Guelder-Rose Berries

Guelder-rose (Viburnum opulus) is not as common as Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Elder, and Dog Rose in the hedgerows and copses around our village of Charlton Down, but it has beautiful flowers in Spring and luscious red berries in Autumn. The best example of Guelder Rose can be found in the trees and bushes bordering the area of grassland that I have previously referred to as The Meadow: this is a triangular piece of land down the slope from Rowan Walk, and near the path that passes north and upwards to the barn on the crest of the hill as you walk to Forston Grange. Guelder-rose also grows in the hedge separating the Community Orchard from the road. The berries in the pictures are not quite ripe yet, still a bit orange in colour (24 August 2021) but should be ripe and a deep translucent red by now or pretty soon.

Acorn Knopper galls

Acorn knopper galls can be found on the young oak trees behind Greenwood House and also in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve. They are acorns which have developed in a distorted way because a particular species of small wasps have laid their eggs in the acorn flowers. The irritation as the egg hatches out causes a proliferation of tissue growth on which the larva can feed. Sometimes a whole acorn is transformed this way. Sometimes only part of it. And on some stems a perfectly normal acorn in its cup grows side by side with the gall acorn. The shapes are variable as you can see from the photographs.

If you would like a little more information about these galls, ten years ago I wrote in my other blog about some of the same type of galls that I noticed in Kew Gardens.

Hedgerow Elderberries

Elderberries are also common in the Dorset hedgerows. The Elder shrub or tree provides flowers in spring for cordials and elderflower wine or ‘champagne’. In July and August the berries start to form and change from green, through red. They ripen to black in autumn. The berries are popular with birds so not all bushes are laden around Charlton Down but, here and there, they are laden and ripe for picking and making wine, jam, or syrup. There are lots of recipes on-line.

Hedgerow Sloes

Sloes, the fruits of the Blackthorn, are ripening in the hedgerows around Charlton Down. They resemble small grapes or damsons. They look delicious but they seem to be used mostly for flavouring gin.

Hedgerow Blackberries

There are loads of blackberries in the hedgerows around the village right now, but most of them aren’t ripe yet – just one or two shiny black and juicy.

Hedgerow Rosehips

Rosehips are the fruits of the Dog Rose which grows in the hedgerows near Charlton Down in Dorset. These were photographed 3 September 2021.

Autumn Silhouettes 1

Thistle flowers going to seed, Hawthorn berries, and Blackberries in the hedgerows, and flowering Stinging Nettles in the fields, on the first official day of Autumn in Charlton Down.

Blackberry 1

Another of the commonest wild plants is the bramble (Rubus fruticosus)and it can be quite a nuisance too. Its sprawling, spreading, intertwining growth habit means that it spreads with ease and can soon reach out over paths and catch you as you walk by. You can’t miss them in Charlton Down. No-one ever seems to manage them – even while there is a great eagerness to mow down and cut back every other sign of natural wildlife on a regular basis. We more than tolerate them for the promise of the berries to collect in the autumn. Buds quickly turn to blooms (white or pink), and flowers rapidly convert to green fruits. Whether these develop into luscious black berries is another matter. So weather dependant. My mouth is watering at the prospect of collecting in due course the fruit from the orchard too, for making blackberry and apple crumble!

Plane Flowers

Despite living here in Charlton Down for so long, and brushing against the low twigs of these trees whenever I go from Greenwood House to the village hall or the shop, I have never noticed their flowers before. I am talking about some Plane trees planted in groups around the parking area in front of Herrison Hall. Their round knobbly fruits are very noticeable, and in fact many of these still linger on the tree after winter and into spring. But this is the first time I have seen the flowers, which are often in clusters together with last year’s fruit and the newly-opened furry leaves. There are separate male and female flowers on Plane trees.