Wednesday, 26 October 2011


At the end of August I was dismayed to find that my favourite (and most fruitful) piece of hedgerow had been thrashed deep into the trunks and down to ground level: all vegetation had been removed, leaving nothing but a mulch of dead plants and sawdust. I realise that all hedges need to be maintained, but August is simply the wrong time to do it: moth and butterfly caterpillars are still feeding and many sawflies are only starting their season in autumn. That's one of the reasons that it's illegal (in Ireland) to cut hedges between April and September (which I think is still too early).

I went back today to have a look, and was pleased to note that many plants had made a valiant attempt to produce some new growth and some species had even produced a few flowers. The fern growth particularly interested me, as the next few shots will show.

This is a brand-new frond of Lady Fern (notice that the growth is pale green and that there is no feeding damage, indicating that the growth is indeed fresh):

Lady Fern
I had one of those "turn it over" moments (I suspected what I was going to find) and confirmed that the frond was completely sterile: there were no spore-producing parts:

Lady Fern, showing absence of sori
It appears that the fern had realised that there was no time left to produce ripe spores, and instead of wasting energy on making sori, had simply made fronds without them. Why bother? Well, ferns are perennials: they produce new growth from the same base each year. The overwintering rootstock needs as much stored energy as possible, so it makes sense to throw out some new green growth in a desperate attempt to catch the last rays of sunlight before winter sets in.

Broad-buckler Fern was exactly the same:

Broad Buckler frond
Sterile Broad-buckler underside 

Hard Fern and Male Fern had also made a little new growth:

Hard Fern sterile frond

Male Fern

(I didn't check the Hard Fern frond for spores because very few of them are normally fertile. The fertile fronds have narrower pinnae than the sterile ones, they are more brown than green, and are much more upright.)

Many other perennials had made some new growth. Here's the gallery:

Barren Strawberry

Bush Vetch

Cow Parsley
Common Dog Violet





Germander Speedwell (and gall)

Willow (too late for the sawflies)

Herb Robert....

And its flower

It's great to see that a number of plants have made some kind of recovery, but it's sad that too many insects lost their opportunity on this stretch of hedgerow in 2011. On a more positive note, it is clear that plants are the basic resource for much of our wildlife: plants dictate which insects are to be found in a particular location. Although insects are beneficial in terms of pollination, plants seem to be a stabilising influence since they are more resilient in the face of damage.


Toffeeapple said...

It is pleasing that nature is not to be beaten too easily but I wish that those who are responsible for hedgerows would at least learn about them as habitats for wildlife, if not for foraging for fruit.

My local council have decimated a run of Blackthorn bushes, just before I went to harvest the Sloes! You may imagine how annoyed I was.

Yoke, said...

I see it every time again that they do noy stick to the April-September No-Cutting-time-Zone.
I agree that September is not late enough yet.

Thank you for identifying my little Scabius flower bug on my blog.

Yoke, said...

Love your Harebell.
Strange to imagine thst the "English" Bluebell is missing from West Scotland.