Plants in Winter (and a centipede and some mushrooms!)

As promised here is the blog post on the 'Winter plants' talk we had at Maker last Valentine weekend!

Often we can identify a plant or tree from its FLOWERS and LEAVES!

But what are we do in WINTER when most of the flowers (and usually the leaves) have gone?!!

Well, we look at the STEM, the FRUITS/SEEDS (if present), the LEAVES (if present or dried) and the general shape and structures...

Other plants are EVERGREEN and so keep their leaves (and sometimes flowers) all year!

Common or European Gorse
GORSE is an extremely spiny evergreen (you got it! - in leaf all year! - 'ever-green'!) so it's EASY to identify in winter! It even flowers most of the year! :)
One of the world’s 100 worst invasive alien species
Similar to Western Gorse, but is much taller (reaches 2-3m in height compared with Western gorse which is low growing – not much higher than 0.5 m)
Yellow ‘Pea-flower like’ flowers which smell of COCONUT (western gorse smalls of apricot)
Insects, especially bees like the nectar!
Gorse flowers are edible and can be used in salads, tea and to make a ‘wine’.
Traditionally used as fodder for cattle, being made edible by crushing and grinding
Highly flammable! So good for bonfires!

Cow Parsley
Can be identified from its 'Upside-down umbrella-like' structures where the flowers once were.

Bramble or Blackberry
Looses most of its leaves, but many often remain which makes this an easy one to identify!
Blackberry fruits in Autumn, and thorns all over the stems all year round! Watch out for this one, it's spikey!

The Bramble or Blackberry flower stalk - what remains once all the blackberries have been eaten!

Hard Fern
Widespread throughout the British Isles, and often the dominant fern in limestone woodlands
Look at this awesome guide to ferns I have found!

Woodland Sage or Sage-leaved Germander
When all the leaves have died down, this is what is left! A very pretty 'spike' of dried flowers, nicely arranged.
You can also make beer from the leaves, apparently! ;)

Red Campion
See more info from The Wildlife Trusts here

The leaves, when they are around, are good for relieving the sting of a nettle! The reason for this is that the leaves are alkaline, whereas the nettle sting is acidic. So there you have it! Neutralization!
The stems go very 'woody' and are reddish-brown in colour. The flower structures dry on the stem and can be seen persisting all year!

Ah, the 'sticky' BURDOCK! You know the cordial your granny drinks with dandelion!
Yes that's the one! An acquired taste.
Don't tell too many people about it's sticking abilities! You'll have loads of them on your back if you do! See those little 'hooks' at the end of the spikes? This plant is the natural VELCRO!

Oh pretty little Naval Pennywort
'Naval' like your tummy-button! Round like a penny!
Tastes a bit like cucumber. A good thirst quencher if you're trying out some survival techniques!

Hart's Tongue
Like a 'harts tongue'! This is a type of fern and stays green all year round.

Lesser Knapweed
The seed head is quite distinctive. If you break open the 'pod' lots of little black seeds are inside. Check out the Gloucestershire page on knapweed to see what it looks like in Summer

Marsh thistle
From the dried plant you can make out the flower head and leaves.
The young stems and seed stalks have traditionally been eaten raw as a salad or (after careful peeling) cooked like asparagus or rhubarb.  The seed-fluff has long been used as tinder - useful to know for our Storm Kettle!

Ok, so we got a bit carried away taking photos of nature! So these aren't flowering plants, but they are just as awesome!
Ear fungus
Well it's all in the name isn't it?!

Lots of 'ears' on a branch

Yellow-brain fungus
Often found attached to gorse. It can be quite camourflaged amongst the yellow flowers!

Hayley found a CENTIPEDE! Look at all those legs!

Some 'unidentified' mushrooms. Gonna have to dig out the Collins mushroom guide!

So there you have it! A selection of winter plants! Please let me know if you want any more info or have any ideas for the next edition....

....Next edition.... 'Spring plants'

Esther Hughes - PEA team

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