Category Archives: Flora

Fruits of the Forest Walk 2019

On a very pleasant sunny afternoon around 30 people gathered for a walk to look for the different fruits and nuts present in Bourne Wood.

people looking at woodland fruit
Around 30 people gathered for a walk to look for the different fruits and nuts present in Bourne Wood.

Bourne Wood has a great diversity of trees and shrubs and we were hoping to see a range of fruits and nuts or seeds on the walk.

Despite it not being one of the better years (at least in Bourne Wood) for the crop of fruits and nuts, we did manage to see a good range of different types.

Blackberries, hips (dog and field rose), haws (common hawthorn) and sloes (blackthorn) were generally widespread. The fruits of these common shrubs are very familiar to many people. Sloes are used to make sloe gin and sloe jelly but, according to Richard, eaten raw they have the disconcerting effect of drying out ones mouth!

sloe berries
Sloes are used to make sloe gin and sloe jelly but, according to Richard, eaten raw they have the disconcerting effect of drying out ones mouth!

Other berries we encountered included dogwood, the familiar elderberry and black bryony – the only British member of the yam family! We found honeysuckle but unfortunately no fruits were in evidence. The leaves of this species are the food plant for the caterpillar of the rather rare white admiral butterfly that is on the wing in the Wood in July.

ripe black bryony
The berries of the woody climber, black bryony. Beware the berries are poisonous!

Although we found a few acorns from English oak, hazel nuts and beech mast proved elusive. Clearly despite there being a large beech tree near the car park this was not a year of plenty (a mast year) and no masts were found. The lack of hazel nuts is probably down to the severe depredations of hazelnuts by grey squirrels, small rodents and jays.

Finally Richard was able to locate a wild service tree with its rather unappetising-looking brown berries. The leaf of this species forms the logo of the Friends of Bourne Wood and its fascinating ecology and cultural uses are set out here:

Photographs Steve Goddard


Fungal Foray 2018

A large group gathered in the autumn sunshine at Bourne Wood for a fungal foray led by Dr Vin Fleming.

The long, dry summer seemed to have reduced the number and variety of mushrooms and toadstools in the wood. Despite this, an enthusiastic group of around 35 adults and children still managed to gather a reasonable number of different species.

selection of fungi
An enthusiastic group of around 35 adults and children still managed to gather a reasonable number of different species.

Vin pointed out that in Great Britain, there are some 12,000 fungi species, which means that even experts are unable to identify every species that might be encountered on a foray.

What was striking was the range of sizes, shapes and colours of the fungi collected. Vin also showed us the very strange striate earth stars growing around the base of a conifer.

Several bracket fungi growing on tree trunks, stumps and fallen branches included the birch polypore, the blushing bracket, the latter so-called as it blushes wine red when the surface is rubbed or damaged and the very common turkey tail fungus.

Probably the largest toadstool collected was the pale-coloured trooping funnel while much smaller in stature was the yellow stagshorn fungus with its golden yellow finger-like branches.

A number of specimens of the attractive lilac bonnet fungus were also found. This widespread species of deciduous woodland is mildly toxic and is one of several fungi that are phosphorescent – that is it glows in the dark! Another attractive mushroom with a pale-yellow cap turned out to be a false death cap (Amanita citrina). Unlike its close relative, the deadly poisonous death cap (Amanita phalloiides), this species is not seriously toxic!

lilac bonnet fungi
The Lilac Bonnet mushroom – poisonous!

A delightful find was the rather uncommon magpie inkcap so-called because as the gills of the cap age, they deliquesce forming a black inky liquid.

Arguably one of the more bizarre fungi encountered were the coal-like Kind Alfred’s cakes (Daldinia concentrica) living on dead wood and which is inedible. The story behind the name of this species is recounted in the article here.

All in all an interesting, informative and enjoyable few hours. Thanks are due to Vin for his time and expertise.

Photographs Steve Goddard and Richard Jefferson.

Fruits of the Forest Walk 2017

Around 25 people enjoyed a sunny Sunday afternoon walk looking at the fruits and nuts produced by trees, shrubs and plants within the wood.

people on the fruits and nuts walk
Around 25 people enjoyed a sunny Sunday afternoon walk looking at the fruits and nuts produced by trees, shrubs and plants within the wood.

The first shrub was an elderberry, with mention of using the fruit for jellies and syrup, and also the flowers for cordial, this was followed by a search for mast under the beech trees.  Continuing we studied the dogwood, which has its cultivated cousin in many gardens, larch trees with their cones, and the common blackberry or bramble – which apparently has numerous varieties.

blackthorn berries for sloe gin
The blackthorn which produces the fruit sought after by so many to make sloe gin.

