Monday, 1 December 2014

The First of December

I always feel that December 1st should be the first day of winter. It isn't of course, that distinction goes to the 21st of December. Certainly, although it was grey and damp as I set out earlier today it was by no means wintry.
Leaves of Field Maple, Acer campestre, form a carpet.
Christchurch Drive, Daventry. 1 December, 2014

A thick, damp carpet of leaves lay beneath the trees as I visited a small plantation, largely of maples, off Christchurch Drive here in Daventry. Most of the soil in this area, and certainly my own garden, is a heavy clay. Given a couple of centuries of work by earthworms and there should be a good loam here, but for my garden I'm just working in gritty sand and compost in places where plants are to be placed.

Blackthorn, Prunus spinosa, bushes in a nearby hedgerow were bearing fruits. At least, I am assuming that they are blackthorns. The fruits were perhaps a little larger and rounder than usual and they could have been specimens of Bullace (Prunus domestica, ssp institia). I will need to re-examine the plants in spring.

Sloe or Bullace? Probably the former. The skins split
as the fruits begin to blet. Christchurch Drive, Daventry.
1 December, 2014
Whatever they were, the fruits were ripening nicely. The fruits of blackthorn, i.e. sloes, are impossibly astringent at first but as the weeks slip by they soften and become sweeter. This softening is known as bletting and as it proceeds the fruits begin to split and become acceptable to birds. Of course the birds spread the seeds far and wide - a cunning plan.

Adjacent to the blackthorn were several hazel bushes. A few lemon-yellow leaves clung on and between them hung the yet- undeveloped catkins, waiting for spring, when the lengthening days will prompt them into further growth.  

I include the obligatory leaf mine, in this case on a bramble leaf. It is probably the work of Stigmella aurella, the Golden Pigmy. This is among the commonest of our micro-moths and it is an bramble indeed if doesn't bear any of these mines. The structure of the mine seems to have impeded growth at the leaf tip, causing it to die off.

Not an exciting day. But after a lot of wet and generally unpleasant weather it was just good to be out.

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