Monday, 21 November 2011

Bletted chequers

An earlier post referred to the lovely colour of Wild Service Tree leaves this autumn, but did not illustrate this. So it behoves me to show some photos. It's easy to identify this species, it's easy to identify this species because the leaves are a distinctive red, like these.....

.... will become when they fall. More representative leaves are a dark red, and carpeted the ground around this tree which is a good shape from not being crowded. The specimen at Bough Beech is tall and thin, having grown in competition with its neighbours

Wild Service Trees were cultivated for their fruits, known as checkers, which were picked and hung up to await the first frosts. Until then, they are unpalatable but the frost opens them up and softens the flesh and so become "bletted", giving an interesting if gritty texture.

The flavour has been compared to almonds or sultanas (see Richard Mabey's Flora Britannica for a full description) but I found them to be more akin to over-ripe pears.

As well as their use as fruits, they were also used to flavour alcohol (probably not beer) and this may explain the frequent use of The Chequers as a pub name. This may be so, as the trees are sometimes found in pub gardens, but it seems more likely that the name refers to the game, encouraging thoughts of the entertainment to be found within.

The weekend continued the run of fine Autumn days after the overnight mist burned off. The sky was blue and the sun shone, although in shaded places the dew remained.
Fungi have started to appear, very late and in smaller numbers than would be expected.

More butterflies were seen, and flies and ladybirds continue to bask in the unexpected warmth.

Some oak trees are still fully green, while late flowers remain, covered in dew, like Watercress and Celery-leaved Buttercup in a rich cattle mire.

But signs of change are clear elsewhere, with mistletoe green against the bare branches of limes.

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