common-hawthorn

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: http://www.friendsofbournewoods.org.uk/wild-service-tree/

Photographs Steve Goddard