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For our final blog of this series we are going to have a look at a real superpower of the woodland. Which is Deadwood trees. A deadwood is a tree that is partly or fully dead, it can be still standing or it could have fallen over onto the ground.


Deadwood is incredibly important to the biodiversity and overall health of a woodland! A deadwood tree can take decades to decay and decompose, and during this time it provides food and habitat to a wealth of plants and wildlife.



Why is Deadwood so important ?

  • 40% of woodland life is dependent on deadwood to survive.

  • A third of all birds nest in standing deadwood or deadwood holes in trees.

  • It provides micro-habitats for organisms such as fungi, lichens, insects, and mosses.

  • Deadwood slowly decays and releases essential nutrients and nitrogen back into the soil boosting the health of the woodland.

  • Trees store up carbon during their lifetime and then release this safely back into the earth when they die. Preventing its release into our atmosphere, through this action the tree helps reduce global warming.

  • At forest school – deadwood provides wonderful insects, fungi and mosses to look at. A moss sit spot to relax in. A bridge to jump from. A pirate ship to play in… a cauldron to mix in…. the list is endless…

Decomposers

A deadwood tree can take up to 40 years to decompose. It has help from decomposers which are organisms, fungi or invertebrates that decompose of organic material ie – our Deadwood tree. During the early stages decomposers that help are fungi and beetles, feeding on the tree and making their home in it. Fungi have enzymes that digest compounds in wood. It’s spectacular to see the various shapes colours and sizes of different fungi working away decomposing the deadwoods. Then as gaps and tunnels appear in the wood, spiders and wasps, hoverflies, millipede, woodlice and mites can move in to assist. They are all helping the tree decay but ultimately they are decomposing it purely be able to survive themselves.


Once there is space small mammals like mice, & voles, hedgehogs can use the deadwood. Some deadwood later evolves into burrows with foxes, rabbits and deer using them.



Activity

Can you spot any habitats in a deadwood tree the next time you are out in the woods? A habitat is somewhere that a plant, animal or organism lives. What do you think lives there?

Can you turn over a small piece of deadwood on the ground to look for insects? (remember to put it back gently).



Is there any indication of bigger mammals using the site too? Like their tracks or droppings? Can you see any holes high up on a standing deadwood made by birds as these are ideal roosting spots for Owls or Great Spotted Woodpecker. Can you see any birds coming and going? Standing deadwoods could also be used by bats so look out for them too around dusk.

So the next time you are out in the woods keep an eye out for the deadwood and see what wonderful micro-habitats you can spot on them.


It’s great to see all the new growth on our forest school sites and as we have said before…good things will return…nature proves that!


Hope to see you all soon at WILD!

Love from WILD

PS: This is our last blog in the series, we hope to get back out doing WILD forest School Sessions very soon! Stay WILD Folks!

  • wildwoodlandlearning

Updated: Jun 19

The humble nettle doesn't have the best reputation when it comes to plants but they are pretty fantastic and thriving with life at the moment, so, I thought I'd find out more about them and share it with you.

There are a few different kinds of nettles, Dead Nettle (purple flower and leaves), Henbit Nettle (also purple flower) and the Common or Stinging Nettle which is the one we're having a closer look at.




Not all hairs on a nettle contain venom.

Nettles are fairly recognisable, we learn to watch out for them from a young age as it's wise to avoid bumping into them. The leaves are long ovals on female plants and broader, ace shapes on male plants. All leaves are have distinct serrated edges and are covered in tiny hairs. A nettle’s sting is like a needle. It’s a hollow hair which is made of silica and contains a venom, composed of histamine and other chemicals The hair is extremely brittle and it only takes the lightest of brushes to break off the point and inject its unlucky victim.




Nettles support over 40 species of invertebrates (animals with no backbone)! They are home to lots of caterpillar species such as the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly caterpillar. The nettles in Linn Park are covered with these caterpillars at the moment, they're great to watch, munching their way through the leaves.




Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

This is a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly, one to look out for.



Nettles support ladybirds, aphids, chaffinches, bullfinches, sparrows, hedgehogs, shrews and frogs and toads.

If you look at a patch of nettles in Spring/Summer for just a few minutes, you're sure to see a variety of life.






Cuckoo Spit on a Dock plant

If you see a white foamy liquid on a nettle, it's called Cuckoo Spit. Inside the foam lives a little insect called a Froghopper or Spittlebug.


This photo shows Cuckoo Spit on a Dock plant. It is thought that if you get stung by a nettle, placing a Dock leave over the sting will sooth the sting. Whether this is actually true is unknown but the cool, moist leave is sure to bring some relief, placebo or otherwise.





