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Website: www.foscomm.org  Email: mail@foscomm.org
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Nature Notes:  October 2008
Compiled by Pat and Charles

Some of the Hawthorn bushes have a good crop of fruits (haws) but it doesn’t seem to be a really good year for them.  Hopefully there will be enough to provide food for birds well into the autumn.  The hips on the Dog Rose bushes and the red berries of Black Bryony make spots of colour but we have seen hardly any sloes on the Common this year, bad news for the makers of sloe gin!  There are still a few flowers in the grassland in Middle and East Commons; Red Clover and a scattering of yellow flowers such as Autumn Hawkbit, Common Cat’s-ear and Meadow Buttercup.  The one plant of Hedgerow Crane’s-bill that we know of on the Common was still in flower at the start of the month.

We have written before about the autumn abundance of galls on plants.  These structures are created by the plant’s reaction to an insect, often a minute gall-wasp, laying its egg into the plant tissue. Various outgrowths are formed, sometimes in  bizarre shapes but each characteristic of the insect species causing it.  If you turn over some of the blotchy-looking leaves on an oak tree you will find the undersides decorated with little reddish or yellowish buttons.  These are various forms of Spangle Galls.  See if you can spot the one called Silky Button Gall.  Each contains a minute insect grub which feeds inside the gall.  The galls either fall off or fall with the leaves to lie on the ground through the winter before the adult gall-wasps emerge in the spring.  There is some concern that these insects are becoming scarcer along with so many others so it is good to see some surviving on our Common.

See September’s Nature Notes

The Chilterns, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - website:

Hedgerow Cranesbill

Spangle & Silky Button Galls on Oak

(Largest gall is about 3mm diameter)

Meadow Buttercup

Oak spangle galls on fallen leaves

September 2008

Click on any image to see an  enlarged version

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