Thursday, 1 January 2015

Now for 2015

I enter 2015, Dear Reader, with a conscience weighed down by guilt: for two days you have been deprived of the unalloyed pleasure of reading a new blog. But what can I offer for your delectation?

Daldinia concentrica in a burned-out tree stump.
Daventry Country Park. 31 December, 2014

I could make a start with Daldinia concentrica, a fungus generally known as Cramp Balls. Often standing out dark against a pale tree trunk, here a group stands out pale against the black background of a burnt tree stump, creating a vaguely contre-jour effect. These specimens are quite young and will turn coal-black on maturity (and are, indeed, recommended as tinder for starting a fire).

They were, in medieval times, carried in a purse or pocket by travellers to ward off cramp. They don't work. When cracked open these fruit bodies reveal concentric pale rings - hence the Latin specific name.

Unimpressed so far? Can't say I blame you. What else can I offer? What about some nice lichens on a tree trunk...

Lecanora chlarotera at Daventry Country Park.
31 December, 2014

Lecanora chlarotera is a very common lichen commonly (usually?) forming oval patches where the bark is reasonably smooth.

Lecanora chlarotera showing the ascocarps.
Daventry Country Park,  31 December, 2014

This close-up shows a cluster of the fruiting bodies, known as ascocarps. Each has a pale margin with a green-brown disc.

If that hasn't caught your attention then nothing will!

What about this oak tree, with a grotesquely gnarled trunk? It stopped me in my tracks. I could see no obvious diseased tissues and my first thought was that it was an abnormal form of Crown Gall, a malformation caused by a bacterium, Agrobacterium tumefasciens. However this usually develops a bit higher up so I remain in ignorance - unfortunately an all-too-common state of affairs.

So there you are. As I have said before, the winter is inevitably limited in terms of wildlife but it forces one to look more closely at things that, at other times of the year, would be overlooked. But I still want spring to arrive!

A Happy New Year to you all.

Tony White. E-mail:

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