Now into Autumn.
Now into Autumn and the days are markedly shorter, cooler and wetter signalling the trees and shrubs to prepare for winter. The Woodland Trust (https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2020/10/why-autumn-leaves-change-colour/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI56nq2Mv7-gIVSIfVCh0M0w4BEAAYASAAEgLSN_D_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds explains that as photosynthesis declines, green chlorophyll production reduces and red anthocyanin and yellow carotene production increases turning the leaves the brilliant colours we know so well.
Walking around our parish and surrounding area we see these colour changes just starting. Look north to the Great Hanger on the steep chalk slopes and see the golden colours starting (image 1). A walk along our hedgerows reveals how our Field Maple trees are turning bright yellow (image 2), the Hawthorns are turning yellow and then red (image 3) and Dogwood bushes are turning to a deep maroon colour (image 4). Our Hazel bushes are already yellow and dropping their leaves, our Ash trees are dropping also, and our Oak trees are turning gold and dropping their acorns.
I have never found my favourite tree in the parish and indeed it is rare in East Hampshire. As a teenage naturalist nearly 50 years ago and living in Essex, I used to cycle to explore Epping Forest and visit the former Hunting Lodge Natural History Museum. One fine day Bernard Ward, Verderer and Curator, took me to some secret locations to see the rare Wild Service Trees and explained how to identify them by their bright red autumn colours. I later found how these trees were one-time called Chequers Trees as their fruits, called Chequers and prior to the use of hops, were used to flavour alcoholic beverages. Inns that brewed their own beverages from the berries were often called ‘The Chequers’ and hence the name of some older public houses although often mistakenly with a chequer board for their sign.
Having given a talk in Hamble some years ago about these trees one of the people in the audience gave me some saplings and indeed old woodlands in the Hamble valley are one of the best places to find these trees in Hampshire. We have two of these trees in our garden producing their own chequers berries (image 5) and now their leaves are turning bright red (image 6).
As our wild flowers die back our insects are having to look for the remaining nectar sources. Alongside the Winchester Road, by the Village Green, garden escape pale Michaelmas Daisies are flowering and supporting the last Honey Bees (image 7) and Buff-tailed Bumble Bees (image 8). Seeds of these plants drift down our roads and have colonised the verges and central reservation along the A3 south of Petersfield.
Similarly, our Ivy is in full flower at the moment and being used by the last autumnal insects and especially our Honey Bees (image 9).
Our warm wet weather is encouraging our underground fungi to send up their fruiting bodies we call mushrooms and toadstools. These come in such a wonderful variety but here are just two showing in our garden. This Blushing Bracket (image 10) is growing on a willow stem and has pores rather than gills on the underside through which the spores are shed (image 11).
Other fungi grow out of the ground and many others grow out of dead logs. Here is another distinctive species, the small Candle Snuff fungus (image 12) and which is a type of sac fungi or ascomycetes assisting with the rotting of dead wood.