BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

Posts tagged ‘ecology’

#365daysofbiking Waiting for a fluff explosion


April 17th – On the way to work near Greern Lane, Shelfield, I notice the sallows are flowering now, and this is one of the more interesting blooms of springtime.

Sallow or goat willow is a member of the wider willow family, and grows profusely hereabouts. After the initial pretty male catkins have passed – pussy willows – then come the female catkins that were so well on show today. Once these peculiar green flowers pollinate, they generate wind-borne seeds in a few weeks: these evolve in the form of a large cloud of fluff that for a few days will coat the canal, towpaths, woodland paths, verges and road margins.

For now though in the spring sunshine of a warm, lovely morning – they look like something prehistoric, and in reality, probably are.

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#365daysofbiking A case of scurvy

April 11th – One of the odder ecological phenomena of urban Britain is the proliferation of Danish scurvy grass. This salt loving plant is what gives verges and roadsides the white fringe right now, with this hardly, pollution resistant little plant flowering.

Danish Scurvy Grass likes salt, and thrives in the ‘burn zone’ beside roads that are gritted in winter, where the roadways splashes brine onto the verge. One of the few plants not top be hindered by these hostile conditions, its white flowers can be seen by many urban roads this time of year.

There really is a place for everything it seems.

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#365daysofbiking Slippery customer

March 30th – Spotted on a recently cropped tree stump near the canal by Birchills locks, some impressively horrid-looking slime mould fungus that looks for all the world that it might spring to life and try to take the country by force at any minute.I’ve not seen any of this stuff for years. It was clearly living off the tree sap and the general moisture on the stump.

Stomach-churning and fascinating at the same time.

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#365daysofbiking No danger

March 21st – A remarkable early riser at the moment in this early and temperate spring is the purple dead-nettle. Not usually seen until mid April around here, there are lovely little mauve-pink patches of this small plant in scrubs, commons, heaths, hedgerows and towpaths everywhere I go.

It doesn’t sting, and I love how the upper leaves have a red colour that compliments the delicate blooms.

In the last couple of years I’ve really come to appreciate nettles – yellow archangel is another member of the family which will soon appear and it’s stunningly beautiful too.

A real gem.

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#365daysofbiking A small ‘slip

March 20th – As if to cement my good feeling, on a grass verge in Stonnall, an annual first and my favourite flower: The cowslip.

These tough, beautiful little primroses are my absolute favourite flower and it’s always wonderful to welcome them back into my life.

Let’s hope this solitary soldier is the first of a record year!

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#365daysofbiking Fluffbomb

February 26th – Reedmace, bullrush or cat tails as they are variously known have a fascinating mechanism for deploying their seeds.

This time of year, if you can find one, just rub the head and it will explode into a huge ball of fluff – wind borne seeds.

Setting them off is compulsive and fun, but you do get covered in the stuff…

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#365daysofbiking Unshed

February 4th – I’ve always been puzzled why it might be that some deciduous trees don’t shed their dead leaves in autumn; the summer growth dies and goes brown, but doesn’t drop.

Someone asked the same question on social media over the weekend, so I thought I’d look into it.

The characteristic is called marcescence, and is exhibited mainly by oak, beech and hornbeam in the UK. It’s not clear what the evolutionary purpose of this curious feature is; it could be to shelter leaf buds from browsing animals like deer, and indeed, some oaks are only marcescent on lower boughs. Another theory says that the leaves attached to the beaches have their goodness absorbed back into the tree over winter, which is more efficient than them dropping and relying on conversion from leaf litter.

So I’m not really much wiser, but at least it has a name – and this marcescant oak was showing it’s dead leaves well beside the cycleway in Telford as I passed this morning, making me smile.

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#365daysofbiking Stars on earth:

October 25th – The Darlaston earthstar fungus colony continues to fascinate me. These relatively rare, alien looking fungi are growing under a thicket on an anonymous, ordinary industrial estate near where I work.

Every day, a new star opens. 

I wasn’t sure what bud or genesis they had, but today I found out that they start as a very well camouflaged ‘ball’, which splits into the ‘petals’ of the star.

They really are strange, fascinating things.

#365daysofbiking Little gems:

October 21st – One of the best things about Cannock Chase in autumn is the fungi, and today there was a huge selection.

I never found the one thing I wanted to see – orange peel fungus – but I saw lots of great other types from polypores to boleta.

It’s always worth stopping and looking at that unusual flash of colour in Autumn.

#365daysofbiking Springing up like… Mushrooms?

September 7th – Up on the old rail line, I noticed that with the damp weather, fungi was now coming through after a very thin summer.

I’m glad to see this as the mycology fascinates me; most folk don’t realise that generally toadstools and mushrooms are merely the blooms of larger underground organisms, and the colours, textures and shapes fascinate me.

I looks like this spot will be a good place to find fungi this autumn.