Holm Oak 2

It is that time of year again, and our splendid Holm Oak, also known as an Evergreen Oak, is in flower by the village hall in Charlton Down. It loses leaves at any time throughout the year, and so it is not unusual for dead leaves to carpet the ground beneath the tree while new leaves and flowers appear in the canopy.

The species was first introduced in the 1500’s from the Eastern Mediterranean. Although it is not adapted as much as our native oaks, it supports plenty of our wildlife. A good tree for surviving hot and dry summers, but not so good at coping with severe frosts and cold. That’s why it mostly grows on the coast and in Southern England.

Maybe we should all be thinking of planting more sun-loving and drought tolerant trees and shrubs around Greenwood House to allow for the fact that weather patterns are changing. I think that future generations would be grateful to inherit plants that withstand the warmer climate and need less intensive management and watering. (There are lots of much smaller options than this magnificent tree).

Beside the Path 3

The new unblemished horse chestnut leaves reach down low towards the waist-high white cow parsley flowers beside the path. Later in the year, the leaves will develop the brown blemishes caused by the larvae of the chestnut leaf miner moth, which is a species that has been accidentally introduced to Britain from Spain.

Leaf Fall – Field Maple

Mostly Field Maple leaves on the ground in the nature reserve at Charlton Down, Dorset, 23 November 2021.

Leaf Fall – Mostly Beech

Carpets of mostly beech leaves rustle underfoot where the low sun highlights their copper colour and reflects on coverings of dew drops, near Greenwood House in Charlton Down, Dorset, 24 November 2021.

November oak Leaves

There are still a few leaves on the oak trees in the village, looking bright on this cold and sunny morning. The curious patterns are caused by the insect galls that affected the leaves.

Horse Chestnut Leaf Miners

The foliage on the village horse chestnut trees may seem to have been changing to autumn colours for many months already. Look closely and there is a sort of pattern to the dying patches on the leaves. These patches are where a small caterpillar has been eating its way to fatness and maturity between the inner and outer layers of the leaf, following paths between the veins. The small moth that lays its eggs on the leaves is a native of the continent but warmer weather has enabled it to extend its range further north to Britain where it now flourishes. The infestation has an effect on the tree but only in a general way because the tree does not die and can still produce conkers. At this time of year the damage inflicted on the leaves is made more dramatic in appearance because of the dying back of the leaves. I have written in greater detail about this on earlier posts over on Jessica’s Nature Blog if you want to click the links below to read them:

Oak Spangle galls

Galls smother the undersides of oak leaves this September in and around Charlton Down and further afield. The oaks in the Nature Reserve and in the grounds on the south side of Greenwood House are affected. The galls are common and I have often seen them in other years too. The exact shape is dictated by the type of wasp that has laid its eggs in the leaf. The ones like small rough brown discs with a raised centre are Spangle Galls made by the Cynipid wasp Neuroterus quercusbaccarum. The small round golden galls with a depressed centre, a donut-shape of silk threads, are made by the wasp Neuroterus nimismalis. Some leaves have both species of gall.

Click on any image to enlarge and view in a gallery.

Cleavers

Cleavers (Galium aparine) is a sprawling annual of hedgerows and disturbed ground. The stems are square and rough and their edges have backward-pointing bristles, as do all the surfaces of the leaves, and these bristles help the plant to gain traction and spread through the neighbouring vegetation, either horizontally or vertically. The bristles make Cleavers extremely clingy or sticky to the touch. They have tiny four-petalled white flowers. Usually the flowers are only just visible to the naked eye. The flowers develop into spiky coated seeds.

Identification from Collins complete guide to British wild flowers – a photographic guide to every common species by Paul Sterry 2006.

Whitebeam

I call these the ‘lollipop’ trees because of the way they are pruned with a rounded crown on a narrow trunk. They are like an architectural or sculptural feature around Greenwood House and stand in complete contrast to the large, established, and free-growing trees. Their silvery grey/green, and decoratively-textured leaves are bursting out right now – a bit later on those trees that were recently pruned.

These trees line up in rows parallel to the length of the building, a single one on the car park side of the building , and a double row either side of the gravel path on the south side. I wondered for years what these were but someone told me they were Whitebeam trees. The white flowers appear in flat clusters and are replaced by red berries in autumn. They are a very formal addition to the landscape. looking good against the strong red or purple colours of the copper beeches and the terracotta bricks of the building.

Birch Leaves

I think it is Silver Birch trees (Betula pendula) growing between the west end of Greenwood House and Herrison Hall, and again the other side near the east end of Redwood House. They have fine elegant drooping branches borne on a trunk with a characteristic cracked white bark. In April as the leaves begin to open there are dangling catkins too. On my evening walks I look up into the gently waving foliage and gain a sense of calm; and I like the patterns that they make silhouetted against the sky.