March in the Woods

Photo of woodlandThe wood during March still looks pretty bare and leafless. However, we are now at the beginning of Spring and there are signs of life. Incidentally, the 21st March is the UN designated International Day of Forests.

As the sun rises and the early morning mists evaporate, we see that the leaf litter, moss and decaying wood of the forest floor is still decorated by the scarlet elf cup fungi, see February in the Woods.

The catkins are dangling in the breeze. These are clusters of flowers found on many trees and shrubs, Photo of catkinssuch as hazel, oak, birch, poplar and alder. Usually these are the male flowers and they are mostly wind pollinated, the female flowers are often single flowers, or cones. The word catkin comes from the old Dutch katteken, meaning kitten, as the catkins reminded someone of kittens’ tails. The 8th Century Tang Dynasty, Du Fu, captures the season as it occurs in China:

The path is paved with poplar catkins, a carpet of white grain,
Lotus leaves on the little stream are piled like green coins.
Among the roots of new bamboo, sprouts that no man has seen,
On the sand nearby, a duckling sleeps beside its mother.

One of the earliest woodland plants to flower is the primrose, Primula vulgaris. As well as reminding us that spring has arrived they are an important early nectar source for bees and butterflies. They are also vital for the larvae of the rare and declining Duke of Burgundy butterfly. I previously posted about primroses here.Photo of primroses

The sounds of the woodland in March increase in variety and volume. The birds are courting and nesting, the squirrels are getting frisky and the frogs are spawning in the green slime of the pond. It is a great time to get out and spend a while looking and listening as nature yawns, stretches and downs its early morning coffee.



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