Looking down 3

Upright Ginkgo leaves

Upright Ginkgo leaves

This week, while collecting samples of Ginkgo leaves from the tree behind Whiteknights House, I noticed that the remaining leaves seemed to be caught upright in the lengthening grass.

I assumed to start with that the leaves were being held in place by the grass but closer inspection showed that this was not the case.

The petioles (or stalks) of the leaves were actually within the soil as if they’d been pushed vertically in. ??? One leaf had its entire 5 cm of petiole within the soil! Continue reading

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The Joy of Botany

There is nothing better than the great outdoors for a day of vegetation surveying. Vegetation surveying can help track environmental change, and can form an integral part of the biodiversity assessment of a site. In addition, the surveyor can make predictions regarding other biodiversity on the site i.e. if you have Elms (Ulmus sp.) on site, you might have a colony of White letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album), which can help make important site specific management decisions. Also, the knowledge of plants has helped entomologists record the host plants of invertebrates, over several centuries, allowing us to calculate that the English Oak (Quercus robur), supports the most species of insect in the UK.  Continue reading

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Breaking Ground

Behind the greenhouses in the Experimental Grounds is a patch of mostly bare ground that has clearly been well-trodden by naturalists over the past year or so. It’s the site where mousetail was rediscovered on campus last spring, and perhaps thanks to experimental cultivation in the past is home to an interesting assemblage of other arable weeds as well. Or at least it was. Unfortunately, recent building works have necessitated the passage of heavy machinery over part of the patch, so for the moment it is an unrecognizable mud-bath. That said, a bit of robust disturbance might perpetuate the existence of early-successional vegetation on the patch and ensure that some other goodies turn up in the near future once construction is complete.

On a visit to the patch last July I kept spotting ground beetles moving across the bare, sunbaked soil, and I subsequently dug in  a couple of pitfall traps to see if anything interesting was living alongside mousetail et al. The resulting catch was until recently mostly un-inspected; however, a  trip on Saturday to the annual BENHS Carabidae identification workshop provided the appropriate motivation to fish them out.

Harpalus affinis by Udo Schmidt on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Harpalus affinis by Udo Schmidt on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Mosses & Liverworts of Whiteknights: 3. Saxicolous Mosses

Abundant acrocarps on concrete: Orthotrichum cupulatum, O. diaphinum, Grimmia pulvinata, Tortula muralis, Bryum argenteum, B. dichotomum

A selection of acrocarps growing on concrete: Orthotrichum cupulatum, O. diaphinum, Grimmia pulvinata, Tortula muralis, Syntrichia montana, Bryum argenteum and B. dichotomum. Image by D. Morris

3. Saxicolous Mosses

This is the fourth in a series of posts exploring the mosses and liverworts (bryophytes) of Whiteknights campus. My first three posts described the rich flora of bryophytes growing on trees (epiphytes) on campus. In this post attention is turned to mosses growing on stone, including walls and other man-made rock-like surfaces. Continue reading

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Mosses & Liverworts of Whiteknights: 2. Epiphytic Liverworts

A mat of the very common thalloid liverwort Metzgeria furcata. Image by D. Morris

A mat of the very common thalloid liverwort Metzgeria furcata. Image by D. Morris

2. Epiphytic Liverworts

This is the third in a series of posts exploring the mosses and liverworts (bryophytes) of the Whiteknights campus. My first two posts introduced some common and not so common mosses of trees (epiphytes), and this post will address the liverworts to be found in association with these on campus. Liverworts are not very well represented in most parts of lowland England so one need not fear being overwhelmed by species. Continue reading

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Winter Tree Identification

To the majority of people trees are hard enough to identify in the summer, let alone in the winter. Take away the leaves and you would be forgiven for saying they all look the same. However the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) decided that it was time to change this view by hosting a winter tree identification workshop open to Reading University students.

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Mosses and Liverworts of Whiteknights: More Epiphytic Mosses

This is the second in a series of posts exploring the mosses and liverworts (bryophytes) of Whiteknights campus. My first post covered epiphytic mosses and I promised there to introduce liverworts next. However, having found four more epiphytic mosses I have gotten myself much too excited to be able to finish with mosses just yet. Once these are off my chest I shall be able to get on with liverworts. Continue reading

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