Saturday, 27 December 2014

Catkins at Christmas

It's not that I'm afraid of Santa Claus - I'm not claustrophobic - but one can have a bit too much of the celebrations. So, following an excellent Christmas dinner with my daughter Jacqui and her husband Dean, a walk around Daventry Country Park seemed like a good idea. Chris, Jacqui, Dean and yours truly set off in fading afternoon light to do a circuit, which basically means a circumnavigation of the lake/reservoir which forms the centre of the park.

Some fine trees are dotted around the park, with huge oaks and beeches, surely pre-dating the reservoir by many years, being particularly impressive.

This specimen, though not large, has the typical shape of an oak. The branches do not sweep elegantly upward or outwards but spread with oddly angled branches, these angles once being particularly valuable for shipbuilding and other construction work. We have two species native to Britain: in the south,the east and much of the midlands the Pedunculate Oak, Quercus robur is the most commonly met, but in the north of England, together with Scotland and Wales, the Sessile Oak, Quercus petraea, is the commoner, preferring the siliceous soils with their more acid reaction. The leaves allow identification but hybrids are frequent and I didn't attempt to put a name to this specimen.

The alga Trentepohlia abietina - probably -
staining the trunk of an Acer at Daventry
Country Park. 25 December, 2014

We pressed on in fading light. Tree trunks here and there were stained bright orange-red with an alga. It is a species of Trentepohlia, almost certainly T. abietina. It likes cool, damp conditions so is most frequent in the north and west of the British Isles. Here, close to a significant body of water, it is flourishing. There are very few records of this species on the NBN Gateway site, probably because people fail to notice it or aren't sure what it it they're looking at.

Catkins of Hazel in flower on Christmas Day!
Daventry Country Park. 25 December, 2014

I was on the point of putting away my camera when I had a surprise. Hazel catkins had no right to be in this state - releasing their pollen on Christmas Day. A bit of a waste of time really because there are unlikely to be any female flowers ready to receive the pollen. But it was a nice little bonus to round off the walk!

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