We moved on to look at blackthorn which produces the fruit sought after by so many to make sloe gin, oak trees searching for the many types of gall and hawthorn with its brightly coloured berries so attractive to birds.  Various other species were discussed as we continued our way, including yew, guelder rose, rowan and crab apple.

crab apples
Beautify blue sky, and numerous crab apples.

On the way back we stopped to look at the wild service trees (which the group has as its emblem), these trees were planted on boundaries, have lovely white flowers in the spring and berries which can be made into jellies, although being brown in colour, are not very attractive or appetising!

Photographs by Steve Goddard

Fungi Foray 2016

The enduring appeal of mushrooms and toadstools ensured that around 30 people turned out for the fungi foray in Bourne Woods in late October. Dr Vin Fleming gave a brief introductory talk on fungi before we set off into the woods armed with our various collecting baskets and containers.

An hour or so later the group had amassed a diverse collection of different types and Vin set about trying to identify what the group had picked.

golden spindles fungi
One of the stranger species was the Golden Spindles which we found in grassland near the car park.

One of the stranger species was the golden spindles which we found in grassland near the car park while arguably the most unusual coloured species was the lilac toadstool known as the amethyst deceiver.

blushing bracket fungi
Blushing Bracket fungi.

Other types we found included the common puff ball (edible when young!), shaggy ink cap, sulphur tuft (a poisonous species), trouping funnel cap, blushing bracket, honey fungus, and the ochre brittlegill, the latter so-called due to its dull yellow cap.

collection of fungi
Although it may seem rather destructive, small-scale collecting of fungi is not detrimental to maintaining populations of the various fungi.

Although it may seem rather destructive, small-scale collecting of fungi is not detrimental to maintaining populations of the various fungi. Mushrooms and toadstools are just the fruiting bodies of the fungus and the bulk of a fungus is underground forming a vast web of branching threads known as the mycelium. Of course, more caution would be required with very rare species of fungi or where fungi are being collected commercially.

Mini-beasts and Wild Flowers Walk

Around 25 people, adults and children,  joined entomologist Keith Porter and local botanist, Richard Jefferson for a hunt for mini beasts.

Before setting off, Keith demonstrated the use of insect nets, sweep nets and beating trays for collecting insects. We set off along the main north-south ride armed with this equipment and plenty of pots for collecting and identifying our catches.

Although butterfly numbers were down on last year’s walk, we still manged to see several species, including lots of ringlets, green-veined whites and a peacock. The silver-washed  Fritillary was again evident but no individuals  decided to settle on flowers so we were unable to see this gorgeous orange and brown butterfly close to.

We did though collect a wide range of other insects and spiders. These included  lots of soldier beetles, which has the misleading name of ‘blood sucker’, various species of hover fly, an orange ladybird which has the unusual scientific name of Halzia 16-Guttata, an oak  bush cricket, forest shield bug and a common blue damselfly.

common blue damselfly
Common blue damselfly (Dave Evans)

With regard to flowers, we enjoyed the the drifts of meadowsweet along the ride and Richard pointed out the three species of thistle –  creeping, spear and marsh – all of which are attractive to insects. The frothy creamy white flowers of meadowsweet have a sweet heavy scent and it was once used to flavour mead. We also spotted teasel coming into flower. This rather stately plant was very popular with bumble bees.

teasel bumblebees
Teasel and bumblebees (Richard Jefferson)

We also found corn mint in damp areas. The foliage has been described as smelling of a mixture of apples and ginger bread and, apparently, sprigs of this plant were once placed in corn stacks in Ireland to discourage mice!

Photographs by Dave Evans and Richard Jefferson

Flowers and Minibeasts Walk

The walk started well, as the leaders, Keith Porter and Richard Jefferson had been on a pre-amble and returned with a Purple Hairstreak – which although found in the wood is not something many of us had seen as they spend their lives right at the top of oak trees – so are difficult to spot!

Setting off; looking for flowers and minibeast!
Setting off; looking for flowers and minibeast!

We set off furnished with butterfly nets and sweep nets, which not only did the children enjoy – but the adults had great fun trying to catch butterflies and even more fun transferring them to the identification pots.

Identifying the latest catch!
Identifying the latest catch!

The star of the last years show returned this year – the Silver Washed Fritillary – a beautiful orange and brown butterfly, quite large and displaying perfectly for us to see.  Someone then caught a White Letter Hairstreak, which is not particularly common, and the young feed on Elm.  In addition we saw Brimstones (this year’s brood), Ringlets, Peacocks, Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns from the butterfly world – and then to top the afternoon off we caught a Brown Argus butterfly – recorded previously in the wood – but not seen before by those attending.

On closer inspection....
On closer inspection….

