• wildwoodlandlearning

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

The Elder tree is one which is at the heart of Scottish Folklore and Mythology, sometimes referred to as the 'Mother of the Woodlands' due to it's protective, medicinal and culinary qualities.

Elder are fairly small, growing up to 15m in height. It can be found across the UK in woodland and hedgerows.

The flowers provide nectar for a variety of insects and the berries are eaten by birds and mammals. Small mammals, such as dormice and bank voles, eat both the berries and the flowers.

Many moth caterpillars feed on elder foliage, including the white-spotted pug, swallowtail, dot moth and buff ermine

The Elder flowers grow in large clusters of tiny white flowers. They can be used to make Elder flower cordial or Champagne. The flowers are edible when cooked, Elder

flower fritters are a popular dish to make with them. The flowers are mildly poisonous so make sure they are cooked before eating. :)

When pollinated by bees, flowers will turn to fruits in August/September. The berries can be used to make Elder berry wine or jam.

The berries can also be used to make dye. The purple/blue colour they produced was used by Harris Tweed to achieve the desired colours for their yarns.

The leaves of the Elder can have 5-9 leaflets which are oval shaped and toothed.

Elder bark

Elder bark is grey/brown with a look of cork. The wood has a soft, pithy centre.

If you find any dead Elder wood, branches or trees, you will notice a fungus growing on it called 'Jelly Ear'. This fungus is dark brown/purple, dome shaped, has a jelly like consistency and a velvet touch. It's advisable not to touch any fungus so have a close look if you do find some.

Jelly Ear on dead Elder wood

Elder wood is great to craft with and makes a superb whistle or pea shooter. It's simple to hollow out due to the centre of the wood being soft and spongy. You can do this by using a skewer or stick. Here's a link to some brilliant things you can make with Elder. https://richardirvine.co.uk/2017/01/elder1/

Elder whistle

Take Care,


  • wildwoodlandlearning

A whole new world has opened up to us over the past few weeks, the world of the night flying moth. We were asked by the Discover Nature on My Doorstep group if we wanted to borrow a moth trap...yeah why not?

A moth trap is humane and doesn't harm the moths at all. It's basically a big box with a light on the top that attracts the moths. The moths fly in and settle in the groves of the empty egg boxes that fill the box. There are 2 perspex sheets on top that prevent the moths flying out at night time, ready for closer inspection in the morning.

Moth trap

Little did we know that we would get to meet some of the most intriguing and interesting creatures that are out there. Moths are not generally known for their beauty, colour or furry cuteness but the moths that flew into the trap were absolutely beautiful.

Here are photos of a Drinker Moth, Peppered Moth and a Poplar Hawk-moth (2) that found their way into the moth trap. After having a look at them and identify them, we let them fly off back to their family tree!

The natural world around us never ceases to amaze, if you look a little closer for a little longer, you never know what you'll find.



  • wildwoodlandlearning

I really do find that spending time in nature is always therapy for me. It's a chance to connect with the natural world as well as grounding myself with the calmness.

Today I'm taking a bit of time to take in the wonders of the natural world as I walk up through the woods in Linn Park to find our Scots Elm or Wych Elm as it's known. I've chosen this tree to look at today as it is real sensory experience.

It's early morning and the sun is breaking through the clouds, the light and shade glimmers and cascades through the canopy of leaves above me in all their subtle tones of greens.

Activity Idea - Sit Spot

This is lovely activity to do to foster our connections with nature. It's so simple - just take some time to sit in one spot in the woods. I like to find a tree and sit against it. Even just for a few minutes, it's amazing what you can see and hear. Seeing the many different leaves, the mosses, the wildflowers, and dropped seeds. The spider wandering across it's web. Closing my eyes heightens the other senses and I can hear birds near and far, spotting the blue-tits as they fly close repeatedly to help themselves to the Elm Seeds. I take in the earthy smell of the woods, grasses, bark and start to single out the different noises the trees are making as the wind flows through their leaves. Wonderful!

The Scots Elm

This is a resilient, determined, and hardy survivor of a tree! Elms generally have been in decline due to Dutch Elm Disease (a fungal infection carried by a beetle). The Scots Elm is hardier than most and although rare we still see it in good numbers in the NW of Scotland.

This tree is unique for several reasons and if you check a tree identification guide under 'similar species' it says "none". I always feel so happy to see it.

Have a look at our video or identification traits below to see what to look out for to spot this special tree.

The Leaves

The leaves are unique as they are asymmetric (most leaves are symmetrical). This means they are bigger on one-side than the other or unequal. They are also quite large and toothed with tapered points. A beautiful green, they have hairs on both sides of the leaf which when touched is rough to the feel like sandpaper.

The Bark

The bark of a mature tree is quite brown with deep vertical cracks - its very rough to touch. A younger tree is more grey and smooth.

The branches are the other way round with a mature trees branches grey and the younger tree branches brown.

The Seeds

The Elms seeds are very visible just now. The are light green, flat papery round pods in clusters with the seed inside. The birds love them as a food source. They are falling off the tree like snow at the moment with lots lying on the ground to look at too. Other Elm species produce new trees through suckers that grow off their root systems, but the Scots Elm doesn't and new trees only grow from the seeds it sows.

So that is our sensory journey around the Scots Elm tree. The rough hairy unequal leafs, cracked brown bark and papery light green seed pods to look out for. Finally the shape of the tree - historically Elms could be giants that lived for over 500 years but now it is much rarer to see older trees, however mature trees can be as tall as 40 meters and have several prominent trunks rising from one stout bole.

It's been a real pleasure to be out in the woods this morning, I hope you all manage to get out and spend time in the wonder of nature too this week.

Take care folks!



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