Monday, 28 January 2019

Ash and bulrush

Today I made my first visit of the year to Foxhill Farm. My target was a clump of Bulrush, Typha latifolia, beside a pond in the north-east corner of the farm.

Bulrush, aka Common Reedmace, at Foxhill Farm, near Badby, Northants.
28 January, 2019
To be specific, my intention was to gather a few of the seedheads and check for the presence of the Bulrush Bug, Chilacis typhae.  It is a widespread species throughout southern EngIand but less frequent in the north. I was surprised to find that the pond contained a reasonable amount of water, as for most of last year it had been dry.

About 25 cm of water had gather over recent weeks.
Fortunately I was able to reach some suitable specimens without the need to risk wet feet and I soon had a few of the sausage-shaped seedheads in my bag for examination at home later.

My attention was drawn to some ash trees in a nearby hedgerow. This species, Fraxinus excelsior, tends to be dioecious but not wholly so, for specimens are commonly found bearing both male and female flowers. However, around Matt's farm the trees are generally one or the other. In the picture the tree on the right was male, and had a rather light and airy look. On the left the tree, a female, looks more 'clumpy', being laden with many bunches of 'keys'.

Ash trees, a male specimen on the right and a female to the left. The trees are
not always dioecious. Foxhill Farm. 28 January, 2019
A closer view of the female tree shows these keys more clearly. These keys, technically samaras, are in fact capsule-like, with the end elongated into a wing. This allows the fruits to be distributed very effectively by the wind so that gardens at a considerable distance from the nearest tree may find saplings popping up here and there. 

The female specimen carried many bunches of the 'keys'.
Ash trees belong to the Olive Family, Oleaceae, and the fruit can be eaten, usually in the form of pickled ash keys. My copy of The Hedgerow Handbook, by Adele Nozedar, includes a recipe for this - er - delicacy, but I'll refrain from indulging for now.

Anyway, back to the bulrushes. Once home I carefully split open the club-like inflorescences, being careful not to allow them to burst open and  the fluffy contents to escape, and searched. Nothing!

Ah well, I'll just write it off as an invigorating walk.

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