Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Easter Eggs and a Sweet Tooth

The disappointing Easter weekend was mainly spent searching for that strange, elusive plant, Toothwort, which has been reported up north but not yet seen down here. We tried in local woods where I'd seen it before, but no luck.
But other things were good to see:
Bluebells of course, coming out so there'll be a good show this weekend.
Moschatel seems far more plentiful this year, veritably carpeting the woodland floor, as Alexanders is doing across the local verges. Perhaps the early warmth followed by a cold couple of weeks has held other plants back, giving the early starters a longer time to thrive?
Hops are starting to push through the hedgerow litter, looking like feuding adders with their sinewy shoots.

Inland then to the hazel orchards of the Greensand Ridge of west Kent (I'd never seen hazel orchards and had to look closely before I'd believe that was what they are). A bizarre sight to someone brought up amongst the apple orchards, but sure enough that's what they are.
Surely toothwort should prosper among these trees?
But no. Maybe the pigs had eaten them up.

Once more the habitat gave up other things of interest..... bilberry for instance, providing an understory in the otherwise bleak beechwoods.
This leaf miner trail tells its own story. I started small, and ate and ate until I was big..... then I flew away.
Another sight new to me was female hornbeam flowers. I'd seen the male catkins, but not noticed the adjacent females, with subtle pink in the green world.
No pink toothwort to be seen, so that was the end of the weekend. Fruitless. Or rather, toothless. The Easter eggs were good, though.

Bird-wise the highlights included a short-eared owl hunting over Barrow Mount and the golf course at Kingsdown (thanks to Graham for his photo)
and a couple of raptors that could have been honey buzzards flying north near Northbourne.

Back to work in sunshine(!) on Tuesday, and in a wood that can be seen from my office window.....
Would you believe it?
Although we know that toothwort is innocent of chlorophyll and is a parasite, according to Edward Step "it has been believed that some portion of its nutriment is obtained by pursuing the vocation of a trapper of innocent animalicules, which are done to death and digested by it".

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