Hawthorn- there is a bumper crop of Haws, Hawthorn Berries, this year as the photo’s show. These berries have been used as herbal remedies since at least the ancient Greeks, and probably far longer. They are high in anti-oxidants and are still used by some to treat stomach-aches, stress and sleep-problems. Hawthorn has long mythic associations, and our Celtic ancestors believed the trees to be protected and inhabited by Faery Folk, representing
places where time passes differently to our own. Isolated trees were not cut down, for fear of invoking the wrath of the Faery Queen. The site of Westminster Abbey was once called Thorne Island after the stand of sacred Hawthorn trees there. The berries can be made into jellies, and I have just seen a recipe, on Countryfile’s website, for Hawthorn Gin. We might give it a go. Makes a change from Sloe Gin. Conditions: Grey and drizzly. Temperature: Max 10 Min 9C.
Harlequin Ladybirds- you may already have experienced the latest inundation of Harlequin Ladybirds. Thought to have benefitted from this hot summer, the populations are increased at this time of year by thousands drifting in on mild winds, from Asia. The most invasive species we have at present, this ‘invader’ first appeared in the UK in 2004- in ten years it has spread to areas which it took Grey Squirrels a hundred years to inhabit. Harlequin Ladybirds, on average larger than our 46 native species, and in a variety of patterns and colours and spot-numbers, have brown legs, and as such are distinguishable from the black-legged native species. They also reduce native Ladybirds, by out-competing for their aphid-food and by eating their eggs. Hibernating inside, unlike native Ladybirds, they give out a pheromone as the cooler weather arrives, which helps them detect other Harlequins, and gather in numbers inside our houses, and outbuildings. They do little harm though they may stain furniture and can deliver a small bite, which is harmless to all except a few who may have an allergic reaction. Conditions: Rain and strong winds arriving through the day. Temperature: Max 18 Min 17 C.
Shaggy Ink Caps– lovely to see these easily identified and edible fungi on my walk today up Broomham Lane, Catsfield- you can find them, commonly, in parks, on verges meadows etc. Also called ‘Lawyers Wig’, for obvious reasons, they emerge like white bumps, and grow into cylinders with shaggy skins, but quickly grow up and open into umbrellas, which equally quickly begin to disintegrate, becoming black and liquified (see photo’s). If you want to cook them, and they are tasty sliced and fried gently in
Emerging Shaggy Ink Caps
Shaggy Ink Cap- at the edible stage
Shaggy Ink Cap, stages of growth
Shaggy Ink Caps- turning ‘inky’
Shaggy Ink Cap
butter, you have to pick them young, when they are white and cigar shaped, before they open, and also get them pretty quickly to the frying pan! People did, and some still do, let them liquify and use the liquid as ink. Conditions: A beautiful sunny day Temperature: Max 18 Min 10 C.
Since we are off to the Sheffield Tree Festival later, amidst talks between Sheffield City Council and Sheffield Tree Action Group, it seems appropriate to feature one of England’s iconic but threatened tree species. Introduced from Turkey in the 16th Century, the Horse Chestnut was widely planted in public spaces and large estates but there are fears that this all-year round beauty, from the early sticky buds, and beautiful ‘candle’ blossoms, to the Conkers so many of us grew up gathering and playing, to the stunning bare trees and trunks of old specimens, there are two attacks on Horse Chestnuts. A moth, spreading from Greece and Macedonia, is destroying leaves before many Conkers have had time to fully develop. And a fungal infection, reported only 4 times in 2000 but affecting around half of all our trees by 2007, damages and weakens the trees themselves. We were lucky to have found
Conkers, Lincolnshire, 2018
Horse Chestnut trunk, Herstmonceux, East Sussex
Horse Chestnut, Herstmonceux castle
Damaged Horse Chestnut leaf
some lovely Conkers in Lincolnshire last week. Conditions: Still and blue-skied. Temperature: Max 15 Min 8C.
All plants in the Goosefoot family (which includes Quinoa) have edible seeds and the seeds of our most common Goosefoot- Fat Hen- have been found at every prehistoric site excavated throughout Europe. Fat Hen seeds formed part of the last meal of Tollund Man, the 2,000 year-old victim of hanging, and possibly of ritual sacrifice, found in a Jutland peat-bog. The young leaves of Fat Hen can be used like spinach and the seeds used in soups or dried and ground as flour for flat-breads. Known as ‘Melde’ in old English, this common plant was long
Fat Hen, Goosefoot family
Fat Hen seeds, Goosefoot family, with Marmalade Hoverfly
a staple in place of ‘greens’. Conditions: Cloud and sun. Temperature: Max 20 Min 13 C.
Fleabane, a flower of damp areas and ditches, (in short supply this dry, hot summer) was attracting many feeding insects yesterday, none more beautiful than the tiny, fast moving Small Copper butterfly. Fleabane, as its name suggests, was dried and burned to deter fleas, in the days when people strewed rushes and herbs on the floors of their homes. Its Latin name, Pulicaria (Pulex =Flea) Dysenterica, also points to its early use as a medicine against dysentry. Although Culpepper called it an “ill-looking weed”, the Romans valued it more highly, using it to make wreaths. Conditions: Continuing extremely hot and dry. Temperature: Max 27
Small Copper on Fleabane
Common Blue on Fleabane
Fieldfares, named from the Anglo-Saxon ‘fieldware’ or ‘traveller of the fields’ may come in from the fields and woods in this weather, as 13 did today, sweeping into our garden during a blizzard (hence the indistinct photo’s!). Breeding in Scandinavia, Fieldfares, about the size of Mistle Thrushes, migrate to the UK to overwinter. They are sometimes in mixed flocks with our other over-wintering Thrush, the smaller Redwing- the Fieldfare is the larger bird in this drawing, to scale alongside the Redwing, which we get more frequently in our winter garden. Condition: Heavy snow showers, driving breezes and sunny intervals. Temperature: Max -4 Min -5 C.
Fieldfare (larger) and Redwing