capstoneArtichoke Gall

Wild West Yorkshire, Saturday 20 November 2010

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WINTER HASN'T officially arrived yet but already it's possible to walk through the wood in Coxley Valley, up Bridle Lane to Netherton then down Balk Lane to the canal and see signs that spring really isn't so far away. Although it is looking as if before that we might have a few weeks of snow and wintry weather, as we did last year.

lichenelm branchThere are several varieties of lichen on the bare branches of hedgerow shrubs along the old causeway path up towards Netherton, including this grey variety (left). I'm also intrigued by these flanges (right) on the branches of what I think are bushes of wych elm in the hedge. Is it caused by some kind of virus? Elms have had such a hard time. Dutch Elm Disease almost wiped out elm trees during the 1970s and 1980s but where elm forms part of a hedge it seems to have the ability to survive.

catkinsartichoke gallThere are already small male catkins (left) on hazel bushes on Balk Lane, although they're keeping tightly furled just now - in the spring they'll open up and be yellow with pollen.

A sandstone wall by canal is green with moss and algae but the smooth capstone (above right) at the end of the bridge remains clear, apart from a few patches of algae. This capstone was carved smooth and domed so that tow-ropes wouldn't snag on it in the days when barges on this stretch of the canal were horse-drawn.

This gall (right) on a shrubby sessile oak by the towpath at The Strands appears to be the artichoke gall in which the larva of the gall wasp Andricus fecundator develops.

Richard Bell, illustrator

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