Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Portabello crossroads orchard, Warwickshire

This is a beautiful orchard associated with an old farm on the Fosse Way in Warwickshire. Many of the trees are well over 50 years of age, including several of considerable girth. The grassland underneath is also very rich in wildflower species.

Note the Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) in the foreground.

Standing dead trees are a fantastic habitat for insects and birds, but are often tidied away. Leaving them standing preserves this precious contributor to the diversity of your orchard.

One of the larger trees, although I have no idea about the variety...

A Brown Argus butterfly (Plebeius agestis) basking in the sun on the fringe of the orchard. Old orchards are great for butterflies since they combine an open canopy with many of their foodplants and nectar sources, as long as the sward beneath is rich in plant species.

A fantastic open cavity in the massive trunk of a large tree. Perfect access point for saproxylic invertebrates such as stag beetles, certain hoverflies and the Noble Chafer (Gnorimus nobilis). Also potential for bats roosting above.

In half an hour my plant tally for the orchard pasture included:

Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris),
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense- pink, pictured above),
Meadow Vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis),
Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria- yellow, pictured above),
Lady's Bedstraw (Galium verum),
Meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris),
Knapweed (Centaurea nigra),
Red Bartsia (Odontites verna),
Silverweed (Potentilla anserina),
Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata),
and the grasses,
Meadow Barley (Hordeum secalinum) and,
Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis).

Pretty impressive since these were just some of the obvious species that I could identify, indicating that the pasture has had very little inputs from fertilizer or herbicides. This sward greatly increases the ecological 'value' of the site.

I love finding gnarly old trees like this. Nothing worse than the indignity of being propped up.

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