Hanks's volleyball mascot in the film Cast Away. There is a link here. I brought my 'Wilson' home and have installed it in part of my Square Metre project. I am sure it all has a deeper meaning linked to chaos theory.