Sunday, 3 April 2016

Whitehill Wood - Gagea lutea (2)

The Wychwood Flora Group and its predecessors have been making an annual survey of a population of Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem (Gagea lutea) for over 20 years in Whitehill Wood.  The wood is near to North Leigh and the plants grow close to the bank of the River Evenlode under mature hazel. They are also precariously close to a well used footpath.   I have participated - ie been there as a bystander whilst Ken and Brenda do the work - several times in previous years and it is something to look forward to as it seems to me to mark the start of spring.  It always seems to be sunny on the chosen day which helps.

Whitehill Wood
River Evenlode
The survey counts the number of plants in flower, never more than around 25, despite a much larger number of non-flowering plants, and quite variable year by year.  Indeed I have borrowed the data to see if there is any correlation with climate statistics to explain the variability, when I have a quiet moment.   

Yellow Star-of Bethlehem (Gagea lutea)
It takes a little time to tune into Gagea spotting because when not in flower Gagea can easily be mistaken for bluebells. But the leaves are different; although a similar width, Gagea leaves are a more yellowy green, more strongly keeled and have three veins on the underside compared to just one for a bluebell leaf.

Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem Leaf Underside
Bluebell Leaf Underside
Wood anemone and Early Dog-violets were in flower, but not another regular there, Toothwort, a parasite of Hazel for which our visit was perhaps a couple of weeks too early.

Early Dog-violet (Viola riechenbachiana)

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)
Plenty of deer tracks, both muntjac and roe (and the obvious question is whether they eat Gagea plants and reduce the number of flowers) and one of the party saw a water vole,  I got quite excited when I found what I hoped were a cache of hazel nuts eaten by dormice.   That would have been a find, but disappointingly under magnification they had the characteristic gnaw marks of wood mice rather than the smooth lathe like inner surface caused by dormice.
Hazelnuts Chewed by Wood Mice
Finally near the wood some sadness; a road kill of what I am fairly certain was a polecat (dark feet, white around the face in the right places).  Not for the squeamish but I am looking for agreement or otherwise.  Polecats have been slowly spreading east from Wales across England but I don't think there have been too many sightings in Oxfordshire.    The Vincent Wildlife Trust did a survey in 2014/15 but I am not aware of any results from it yet.

No comments:

Post a Comment