A collection of wildlife photographs

Friday, 18 April 2014

Newquay roadside and Trelissick gardens

Whilst on holiday in Cornwall, I was staying in Newquay. 

Tree-mallow, Lavatera arborea
Tree-mallow, Lavatera arborea
Tree-mallow, Lavatera arborea  is pictured below, growing alongside a tarmac track. This shrub-like biennial produces leaves with 5-7 rounded-lobes, spreading from their centre like fingers on a hand. This analogy assists with remembering that leaf lobes which radiate from their centre are classified as 'palmate' lobes. The leaves of Tree-mallow are folded in a similar way to a fan, and are velvety to the touch because of being covered by soft hairs. 

As the top photograph shows, Tree-mallow has a stout, woody stem. This species does produce purple-pink flowers of 3-5cm length, but not until late April during the second year of its growth. The distribution of tree-mallow is limited to coastal regions up to 150m above sea level, and is typically found growing on waste ground, such as this track-side site. 

Silverweed, Potentilla anserina
Silverweed, Potentilla anserina is a perennial species with pinnate (oppositely arranged) leaflets. Its toothed leaflets are distinctively silvery-green in colour, with a conspicuous silver-white colour on their underside. As with Tree-mallow, Silverweed also has downy leaves (i.e. they are covered in soft, fine hairs), which causes them to be silky to the touch. In this case, these hairs also give the leaves their silvery sheen. When in flower, Silverweed produces 5-petalled yellow flowers. This species grows best on neutral soil in open grassland, wasteground and roadsides.

Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
Wild teasel, Dipsacus fullonum shown on the right, has concave leaves which form a basal rosette. Its leaves are situated on short stalks and water is able to pool in a 'cup' where they all meet. When this biennial herb produces its prickly stalk in the second (and last) year of growth, it grows up to 2m in height. The flower of teasel may appear similar to that of a thistle, but its leaves lack such spiky edges. Instead, teasel's leaves have swollen prickles on their upperside, and along the midrib of their underside. This species grows primarily on dry soils in lowlands that are neutral to basic. It is commonplace alongside roads, woodland and fields, particularly those prone to human disturbance.

Ivy-leaved speedwell, Veronica hederifolia
This intriguing verge-side habitat also supported several Ivy-leaved speedwell, Veronica hederifolia individuals. This annual has palmately lobed leaves, which appear similar in shape to those of an ivy plant, and generally have 5 lobes. The leaves of Ivy-leaved speedwell are oppositely positioned up its stem, and at  ~1.5cm in length, are longer than the stems they are fixed on. As with all speedwells, the ivy-leaved variety produces blue flowers. The stem and leaves are also profously hairy, as shown in the photograph to the right. Ivy-leaved speedwell is most commonly found on waste ground, open woodland and along the edge of hedgerows.
Ivy-leaved toadflax, Cymbalaria muralis
The next day, we took a daytrip to Trelissick gardens located on the Fal estuary. This land was owned by the National Trust and was well kept, not only hosting naturalized plants, but a vast array of natural species. On the way into the gardens, a Ivy-leaved toadflax, Cymbalaria muralis individual grew climbing up and along a stone wall, shown in the photograph to the right. This hairless perennial has leaves of ~2.5cm length, which are situated on long stems. Similarly to ivy-leaved speedwell, the palmately-lobed leaves of ivy-leaved toadflax resemble those of ivy, as their common names suggest. Ivy-leaved toadflax produces solitary flowers, which range from white to lilac, all the way through to violet in colour. This low growing plant is adapted to grow on shaded rocks and other sites with shallow substrate, which do not readily collect water.

Navelwort, Umbilicus rupestris
Navelwort, Umbilicus rupestris has circular leaves attached by stems from their centre. This species is aptly named after the unmistakable navel-like 'dimples' in its leaves. The evergreen leaves of this perennial are 1-7cm across and are edged by rounded teeth. To the touch, Navelwort's leaves are of fleshy-texture, and are smooth and shiny in appearance. In summer, Navelwort plants produce cream coloured flowers on a long spike. This plant often grows on shaded rocks and walls in the SW of Britain, particularly those which are neutral to acidic. It is shown in the photograph to the right growing from a moss-clad wall.

