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.

Pine Flowers

At this time of year, if you crane your neck to look upwards as you pass the tall pine trees in the village, you will be able to see the flowers that later develop into the cones. I think the pines are all Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris). There is one very close to Greenwood House near the boundary with the cricket pitch. Another notable one is positioned near the top of Herrison Road, just on the corner of the lane leading to the allotments. The trees bear both male and female flowers in May. The male flowers are easier to see and consist of clusters of golden anthers set some way back from the tips of the twigs. The female flowers are present at the same time but difficult to spot as two, tiny, crimson-tinted globes at the very tip of a newly expanded shoot.

Information from Know Your Conifers by Herbert L. Edlin,, Forestry Commission Booklet No. 15, HMSO 1970.

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.

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.

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.

Five Sycamores

Trees are such a significant feature of Charlton Down. It is difficult to imagine just how stark the surroundings must have been before the Herrison Hospital was first built back in the 19th century. We benefit greatly from their strategy to create beautiful surroundings by extensive planting of specimen trees. Some of the original trees are still standing, judging by old photographs that have been published for the site. The trees provide us with a lot of pleasure today.

I like to record the seasonal changes in the countryside and village; and trees in particular love to put on a show as they open up in Spring. This group of five sycamores at the road junction between Harrison Road and Sherren Avenue look fully mature but I don’t know exactly how old they are. Maybe they are from the original planting. I have been watching their transformation from bare branches in January through to the present in mid in May. They look so different now the leaves are fully formed. Here are some pictures showing the changes.

Five Sycamores 29 April 2021 1115

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.