Common Spangle Galls and Cherry Galls on oak leaves

Autumn is a good time to look for plant galls in Wyre. The ball-shaped Cherry Galls are induced by the gall wasp Cynips quercusfolii and those of the Common Spangle Galls by another gall wasp Neuroterus quercusbaccarum. The adult gall wasps that emerge early the following spring are all females and go on to lay their eggs on the developing oak leaf buds. The galls that result are quite different, and from these the sexual generation of males and females emerge in late spring and early summer.

Common Spangle Galls and Cherry Galls on oak, Postensplain, 6 September 2017 Rosemary Winnall

.

Branched Bur-reed (Sparganium erectum)

This strange-looking plant, which can grow up to the height of 1.5 metres, may be found in still or slow-moving water. We find it in a few of our Wyre Forest ponds, track ditches and along sheltered banks of the River Severn. Each flowering spike has male flowers present above the female ones. The fruits, which can float, drop off when ripe and are viable for several months.

Branched Bur-reed, Longdon, 4 August 2017 ©Rosemary Winnall

Hazel catkins

In some sheltered places Common Hazel trees can now be seen in flower, showing that spring is just around the corner. The yellow pendulous male catkins are conspicuous and are often present in high numbers. The small delicate red female flowers have to be searched for as tiny red tassels protruding from buds, often on the same twigs as the make catkins. When the yellow pollen is blown onto the female flowers, fertilisation will occur, resulting in Hazel nuts in the autumn, so loved by squirrels, mice, and some birds.

Male Hazel catkins and female flower, Blackstone, 24 January 2017 ©Rosemary Winnall

Female flowers on Hazel bush, Blackstone, 24 January 2017 ©Rosemary Winnall

Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans)

This persistent perennial may be found flowering between December and March. Unlike its near relative Butterbur, leaves are present during flowering, and persist throughout the winter. Winter Heliotrope, with its fragrant vanilla scent, is an introduced plant from North Africa, and it may be found on waste ground, along hedgerows, as well as on roadside verges as seen here.

Winter Heliotrope, Alton, Callow Hill 26 December 2016

Winter Heliotrope, Alton, Callow Hill, 26 December 2016

Spindle berries (Euonymus europaeus)

This is a good time to look out for the berries of Spindle which occur infrequently in the Wyre area. In some hedgerows the pink fruits contrast in colour with red haws when they grow alongside. A close view will reveal the Spindles’s seeds in bright orange sheaths.

Spindle berries in the hedgerow, Ribbesford, 5 December 2016, ©Rosemary Winnall

Sneezewort Achillea ptarmica

It was good to find Sneezewort flowering in a meadow near Button Oak recently. We don’t find this plant growing very often around Wyre. It grows in damp grasslands. The smell of the flowers is supposed to make you sneeze, although it was the roots that used to be collected to treat toothache apparently.

Sneezewort, Button Oak, 24 August 2016 ©Rosemary Wnnall

Black Poplar Catkins are out

.

True Black Poplar trees are scarce nowadays but there are a few around Bewdley. They were once characteristic of river valleys like the Severn but their seed is hard to germinate and the timber is now longer required. At this time of year, before the leaves come out, the catkins of the male trees are easy to spot if you have the right tree.