Nettle crisps made by Linda :)

For the foragers out there, teas and soups can be made with nettles, it has a similar taste to spinach. Nettle crisps are a great one to try, fry the leaves in a little coconut oil, they crisp up beautifully. If you are out picking nettles, remember to always wear gloves and check the leaves aren't home to any insects. :)


So, in short nettles are cool. The stems can even be used to make rope and ecologically friendly yarns to make clothes! Is there nothing this plant cannot do??



Love,


WILD

  • wildwoodlandlearning

One of the incredible things about getting out in nature is how all our senses become heightened.



This week I have been thinking about the value of really focusing on listening when you are out in the natural world. Making a point, of stopping, still and just simply listening. Letting our busy world slow down and take the time to marvel at the wonderful sounds all around us. When I do this I find lots of interesting things to see, explore and discover and deepen my connection with nature. I’ll give you some examples of some of my favorite sounds to listen out for just now. I bet you’ll have lots of different sounds you hear too!


Birdsong

Taking the time to be still and listen is a great way to spot birds, often when I think nothing is about stopping for a minute to listen opens up a world of interest. Birds calling to each other or parent birds calling to their young, birds making their alarm calls when predators are near. I often spot the woodpecker because I hear its claws scraping on the bark high up in the Scots Pines even before its typical rat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat. Once you spot where the noise is coming from it gives you the opportunity to look & to explore a new nature story.

Bees Buzzing

Just now I listen out particularly at the wild raspberry bushes to hear the sways of bees, busying themselves constantly. I find watching bees fascinating. Doing their busy important work pollinating the trees and wildflowers with pollen. Once you start looking there are so many different kinds of bees to see and some great resources available to identify species. I see a lot of Tree Bumblebees, Buff Tailed Bumble Bees, Early Bumblebees. With their pollen baskets all loaded up. Listen to them buzz and see how many you can spot.

Psithurism

This brings us on nicely to our tree to look out for this week as it is a master of Psithurism: which is ‘the sound of the wind whispering through the trees’. I love to just stop, close my eyes and breathe in the noise of the leaves rustling. It’s one of my favourite calming sounds. Have you ever noticed that different trees make different sounds? Here's a short video of psithurism.


The Silver Birch

The Silver birch is a tall slender, gentle looking tree that can grow up to 30 meters. But this dainty tree is actually one of the most hardy trees there are. It has a very slight trunk, slighter branches and even slighter twigs that can seem like they are threadlike. With its thousands of small pointy leaves weighing down the flexible branches it weeping frame makes the unmistakable sound of the rustling leaves of the Silver Birch tree in the wind.

Have a look at our video below for ways to identify the Silver birch and check out it’s identification traits below.



Identification Traits


Leaves: Look out for its small glossy green triangular shaped, pointed leaves.


Bark: Very distinctive smooth white silvery bark higher up, then prominent grey/green scars, cracks and knobbly bumps towards the base. Branches and the inner bark beneath the white are both a russet – reddish brown colour.

Shape: Slender tall and dainty, with branches laden with leaves weeping downwards swaying in the wind.

Value to Wildlife

The Silver Birch is a pioneer species and can be found growing in pretty much any habitat. I have 3 growing in my garden that have self-seeded themselves.

As the trunk and leaves are so slight a woodland with Silver Birch in benefits as the sun light can get through the tree to the ground below. Meaning wildflowers can thrive. (Compare this to the ground beneath a Beech tree). A Silver Birch can be home to over 300 types of insect life, including aphids feeding on the leaves and in turn ladybirds feeding on them. It is home to many moths including Buff Tips and Angle Shades. Its papery seeds in July are eaten by Greenfinches and Siskins.


Witches Broom Gall

A common feature on Silver Birches is the Witches Broom Gall, which is caused by parasites like a fungus or by insects laying eggs. The tree responds by gluing lots of its twigs together in great big hard clumps!

The Silver Birch has extensive root system which allows it to gain a lot of nutrients to sustain the life within it, so for a ‘dainty’ tree its bark is incredibly strong. A birch tree only lives for around 100 years, and when they do fall you will notice the inside of the tree rots before the bark leaving a ring of its strong bark remaining.



Birch Polypore Fungus

It’s ability to find and retain water makes it a favourite with fungi and there are several fungi species only associated with birch for example the Birch Polypore and Birch Bolette.

Finally the Silver Birch in Scots folklore is seen as a symbol of renewal and purification, it’s always a pleasure to see and to hear it out in the woods.

Good luck in spotting it!

WILD

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