8 winter woodland mysteries
Can you spot these eight woodland mysteries on your next forest walk?
Venture into the British woodland in January, and although what at first may seem bleak and bare, you'll soon discover a beauty and a clarity intrinsic to a winter woodland that is obscured in the vibrant displays of other seasons. The structure of the trees and their arrangement become clear, and small constructions such as bird’s nests, witch’s brooms and wasp nests are revealed.
Next time you walk through a winter woodland, take time to pause and examine the nearest rotting log, the branches above you, the leaf-litter at your feet, and you’ll be rewarded with a hidden beauty visible only to those of us who stop long enough to see it.
Jaunty scarlet elf cups stand out against a moss-covered dead log. Cups are around 4cm across with a short stem.
Brilliant green moss contrasts with the blackened hue of rotting wood. Created by rot fungus, this dark layer is catchily termed the ‘pseudosclerotial plate’.
A response to damage, the burrs on this tree appear to form a face with an overhanging brow and pursed lips.
Discolouration caused by fungi creates artistic patterns running through wood, known as spalting, seen here in these chopped silver birch logs.
Frequently found in birch trees, witch’s broom is a deformity in which multiple shoots grow from a single branch, creating a bird’s nest structure.
An ancient pollarded beech tree in Savernake Forest. Practised in Europe since medieval times, pollarding involves pruning upper branches to limit a tree’s height and promote dense growth of foliage and branches.
Moss tends to grow towards the south-west, in order to benefit from the most sunlight and rain, which can be useful information when navigating a woodland.
Also known as ‘ice wool’ or ‘frost beard’, hair ice forms on dead wood, taking the shape of fine, silky hair.