Archive for the ‘Plants’ Category

Kids from Andalusia Academy were treated to an informative and entertaining walk around the woods of Arnos Vale this morning:

Species expert Joe McSorley sweeps his net to catch a speckled wood butterfly

This speckled wood butterfly was rather less timid than expected and was most obliging to the camera

but there was more in store…

Hadayfe shows either delight or disgust (it’s quite hard to tell) at the discovery of a snail by his friend

We also learned a little bit about seed dispersal

After being dropped briefly, Muhammed’s cap picked up a number of dandelion seeds

and a lot on leaf shapes.

The kids were taught about how to distinguish different plant species by looking at the leaves

The best part of the walk by far was when the kids were asked to identify a flower named after a place in Bristol. They guessed… a Temple Meads flower!

Unfortunately the Bristol Temple Meads flower has yet to be discovered, however I can reveal the correct answer –

Not quite a Temple Meads flower but the Speedwell flower is named after the area in east Bristol

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David Brown examining the holly leaf miner

David Brown examining the holly leaf miner

Finding the species is just the first hurdle. Identifying the species can prove more difficult! We joined David Brown in the struggle to ID a holly leaf miner. There was confusion as to whether subspecies are recognised in the UK.

After much research and head scratching, the answer was given by the Natural History Museum which led to our miner being identified simply as Phytomyza ilicis as no subspecies are found in the UK. Unfortunately this only adds one to our total tally!

Holly leaf with miner

Holly leaf with miner

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It’s amazing what you can find in a British woodland. Today there have been serveral guided woodland walks, and we joined David Molesworth to suss out some of the local plants.


David on an identifying spree

Species of interest included lords and ladies (Arum maculatum) just up the path from the base camp. This plant has a fascinating flower which unfortunately isn’t out at the moment!


Lords and ladies

Two steps up the path and we’ve stopped again. This time it’s sweet chestnut catching David’s eye. This well known tree species was introduced by the Romans 2000 years ago.


Sweet chestnuts

We also come across a number of different moss species (brought back to the lab for proper identification), broad butler ferns, small hawthorn plants and some garlic mustard (which we find out tastes bitter!) All of this and more in 10 metres of woodland.

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Sedging our bets

What’s the difference between a weasel and a stoat? Easy. A weasel’s weasily wecognised, while a stoat’s stoatally different. The same, unfortunately, can’t be said of grasses and sedges. But luckily we’ve got naturalist Dave on hand with a grass masterclass.

Grasses have flowers with both male and female parts, he explains, while sedges have the male and female parts on different parts of the plant.

The easiest way to tell them apart, though, is to remember that sedges have triangular stems and grasses have round stems. Yes, sedges have edges, chirps up assistant Matt.

See if you can spot the difference in the photograph below. Hint: The sedge is on the right. Look for the edges!

A grass and a sedge

A grass (left) and a sedge (right)

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We’ve had several interesting finds so far, but one that tells a particularly interesting story is Geum urbanum, also knows as Herb Bennet, Wood Avens and the Blessed Plant.

Its leaves have three parts, which according to christian folklore portray the holy trinity. And the five petals of its flowers are said to represent the five wounds of christ.

This is why carvings of this unassuming plant are often found in carvings in churches from the middle ages. Small but resplendent with history. A flower with a story indeed.

Geum urbanum

Geum urbanum: The blessed plant

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Mad honey

We’ve encountered a bit of a tale today about bees, honey and rhododendrons. The story goes that as rhododendrons are poisonous, if bees feed on them enough then the honey that they produce will also be toxic.

Apparently, in ancient times the peoples living along the Black Sea used such ‘mad honey’ to poison the invading armies of Xenophon. And Queen Olga of Kiev is reputed to have done the same thing to drive off the Russian hordes.

Experts say that there is little evidence of any truth in this story, and there are certainly no recorded cases in recent times. But we found it interesting, nevertheless, so we thought we’d share it with you. Mad honey. Sweet.


Rhododendron - It'll drive you mad. Or perhaps not.

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We’ve just got back from a wonderful woodland wildflower walk with some of our resident naturalists. We identified loads of species of trees and plants, including coltsfoot, foxglove, geum, wild strawberry (mmm, tasty!), evergreen oak, holly, field maple, yorkshire fog, yew (one of the UK’s few native conifers, used to make longbows), yellow pimpernel, speedwell and bugle (which is in the same family as peppermint).

Here are photos of a couple of our favourites.



Yellow Pimpernel

Yellow Pimpernel

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We all know ferns and we all know bracken. But how can we tell the difference between the two? Easy, says Dave our woodland tree and plant specialist.  Just compare the pinnate.

The pinnate is the feather-like leafy bit that comes out of the stem. Ferns are bi-pinnate, which means that the leaflets divide twice to produce the easily recognised fronds. Bracken, on the other hand, is tri-pinnate. This means that the leaflets divide three times, giving each frond its own tiny frondlets – like a little green comb.

See if you can tell which is which in the photograph below. The answer’s at the bottom.

Bracken or fern?

Bracken or fern?

Fern or bracken?

Fern or bracken?

Answer: The bracken’s at the top and the fern’s below. Did you get it right? Leave a comment to let us know.

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Gikgko biloba - the Maidenhair Tree

Ginkgo biloba - the Maidenhair Tree

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We’ve got a load of exciting events coming up this afternoon. Here are just a few to whet your appetite.

1.30pm – Tess’s random safari. (Bring your own pith helment.)

All afternoon – Guided walks with some of our naturalists, looking for mammals, plants, beetles and much more.

8.30pm – The famous bat walk, with our very own David the Batman.

9.30pm – A chance to see some of the moths here at Tyntesfield as dusk sets in.

And for the earlybirds amongst us, there’s the dawn chorus walk tomorrow morning at 4.30am. (Yes, a.m. We’re about to draw straws to see who covers that one…)

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