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Markstakes March Meanderings

This was my eleventh visit to Markstakes Common this month – the thirtieth this year.

The glistening inkcap cluster on the stump by the edge of the eastern path, not 20m from the northern entrance, has turned into a mass of dark brown and black that attracts flies. Here they are a week ago, and today.

I’m getting to know the ancient Beech [no. 6]. Deeply embedded in the base of the trunk there is a large bracket fungus. This looks like hoof fungus, a parasitic fungus that feeds on living or dead trees, especially hardwoods like birch and beech. It forms a large conk-like mass, as here. The hoof fungus can cause a white rot in the wood, breaking down the lignin and cellulose and leaving behind a soft, spongy texture. A large stem has already come down from this Beech; in time Beech [no.6] will go the way of Beech [no.7].

Companion trees intrigue me; there are plenty around Markstakes Common worthy of study.  Here, the ‘partially dead’ Hornbeam (as reported in the 2010 survey) has many ‘epicormic shoots,’ indicating that it is exploiting having leaves that emerge earlier than its companion beech. The already fallen stem of the beech has opened up the canopy which the hornbeam can now exploit; if a second stem eventually breaks, the hornbeam’s chances will increase. There is a life-and-death tussle going on here for resources that could continue for many more decades, even centuries.

As well as the hoof fungus there is what I think is Beech Barkspot Diatrype disciformis covering the fallen, decaying stem, but also on the living trunk. 

I spot a single bluebell. So my first sighting was around 27th March this year. 

I did this in Laughton Common Wood a few days ago. For now there are just carpets of dense green bluebell leaves, the flowers will emerge in the next week or so.

I take pictures of the subsequent stage of the false puffball ball on a long fallen and well decayed limb of ancient Hornbeam (no. 5) 

On a lengthy, broken, rotting silver birch stump in the Mire, I discovered this slime mould for the first time. My interest is in witnessing that transformation over a week to 10 days from foamy slime, which develops a skin, to what appears to dry out from the inside out to leave a dust-like brown. The interior gradually changes into microscopic spores that resemble brown dust as the skin develops. The outer skin disintegrates, allowing the spores to be dispersed by wind and rain.

I find that cinder fungus is widespread. It has helped to be able to name it; somehow, this makes spotting it all the easier. 

Here I find it on a tall, mature, and soon-to-fall) beech tree  (possibly 80–100 years old) by Deep Pond and the path. It’s also on the characterful broken beech, a tree trunk that shows resilience to dying out completely with a sapling-like stem growing out of a shard of bark nine feet tall.

There’s curtain crust or parchment on a branch at the mouth of Shallow Pond.

The bird song is loud and varied, there are dragonflies and bees. Spring is springing. 

MP3 File > The sounds of the wood 

Then I nearly stepped on a jelly-like, translucent blob in the well-rotted oak and hornbeam leaves at the mouth of the shallow pond. It made me think of melted ice. There is more of it in the leaf litter 10 yards away. It’s frog-spawn.

You can find two hornbeams ‘kissing’ (or are they doing something more! I’m thinking this a tree that was pollarded 100yrs or more ago. 

Split gill on long broken off young hornbeam across the path at TQ 39713 17890 

There’s what I am calling a ‘PosNot’ here at TQ 39713 18011- a ‘possible notable tree’ that was missed in the last survey of 2010. There is a fallen hornbeam (no.23) similar to this which has been recognised. The branches which have found themselves on the ground are riddled in fungus, much of the rest of the lower trunk is covered in moss.

There was a den here last week with one branch covered in jelly ears. The jelly ear branch was gone, and the den was destroyed. 

I might as well record them here as I note them often enough: a pair of oak companions: when two trees become one’ ?

There’s blushing bracket, since last year at TQ 39756 18122. Having turned red, on a moss covered log. 

There are signs of a Green Elf cup in/on pieces of blue tarnished wood. I’ll know where to look later this year for signs of the tiny green cups when they appear. 

And another’ posnot’ younger fallen Hornbeam.

I stumble across a mass of rotting black and jelly ear on a long branch of fallen oak at TQ 39754 18158. It is part of a kid’s den. 


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