26th May 2014

Here’s a wildlife gardening plea to anyone who has a hedge with a gap, or garden space for an interesting small, slow-growing tree. I planted an Alder Buckthorn in the garden a few years ago, solely because it’s leaves are the key food plant for the caterpillars of the wonderful Brimstone Butterfly (they have started flying through the garden occasionally but I’ve never had caterpillars on it yet!). The more people who plant it, the more likely that colonies of the butterfly will build up! However, the tree has lots of other wildlife benefits– though the flowers are tiny they were covered with a range of bumblebees today, seeking nectar and pollen. The black berries are attractive to birds in the autumn, especially thrushes, and the leaves are beautiful with light shining through. Alder Buckthorn prefers dampish, acidic soil but will tolerate other soils and conditions. The leaves and bark make a good yellow dye. The wood was thought to make the best charcoal for gunpowder, was used to make wooden nails and, due to its even burning quality, was used to make time-fuses!

Leaves of the Alder Buckthorn

Leaves of the Alder Buckthorn

Talking of thrush, this one has been using next doors TV aerial as a singing post for a few evenings.

Talking of thrushes, this one has been using next doors TV aerial as a singing post for a few evenings.

The tiny, hermaphrodite flowers of Alder Buckthorn

The tiny, hermaphrodite flowers of Alder Buckthorn

 

Carder Bee, one of many insects feeding on the Alder Buckthorn today

Carder Bee, one of many insects feeding on the Alder Buckthorn today

Conditions: Mild, still, dry morning with light showers building to light rain by evening. Temperature: Max 16- Min 11 c.

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