Wednesday, January 31, 2018

In the January wood again

fallen branch with lichen and orange fungi

I've spent too much time alone in the woods. I'm not really a naturalist, I don't recognize the birdsong, I don't notice the signs of animal life, I don't know the lichens or fungi or insects. I've made only glancing contacts with naturalist communities so I've never learnt anything. Now and then I've researched something myself, normally a flower or a grass or a tree, but this is an inefficient way to proceed, when I could have found it all out just by chatting to people. Nevertheless, I've usually gone alone. Some kind of need has grown up in me, to walk into the woods.  I don't know what I'm looking for, or why. And do I keep coming back because I found what I was looking for, or because I didn't?

Helleborus foetidus

A single plant of Stinking Hellebore. A popular garden plant, and I'm assuming this one is naturalized rather than native; the plant certainly is native to the UK but I've found no advice online about how you might spot a native hellebore, or where you would go to see one. Does it matter? For most purposes, not really. Still, I'd like to know.

Helleborus foetidus

Maybe what I come here for is some sort of grounding, as well as the healing properties of fresh air. Sometimes I don't even think about nature, I'm just stretching my legs. Even so, a communication is taking place. And sometimes, on days like this, I can't go twenty paces without noticing something that fills me with questioning wonder.

Decaying branch

There's field maple and oak growing here, too. Just a couple of hundred yards away, across a busy dual carriageway, there's a fragment of ancient woodland, oak and bluebells. It looks completely different to the secondary woodland on this side of the road.

Prunus laurocerasus - Inflorescence buds in January

Cherry laurel. The leaves are evergreen. These inflorescence buds will rapidly elongate over the next six weeks.  Flowering starts around the spring equinox.

An introduced species, of course. Its native region extends from Albania to Iran.

Anthriscus sylvestris

Cow-parsley, just starting out.


Lots of box growing as understorey, along with hazel. The trees are mostly ash, poplar and sycamore.

Iris foetidissima -- fruits in January

Another stinker. This one is Stinking Iris, a plant whose mention always prompts one of Laura's favourite jokes.

Viburnum tinus

Having left the wood, but not yet back at the office, I passed by this Viburnum tinus, a popular shrub in the UK for its winter flowers; native to the Mediterranean region.

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