BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

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

Posts tagged ‘shrubs’

#365daysofbiking Sick more?

September 5th – Whilst I obsess over galls on oaks and wild roses, other shrubs and trees have their own problems. Here on Clayhanger Common, this sycamore tree is affected by sycamore mites and tar spot fungus.

The curious leaf growths form on the leaf like a gall from the point at which mites feed on the leaf by the same mechanism that other gall insects imply – in the case of these tiny mites, their saliva corrupts the lead cell DNA to grow into a gall.

On the underside of the leaf, a tiny, fur lined aperture into the gall is used by the mite after it has grown to lay its eggs, and the gall is eaten by the hatchling.

This leaf also has tar spot fungus.

Neither harm the host tree to any extent.

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#365daysofbiking A rose by any other name

August 20th -Whilst in Wednesbury, I took a look at Brunswick Park, which is a lovely spot. Whilst there, I spotted these red berries. The shrub was clearly under attack from some pest or other, but the fruit looked gorgeous, and a bit familiar.

Turns out it’s guelder rose, which isn’t really a rose at all, but the white flowers are very familiar to me. The berries are very mildly toxic, but jam can be made from them. They are very bitter.

A beautiful, bright red reminder that autumn is just around the corner.

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#365daysofbiking The cycle


July 9th – I’m always interested in insect galls as regular readers will know and one of the most interesting in the UK is the robins pincushion gall, which affects wild and dog roses.

Forming the same way as oak galls – from a wasp injecting eggs into a plant bud which are coated in a plant DNA corrupting substance – pincushion galls are brightly coloured and made up of a solid nodule up to a inch or so diameter, covered in hairy spines, which if you look closely are miniature facsimiles of rose stalks, thorns and all.

Numerous larvae hatch in chambers within the gall, eating their way out as they mature.

This year on a rose where last year’s dead remains of a pincushion gall can be seen complete with cavities where the wasps emerged, there are two new ones growing about 12 inches further up the branch.

And so the lifecycle of a tiny but fascinating insect continues.

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#365daysofbiking Respect your elders

May 30th – Also blossoming now is the delightful and humble elder, a shrub beloved of winemakers for hundreds of years. It grows in woods, hedgerows, on wasteland and anywhere it can. Here in Harlaston it’s thriving at the back of Victoria Park.

The tiny, beautiful white flowers have a gorgeous scent and can be used to make wine or champagne: the berries they make way for – deep red, almost black – make a heavy, heady wine that’s almost legendary.

This gives the winemaker a tasty dilemma: White and floral or red and strong?

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#365daysofbiking Another early arrival

March 28th – Also early this year along with most other stuff are the pieris flowers and bright read leaf tips.

This gorgeous ornamental shrub – sometimes called fetterbush – is grown a lot in gardens and in beds on industrial estates and parks for no other reason than well, it’s stunning.

This example was spotted in an otherwise anonymous scrub beside the cycleway near the Euston Way pub in Telford.

This is pretty much a fortnight earlier than it was last year, when I spotted the same shrub in Wednesbury.

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#365daysofbiking Cherry amore

March 26th – A full three weeks earlier than last year, the cherry blossom is coming out on the industrial estate where I work.

Returning from Telford at lunchtime, I noticed the pinky white flowers catching the sunlight. Then I looked around, and all the other ornamental cherries on the estate that I could see were flowering similarly.

Against the fine china blue sky it was a wonderful, uplifting sight.

This spring is early, but I’m not complaining about that at all! I just wish it would warm up a little now.

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#365daysofbiking Of course – gorse!

January 31st – on the way to work on a grim, cold morning, the familiar sight of gorse flowers on waste ground near Bentley Mill Way surprised and delighted me. I’m never really sure of the difference between gorse and broom, but the bright yellow flowers – in bloom before Christmas – seem to be around forever and smell pleasingly of coconut.

Such a lovely sight on a cold, grey day.

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#365daysofbiking Red is the colour:

October 11th – On the industrial estate where I work, a grim, overcast morning was brightened considerable for yet another wonderful display of cotoneaster berries.

This shrub – for some reason like pyrocanthus – is beloved of industrial estate landscapers, presumably for the late colour. But cotoneaster is much more – the tiny flowers in high summer are beloved by bugs and bees, and come the cold winter days, blackbirds and other passerines will feast on these nutritious berries.

Such a welcome splash of autumn colour.

May 18th – I said last week, somewhat stupidly, that the blossom season was passing. That was completely and utterly wrong – it’s still in full swing.

Not with the brassy, brash cherries, apple and other fruit blossoms that entertained for an all too short period a few weeks back, but with the more subtle blossoms of humbler hedgerow soldiers – in this case hawthorn and rowan.

Both smell remarkable. Both creamy white, but very different. And both rarely deemed worthy of a mention, but criminally overlooked as they’re beautiful, especially close up.