The Monday Photo
This is blackthorn blossom, but how do I know that; when these look just like Hawthorn blossom? One big clue is that the flowers are out before the leaves. Another is that it’s still a bit early for Hawthorn, though the flowers are quite similar.
Their thorns mean both these trees make good, stock proof hedges, and it’s not unusual for both to be planted in the same hedge, giving a longer flowering season.
Where is this tree? While out researching and taking pictures for last week’s post Where Did the River Go?, I found a nice group of blackthorn trees in blossom on the Ouzel riverbank, close to the spillway at North Willen lake. I got in close to the nearest one, to show you these flowers.
Blackthorn supports all sorts of wildlife. It provides early nectar and pollen for bees. Many moth caterpillars feed on it and the rare black hairstreak butterfly lays its eggs in the blackthorn. Birds find a safe nesting place amongst the branches of this dense, thorny tree and small mammals also use it for shelter.
In the autumn, birds and small mammals can feast on the deep purple berries, the sloes. You might know them from sloe gin, but there are recipes for sloe jam and sloe preserves, too.
The Ouzel once ran on the other side of these trees, and the parish boundary followed the middle of the river. That means the blackthorns here were just inside the old Willen village parish.
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