Identifying Woodland Flora

Ever wandered through a woodland glade and thought: what’s that strange flower? What’s that bird chirping away? Identifying flora and fauna is a lost art, one I’m learning to acquire, and luckily there are plenty of apps to use when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere and desperately want to know what some plant is (though if you can get 4G then you’re probably not remote enough).

Here’s a short guide focusing on what flora to look out for in woodlands and how to identify common species. Let’s do this by season.

Spring: the best time to be in a woodland. Bluebells, birds building nests, everything growing green again after the cold months. The first pilgrims are the bluebells, which emerge and carpet ancient woodlands between late April and throughout May. Swiftly following the bluebell comes the early purple orchid, usually between April and June. Also look out for wood anemone, foxglove and, of course, nettles.

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Native or Spanish bluebells? Native ones have droopy stems, Spanish ones have flowers all around the stem.

Summer: as the Spring bulbs and flowers die down they are overcome by honeysuckle, dog rose, and enchanter’s nightshade.

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Honeysuckle: a climbing plant, it entwines itself in hedgerows and bushes. Flowers look like little trumpets and it has red berries in Autumn.

 

 

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Dog-rose: most abundant wild rose. Pink or white flowers with 5 petals.
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Enchanter’s nightshade: small white or pink flowers. Not deadly, not even related to deadly nightshade; actually related to willowherb.

Autumn: my favourite season because of the colour, because of the dying. The leaves of trees take on red, orange and brown shades and slowly drop, covering the ground in those crisp leaves that we all love to walk through. I get all cosy just thinking about it! In woodlands some flowers like honeysuckle continue to bloom through the autumn, but also we see ivy flowers, providing one last drink of nectar for all those bees entering their hibernation.

Winter: the holly berries and mistletoe of Christmas time are so evocative and familiar but actually most of us probably don’t go for enough walks in woodlands in the winter to notice them. In January, snowdrops are the first to rear their tentative heads, and snow leads to gold as the lesser celandine emerge with their bright gold star-shaped flowers.

 

There’s so much happening out there if you just stop and look but it’s so difficult to identify flora if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Here are some of the apps I find helpful in getting me to know my local woodland patch. I could do a whole other post on useful apps for nature lovers so maybe I just might do that.

Woodland Trust tree ID app

Plantifier: upload a photo and the community will identify

NatureGate: and all rounder for flora and fauna in nature

iPlfanzen: rather than photos, you describe a plant according to their options.

Humans Have Cut Down More Than Half The Earth’s Trees… So Far

I haven’t blogged in a few months – I’ve moved house, started a new job, then helped my mother move house. So it’s been very busy and stressful. There’s been some hideous animal stories I’ve missed out on discussing in that time. I’m starting some volunteering soon, which will take up a lot of my writing time, but I’ll try to keep this blog going still.

Let’s talk about trees.

Credit: WWF – http://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation

A recent study by Yale University has calculated the shocking decline of tree density.

Using a combination of satellite images, data from forestry researchers on the ground and supercomputer number-crunching, scientists have for the first time been able to accurately estimate the quantity of trees growing on all continents except Antarctica.

The largest forests are found in tropical climates, particularly the Amazon, which is home to a staggering 43% of the world’s trees. The greatest tree density, however, is to be found in the colder climes of Russia, North America and Scandinavia. The scientists documented the influence of growing human populations on tree preservation, and found that, unsurprisingly, as civilizations expand, natural arboreal areas are deforested.

This news is certainly worrying – we have so far cut down around 46% of the world’s trees. The National Geographic claims that “the world’s rain forests could completely vanish in a hundred years at the current rate of deforestation.”

Crowther, who led the study, had this to say:

…human activity is the largest driver of tree numbers worldwide. While the negative impact of human activity on natural ecosystems is clearly visible in small areas, the study provides a new measure of the scale of anthropogenic effects, highlighting how historical land use decisions have shaped natural ecosystems on a global scale. In short, tree densities usually plummet as the human population increases. Deforestation, land-use change, and forest management are responsible for a gross loss of over 15 billion trees each year.

The WWF explains why forests are vital ecosystems:

forests provide habitats to diverse animal species; they form the source of livelihood for many different human settlements; they offer watershed protection, timber and non-timber products, and various recreational options; they prevent soil erosion, help in maintaining the water cycle, and check global warming by using carbon dioxide in photosynthesis.

But what everyday things can I do to slow deforestation, I hear you ask?

  • Go paperless.
  • Plant a tree.
  • Buy recycled products and then recycle them again.
  • Buy certified wood products from the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council).
  • Buy only what you will use.
  • Don’t use Palm Oil or products with Palm Oil.