Spring Diary 3 – The Understorey Gets Going
The shrub layer in any woodland provides the link between the high trees of the canopy and the carpet of flowers at the ground level. It’s a part of the structure where birds will nest, small mammals will feed and many insects find shelter from the elements. One of the key shrub species in the understorey is the hazel, and around Fingle there are clusters of hazel that are remnants of the ancient woodland of hundreds of years ago. The nuts of the hazel tree are a well-known source of nutrition for woodland creatures, but where do they come from? In April the hazel flowers are visible on the bare branches. The male flowers, the catkins, sway in the spring breeze and release pollen to be captured by the female flowers. The tiny red cluster forming the female flower is the part of the plant where the hazelnut is formed. Though they won’t be ripe until the autumn, this is the crucial time of year when pollination takes place.
words – Matt Parkins
images – Paul Moody and Matt Parkins