After many days of rain, mist and gloom, the sunshine and blue skies on Saturday 14th April 2018 were welcomed! Nature responded and the air was filled with birdsong and the buzzing of bees, and many flowers opened. On the roadsides in Bewdley Lesser Celandines and Daisies were out in profusion – a celebration of spring.
Yesterday Wyre Forest Study Group members braved the cold rain and ventured out into Earnwood Copse, following an ancient sunken track down through the woodland. 2 micromoths Diurnea fagella were spotted on tree trunks, as was the attractive harvestman Megabunus diadema. A Larch Ladybird and spiders Diaea dorsata were found in conifers, and down at the stream water crickets Velia caprai were swimming around on the water surface in the eddies. In open areas near the stream Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage was flowering well. But the Sallow catkins were still closed, waiting for warmth and sunshine.
On a Wyre Forest Study Group walk along Dowles this week there were many signs of spring in spite of the cold temperatures. Wild Arum and Bluebell leaves were pushing up through the leaf litter, a few brave birds were singing and hazel catkins hung decorously from their twigs in glorious yellow.
This small fragile evergreen shrub (not often higher than 40cms) grows wild in just a few of our hedgerows and woods around Wyre where the soil it isn’t too acidic. It is flowering now and is pollinated by early spring insects.
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.
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.
The Bluebells were delightful in parts of Wyre this year. Many were in flower in the middle of April and they lasted right through May giving us some beautiful woodland scenes.
This spell of warm weather has brought out many spring flowers in the Forest. Mick Farmer has provided this lovely photograph of Primroses.
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.
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.