On the way out of the gardens, we passed a flower rich meadow hosting bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta,  Daisy, Bellis perennis and Lesser Celandine, Ranunculus ficaria among some naturalized plants. There were several Common dog-violet, Viola riviniana plants growing in this artificially sown sward. The leaves of Common dog-violet are situated on long stems, which support  2 narrow stipules (leaf like appendages growing at the base of the leaf stalk). This species of violet has a characteristic pale cream 'spur' jutting out from the back of its flower, as shown in the photograph below. In the wild, Common dog-violet is usually found on neutral to basic soils in woodland, scrub and short grassland.
Common dog-violetViola riviniana
Fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris 
This site also accommodated an abundance of Fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris plants. This erect and hairless perennial grows to 20-40cm in height and has a few alternate leaves growing from its stem. Fritillary plants also have a solitary attractive, and drooping flower. Its flower is typically checkered pink and brown-purple, yet can sometimes be entirely white, as shown in the top left of the photograph below. They are native to meadows, particularly those which become inundated during the winter months. This was the first time I had set eyes on so many Fritillaries in one place, and was certainly a reason to visit more meadows in the future. 

Fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Winter tree identification

On the 15th Februay, I went to a winter tree identification course with Sheffield Wildlife Trust http://www.wildsheffield.com/ I didn't take any photographs on the day, but on a recent walk out to Rivelin on 21/03/14 I noticed that the majority of trees had yet to sprout leaves from their buds.

The first tree I noticed by the section of the river Don, was an Ash, Fraxinus excelsior. Ash trees have complex terminal buds (i.e. the buds growing from the end of the twig are arranged in a cluster). The buds of Ash are a sooty black colour, and tend to be rounded, apart from the more cone-shaped terminal buds. The lateral buds (the buds that grow from the side of the twig) are arranged in opposite pairs, as shown in the photograph below. This means that the leaves produced by the buds of Ash trees, in late April-May, are also produced in opposite pairs along the twig.
Ash, Fraxinus excelsior

Alder, Alnus glutinosa
Further along the river, I found many Alder, Alnus glutinosa trees. This is hardly surprising because of their affinity for water. Alder has spectacular mauve buds, which are described as being 'club' or 'boxing glove' shaped. The buds are positioned on scaly stalks, extending from the twig, as shown in the photograph below, and lateral buds are organised alternately along the stem. The bark of alder trees can be purply-brown, darkening to grey-brown with age, but generally bark is not the most reliable diagnostic identification feature of trees.
Alder, Alnus glutinosa
Hazel, Corylus avellana

The picture on the right displays the twig of a Hazel, Corylus avellana tree. Hazel is usually found in hedges and beneath the canopy of larger trees. They are relatively tolerant of the shade. The buds on Hazel trees in the winter are short and brown, typically with green-red scales, which unfold as the leaves sprout in March-April time. Hazel has very hairy twigs, which can be a useful feature for identification.

Although Elder, Sambucus nigra plants appear to be remarkably shrub-like, they are formally classified as trees. The ecologist at Greno Woods, described them as a 'teenager's messy room' in their growth habit. Elder's buds are purply-brown and covered in spiky scales. These buds are particularly small, and arranged in opposite pairs. At the time of taking the photograph below, the lateral buds were beginning to produce leaves. Elder trees are mostly found in clearings, hedgerows and scrub.
Elder, Sambucus nigra
The photograph below is of an Oak tree, Quercus sp., because of the hairless twig and buds. Oak produces a complex 'cluster' of terminal buds at the end of its twigs, and the twigs are reasonably straight. The bark on these twigs is dark brown and shiny, and often covered in pale warts. It can be difficult to tell apart Pedunculate oak, Quercus robur and Sessile oak, Quercus petraea from their buds alone. 

Oak, Quercus sp

Using the buds to identify trees in the winter can be useful. Other important diagnostic features include the tree outline. For example, the drooping twigs of Silver Birch, Betula pendula can easily be told apart from the erect twigs of the Downy Birch, Betula pubescens. There is still time to spot leafless deciduous trees this season, but as trees produce leaves, identification will become even easier.

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