Thursday, 26 February 2015

Daventry to Kentle Wood: an aborted trip

I set out earlier today for a third visit to Kentle Wood ...and never made it. Although I set out in fine weather huge purple clouds soon began to loom up in the west and moved threateningly in my direction. I let prudence be my guide and turned 180 degrees to head back home.

Nevertheless I had covered a mile or so before my retreat and some features of interest had already been noted.

Oyster mushrooms on a dead branch. Yeomanry Way,
Daventry. 26 February, 2015

On a partially dead tree in Yeomanry Way a clump of Oyster Mushrooms, Pleurotus ostreatus, flourished. It is not as destructive a species as Honey Fungus and is best described as weakly parasitic and is usually found on already-dead wood.

Oyster mushrooms, though fairly easily recognised in terms of structure, are very variable in the colour of the cap. These delicious fungi, commonly seen nowadays in the high street, often have steel-grey caps or even a rather violet coloration.

Parmelia saxatilis bearing thousands of isidia.
Thames Road, Daventry. 25 February, 2015

Also on a tree trunk, this time in Thames Road, was the lichen Parmelia saxatilis. The specific name 'saxatilis' means 'of rocks' but this species is happy on suitable tree trunks.

A close-up shows that, instead of jam-tart shaped ascocarps, the main reproductive structures are isidia - tiny outgrowths on the thallus which may become detached and act as reproductive units.

An Ash tree branch sweeps down to make
photography convenient.  Leamington Way,
Daventry. 25 February, 2015

Beside the busy A45, here known as Leamington Way, Ash trees, Fraxinus excelsior, were close to flowering. A close look is needed to make out the nature of these reproductive organs.

The purple stigmas of an Ash tree.
Daventry. 25 February, 2015

Looking vaguely like succulent purple fruits, these are the large fleshy stigmas. The male flowers will open within a few days and the rather mealy pollen will be scattered by the wind.  It seems a haphazard, inefficient process but the thousands of winged seed capsules (the 'keys') carried by trees bears testament to the success of this strategy. 

Neither male nor female flowers bear petals, thus making less obvious the fact that Ash is related to Lilacs, Forsythias and Jasmines. 

So, as I have said, I scurried off home at this point to beat the rain. And it never came!

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