The bugs caught in the sweep nets included Shield Bugs, Lacewings, Soldier Beetles, 14 spot Ladybird, and a Bush Cricket, not to mention the large Spider!

Can you identify the butterfly?
Can you identify the butterfly?

With regard to flowers, we enjoyed the creeping Thistles which were full of butterflies, and this became obvious why when we smelt the flowers – just like honey!  The Angelica flowers were full of Hoverflies as they are easy for insects to get nectar from due to their open flowers.  We saw Ragwort – which although disliked by many is good for insects and home to the Cinnabar moth.  There was also St John’s Wort – used as a medicinal plant, Meadowsweet and Spear Thistle.

Our thanks go Keith and Richard for a lovely afternoon, the weather was exceptionally good, and the walk was very much enjoyed by the 20 or so people attending.

Photographs by Roland Smith.

Woodland Spring Wild Flower Walk

Around twenty people joined local botanist, Richard Jefferson, on a pleasant evening for a short guided walk to look at spring flowers.

Before setting off, Richard explained why Bourne Wood is so rich in wildflowers. This is due to its large size, variety of habitats (woodland, grassy rides, ponds) and soils and its long continuity as a wood – it is ancient woodland!

bugle wild flower
The sentry-like Bugle flower!

We encountered a wide range of plants including many of the classic woodland species such as the iconic Bluebell, Primrose, Greater Stitchwort, Bugle, Yellow Archangel, Dog’s Mercury and Wood Anemone. The creamy white flowers of Wild Strawberry were found on the grassy ride margins along with Cuckoo flower. Its name derives from the fact that its flowering coincides with the Cuckoo arriving in Britain. Cuckoo flower is also the food plant of the caterpillars of the Orange Tip butterfly, often seen in the wood.

wood anemone on wood floor
A carpet of Wood Anemone!

The highlight of the evening was the opportunity to look at the colony of the showy early Purple Orchid.

Living Willow Sculpture 2014 Maintenance

Part tree, part artwork, our living willow sculpture received a welcome maintenance session this week. Originally called ‘Shelter Skelter’, the sculpture was created by landscape artist Clare Wilks and has provided interest to visitors for more than twenty years.

Most of the long rods formed over the last 12 months were removed and replanted to create new sculptural borders or ‘fedging’ – the term used to describe living willow borders (literally a cross between ‘hedge’ and ‘fencing’). The once-lost central section was replanted too with the aim of recreating the original inner circle.

Flexible willow rods easily take root and can produce fresh leaf growth as early as late spring. Take a look yourself; aim east and north from the car park and you’ll find the sculpture situated on the side of the main path just past Diana’s Glade.

Words and photographs by Kate Starlling

Fungus Foray With Dr Vin Fleming

Armed with bags, baskets and buckets of enthusiasm, a large group of foragers set out on Sunday keen to delve into the dark and often mysterious world of fungi. A lovely sunny afternoon greeted us and under the expert guidance of Dr Vin Fleming, we set off through the autumn undergrowth.

Dr Fleming began by setting younger foragers the challenge of finding the biggest and brightest fungi, but I think it fair to say that a general sense of competition ran through the entire group as parents, grand-parents, aunts and uncles set their sights on searching out the most spectacular of the fungus world.

And we weren’t disappointed. From creamy Giant Funnel Caps to the tiny but brilliantly green Parrot Waxcap and the delicate almost translucent parasol of the Pleated Ink Cap, around 40 species were found by more than 50 foragers in less than an hour – a spectacular result and a surprise for many to learn just what tiny treasures grow beneath our feet.

Dr Fleming regaled us with tales of shamanic rituals involving the striking but psychoactive red and white Amanita Muscaria – more commonly known as Fly Agaric. He demonstrated how the humble Puffball cleverly disperses its spores in the wind, and on our behalf he tasted the milk from an innocuous looking Lactarius Milk Cap only to report the flavour not dissimilar to battery acid.

On the subject of taste, the most common question posed to our expert was perhaps unsurprisingly: “Is it edible?” Dr Fleming was at pains to point out that eating fungi other than those bought at a supermarket is something best left to the highly trained, despite the temptations of a seemingly endless supply of free food.

But if we couldn’t eat them, we could definitely smell them and much joy was had discovering their perfume; from the pleasant essence of aniseed and cinnamon, to the less agreeable whiff of old laundry and raw potatoes. And for those able to identify the smell, it was reported that the odours of disused lift shafts, Russian leather and even bed bugs are not unusual bouquets to find among the fungi family!

This was a highly enjoyable, entertaining and educational event. As one young forager said: “I really loved it, next time I come to the Woods, I’ll be looking down at the ground as well as all around me!”

Words by Kate Starlling
Photographs by Esme Redshaw