Friday, 8 April 2016

Pulpit Hill surprises

It always amazes me that I can walk around the same place several times a week and still be surprised. Today was one of those days and my dog walk around Pulpit Hill seemed to have a lovely surprise around every corner...

As I climbed up the hill there were lots of pretty violets along the path, then I got to the top and found a single wood-sorrel in flower. Such a pretty little plant with delicate white petals with tiny purple veins. It has three distinctive leaves that fold up into a little tent.

I walked past the ash tree that fell across the path about a month ago. Nature's decomposers had moved in and large oyster mushrooms were growing out of the trunk. You can see where they've taken hold under the bark and literally burst their way out, forming impressive overlapping shells. They must have popped up in the last week as there was no sign of them when I last walked past.

I spotted some clumps of moss that looked just like little green flowers. I think this is called swan's-neck thyme moss and it looks like the spore capsules grow out of the dark centres of the 'flowers'.

The first of the beech tree leaves have started to appear. I only found this one old, gnarled tree with leaves, but they're definitely on their way.

I decided to head off the track and have a look for the site of the bird's-nest orchids that grow up on a steep slope of the hill. It's still a bit early for them, but I wanted to see if I could still find the site and see if there was any sign of them growing yet. There was no new growth, but I found some of the old flower stalks from last year.

Bird's-nest orchids are really strange orchids. They have no leaves and no green chlorophyll, living as a parasite off the roots of the beech trees. I can't wait for the orchid season to start again and I'm really hoping these flower there again.

I made my way back to the path and just as I emerged from the undergrowth, I spotted 2 collared earthstars. They were old and past their best, but there was no mistaking what they were. I must have walked past them a hundred times before without noticing them, but at least now I know where to look for them again in the autumn.

Pulpit Hill is such a wonderful site and I feel very lucky to live so close to it.

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