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.

Lime Tree Leaves

The village has many magnificent mature Lime trees, and also smaller younger ones. Their lime green heart-shaped leaves freshly opened are a delight to see, whether in the full sun of the day or the gentle evening light. They are sometimes be-decked with strange bright red growths. These are Nail Galls, a characteristic reaction of the leaf to an invasion by small mites called Eriophyes tiliae which only live in leaves of this type.

Copper Beech Leaves 2

When the new leaves of beech trees overwinter in the bud, they are neatly folded up – not crumpled randomly. As they burst free in Spring, you can see that each leaf is pleated in a regular fashion so that they unfold like the ribs of an opening fan. The leaves have silky soft hairs around the edges, and the blade shows green as well as red pigments. Later in the year the leaves become darker purple as the red pigments dominate.

Lime tree leaves 1

All the trees around the village seem to be springing into life now, opening up their leaves and flowers, and providing us with an increasingly colourful show. Lime trees are amongst the most common in Charlton Down and this week the buds have popped and the delicate bright citric green leaves are unwrapping from the buds.

Maple flowers

There are different types of Maple trees around the village. I am not sure exactly what they are all called. Maybe someone is good at tree identification and can put me right? The maples are in bloom this week. The flowers are bright yellow and stand out against the dark branches and the blue sky. The leaves burst out at almost the same time and are very thin and crinkled and unobtrusive for the moment. Together they crown the trees with a halo of gold. The example shown here can be seen in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve.

Copper Beech Leaves 1

One of the greatest pleasures afforded me as a Greenwood House resident must be watching the huge copper beech trees to the south of the building wake up in Spring. From the bare skeleton branches of winter, a gradual hint of a tint of pink starts the display. Then before you know it, the leaf buds are opening and the bright rusty red leaves unfold. I never cease to be delighted at observing the show. From a distance and close to. I must admit to being almost obsessed by the beauty of these trees. I take lots of photographs throughout the year. The trees are like old friends to me and give great solace and joy. I make no apology for the fact that I will be including lots of pictures of them in this blog. (How many copper beeches do you actually think are out there?)

Wild Rose leaves

In their own way as beautiful as the delicate flowers of summer, the newly emerging leaves of the wild rose (probably Dog Rose Rosa canina in this case) display rich reds and vivid greens introducing a welcome flash of colour to the scene. These were photographed in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve 11 April 2021.