Marsh-marigold

I think I must have blinked and missed the Marsh-marigold flowers (Caltha palustris) this year. There have often been quite a few of them in the shallower and narrower part of the pond in the local nature reserve. Maybe they are late with flowering because of the cold spring we have been experiencing. Or perhaps that end of the pond is now too dry despite all the rain we had a few weeks ago. I’ll keep my eyes open for them from now on in case they appear in June rather than April or May. These pictures are from last year on 18 April.

Rowan Trees

There are three young and thriving Rowan trees in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve. They are also called Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia). They looked particularly attractive the other evening with their heavy load of creamy white blooms So many small flowers arranged into generous clusters to entice bees and insects. The trees should also provide a plentiful supply of berries for the birds in autumn. We had one of these rowans in our suburban front garden when I was a child. My mother used to recount the panic she felt when she parked my pram in the shade of the tree and later discovered me eating the berries. I was rushed to the doctor but there was no problem, the berries are edible, and sometimes made into jelly but are very sour.

Bogbean

Here is a bouquet of Bogbean flowers (Menyanthes trifoliata), a creeping aquatic perennial found in shallow water as well as damp peaty soil in marshes, fens, and bogs. In this case, found in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve pond. They are not so prolific this year because their habitat is under threat. At the moment there are only a three flowering stems, and they are late to bloom anyway because of the cold spring – so most of these photos were taken last year on 13 May. The white star-shaped flowers have highly unusual fringed petals.

CD Nature Reserve 1

Some views of the Charlton Down Nature Reserve yesterday evening when the sun was still bright and warm and the light brought out all the colours.

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.

The Holm Oak

Permanently overshadowing the path that leads from Herrison Hall to the cricket ground is a massive tree that goes mostly unnoticed. It is not glamourous when compared with the showier specimen trees nearby. No brightly coloured leaves or flowers. It is a Holm Oak or Holly Oak (Quercus ilex) with dark green, leathery-textured leaves more like holly than the normal appearance of other species of oak; and these leaves are not shed en masse in autumn but each one lasts about four years before falling at any time throughout the year.

This evergreen species is a native to the Mediterranean region and has become naturalised in Britain. Thought to have been introduced in the 16th century as an ornamental tree, it is well adapted to hot dry summers because its thick waxy foliage cuts down on water loss. At this time of year it produces male and female catkins which often go unseen until strong winds bring them down to litter the ground. This year flowers are still in bud compared with last year. Strangely, I have never seen any acorns in autumn on this particular tree. In the south of England Holm Oaks are amongst the largest and can reach a height of 80 feet with a broad spreading crown, and may live to be 250 years old.

These pictures were taken of the same tree at various times, at different angles, over the last 18 months.

Red Horse Chestnut

There is a group of tall elegant trees at the east end of Greenwood House near to the converted church. They have similar leaves to the horse chestnut but not identical. The flowers also resemble the horse chestnut and are clustered like decorative candelabra on the branches but are a beautiful deep pink with yellow patches. I noticed years ago that the fruits (conkers) from these trees were mostly ovoid and spineless, and were empty and sterile. I wondered what variety they were and had previously concluded that they were probably Indian Chestnut Trees. Now I think differently. They are more like Red Horse Chestnut trees which are a hybrid between a Horse Chestnut and a Red Buckeye. What ever they are they are exquisite.

Spring Greens

Green and more green. Vibrant, fresh, golden. All photographed around 8pm 22 May 2021, in a place I call The Meadow (but some people call it The Triangle). It is on the north edge of the village, just off the public footpath that leads to Forston Grange from the allotments. It is a great place that is managed more like a nature reserve than our official nature reserve. It is a small field of various grasses, brambles, and wild flowers that I think may be cut once a year allowing everything to bloom and seed in perpetuity; allowing ground cover to recover each year providing food for insects and birds and without disturbing overwintering invertebrates. Appropriately narrow mown pathways circle and cross this small grassland patch which is surrounded by an almost continuous belt of native species of trees. Paths inter-connect the area with the open fields outside, and children can make dens in the wooded areas. In summer, the grasses are spectacular. A lovely place to visit especially for its tranquillity.

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.

Horse Chestnut Flowers

Horse Chestnut trees (Aesculus hippocastanum) are a main component of the local landscape in Charlton Down and the first dramatic sight as visitors pass into the centre of the village along Sherren Avenue. One or two of these trees have succumbed to the problems of old age and been felled in recent years but new trees have also been planted, for example, to the south of Greenwood House, so that succession of these lovely trees is guaranteed into the future. After a slow start this very cold Spring, the elegant pink and white pyramidal clusters of blooms are now finally out and decorating these splendid trees.