Early spring flowers

Not only are flowers lingering late this year – as mentioned by Chris Foster in his recent blog – but some plants seem to think it’s spring already!

Hazel flowers on 16th December 2014

Hazel flowers on 16th December 2014


This hazel, seen in the wilderness on the 16th December, is still carrying the leaves that it should have dropped in the autumn and yet it has next year’s catkins open already!!

Posted in Betulaceae, Flowering Plants, Plants | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Christmas in Bloom

The warmest year on record seems to be allowing a number of plants to cling on in flower. Perhaps they’re limbering up for the BSBI’s New Year Plant Hunt, which this year is being coordinated with assistance from Reading graduate Ryan Clark. Both Scentless Mayweed (Tripleurospermum inodorum) and Common Knapweed (Centaurea nigra), pictured below in flower on December 15th, were also found by Dr M and teams in their 2014 MSc New Year plant hunt back in January, so perhaps it is no surprise to see them again this winter. Nevertheless, they provide a welcome flash of colour on the darkest days of the year.

Continue reading

Posted in Birds, Plants | Leave a comment

Clearance in the Wilderness

Anyone who frequents the part of the Wilderness woodland closest to the Lyle building entrance will have noticed a dramatic change over the last week. A big swathe of invasive rhododendron and laurel has been taken out and chipped, leaving nothing but a blank space and a lingering smell of marzipan* where before there was a thick mass of green growth.

The Wilderness in December 2014, after rhododendron clearance.

The Wilderness in December 2014, after rhododendron clearance.

Continue reading

Posted in Insects, Plants | 5 Comments

The Lichen Symbiosis Part 4

Lichens are fundamental in the development of many ecosystems, and in some areas can provide food for some relatively large organisms. They are often intrinsically linked with primary succession, being the pioneering life forms that can create soil, by actively degrading rock, and releasing the minerals to other species. Continue reading

Posted in Fungi | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Lichen Symbiosis Part 3

Lichen Reproduction

This is no simple matter, only the fungus of the lichen reproduces sexually. Lichens have a number of ways to spread throughout the environment, both sexually and non-sexually. The sexual stage is also complicated by the fact the mycelium can be haploid and produce self-fertile structures, due to the loss of genes, or be haploid and need a partner to form a dikaryon (the pairing but not fusion of the nuclei). The only part of the lichen that is diploid, is the asci, contained in the fruiting body the apothecia (see image 1 and 2) or perithecia, where the male and female parts have been bought together, they then form haploid spores, which does not include their algal/cyanobacteria symbiont. Continue reading

Posted in Fungi | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shuttlecocks – fungi designed them first!

Fruiting bodies on underside of leaf.

Fruiting bodies on underside of leaf.

At this time of year the fruiting bodies of the powdery mildew species, Phyllactinia guttata, are easy to find on the underside of hazel leaves (Corylus avellana) on campus.

The minute fruiting bodies – known as clasmothecia – can be seen as tiny specks that develop through yellow, amber and brown to black when mature.


Continue reading

Posted in Fungi, Plant Pathology Research Group, Plants | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Another fungi foray

The Whiteknights campus is absolutely packed with excellent fungi this month. I’m out and about doing assignments almost everyday and I’ve had to add fungi forays to my list of new hobbies since beginning MSc Species ID and Survey Skills. Here are my fungi highlights so far this term;

Field Blewit (Lepista personata) near The Cedars Hotel. Lovely violet staining in the stalk.

Field blewit

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment