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So far Philip Marshall has created 9 blog entries.

Rye Grass

Rye Grass–Lolium perenne, is a very variable grass and can take many forms. Many people will recognise it as the ubiquitous grass seen in improved pastures and the first record of its use in agriculture was by Plot (1677) in his Natural History of Oxfordshire.

I have seen many strange forms of Rye grass but the one in the photo I have not come across before. It is described in the books as  forma ramosum and named by the Danish botanist, Schumacher (1757–1830).

The flowering time of Rye grass depends on light intensity and temperature between 10am to noon and if the weather is not suitable, the plant will delay until after the first subsequent morning with favourable conditions.

Earthworms can bury the seed up to 6″ deep and viability isn’t affected, whereas the viability of Common Bent seed is dramatically reduced after going through the gut. Earthworms seem to be able to discriminate between seeds of different plant species and may play a major role in plant dispersal. Research suggests that worm casts are a stable environment for seeds to delay germination until conditions are suitable.

Photos were taken below the railway arches in the centre of Todmorden. You can see the normal arrangement of unbranched spikelets at the top of the stem but until I bent all the lower branches apart, I was really puzzled what was going on. Each individual spikelet of Perennial Rye grass only has one protective scale (grasses normally have two). The wavy ‘pocket’ of the stem shown on the last photo, substitutes for the inner scale. Yet the uppermost spikelet has 2 protective scales as lies free of the stem.

Normal spikelets at the top of the stem and the flurry of ‘bits’ lower down which shouldn’t be there.

All the congested bits pulled apart, showing a very unusual branching pattern

Normal Rye grass arrangement. In flower and showing anthers protruding

2020-10-22T17:06:06+01:00October 22nd, 2020|1 Comment

Medlar Hybrid

I have mentioned previously an unusual Midland Hawthorn and Medlar hybrid in Centre Vale at Todmorden. It has flowered profusely for a few years after releasing from the heavy shade of Rhododendron but has never produced any fruit.

However this Autumn there is a branch that is full of berries, perhaps for the first time in decades. Each contains 2 seeds.

If you want to grow from seed, they have double dormancy and below are instructions from a website I consulted. I think patience is needed as the process takes 2 years!

To begin with the seeds require a cold period to break the final part of the dormancy, this is achieved by placing the bag [with seeds in a soil medium] in the fridge (4 Celsius or 39F) for around 52 weeks.

Next the seeds require a period of warm pre-treatment and need to be kept in temperatures of around 20 Celsius (68F) for a period of at least 36 weeks. During this time make sure that the pre-treatment medium does not dry out at any stage or it will be ineffective!

Following this, the seeds require a second cold period for around 17 weeks. Towards the end of this period it is quite possible for the seeds to germinate in the bag at these temperatures when they are ready to do so, (it is worth checking the bag every few weeks for germinating seedlings) if they do, just remove them from the bag and carefully plant them up.

Trees. Smith's Medlar


2020-09-30T08:50:30+01:00September 28th, 2020|3 Comments

Large Caterpillar

I believe this to be an Elephant Hawk Moth. It was on the kerb by the roadside in Todmorden, so I brought it home and put it in the garden area. I know the adult Moth is common but I have not seen the caterpillar before. It has a long snout but when disturbed it retracts it and makes a big head with those 2 “eyes” to intimidate other creatures.

Elephant Hawk moth

Elephant Hawk moth

2020-09-13T08:12:11+01:00September 12th, 2020|3 Comments

Red Grass

The perception is that grasses are green, yet this striking example of Reed Canary Grass shows the lovely red inflorescence in July. It is a grass that prefers damp or watery habitats and can grow very tall, 5 foot, with a stem that is stout and reed-like. It often grows side branches from the stem nodes as seen in the photo, or sometimes aerial roots as the stem leans towards the water.

Reed Canary Grass with red flowering head.

New stem leaves growing from a node

2020-08-23T09:03:36+01:00August 21st, 2020|0 Comments


I have never seen a Leech before, although they are reported to be common. This photo was taken at a shady muddy pond in Centre Vale woodland at Todmorden I fished out an old Beech husk that seemed to have moving legs and found 2 Leeches underneath. Only about 10mm long but it quickly extended its body when it saw me looking at it! On closer inspection the whole pond was teeming with them.

Are they common in the valley?

2020-08-17T15:56:21+01:00August 12th, 2020|5 Comments

The shape of Oak leaves

These are Sessile Oak leaves all growing from the same small branch.

I don’t think I have seen such a variation in shape, from huge leaf with shallow lobes to smaller, very narrow leaves with hooded lobes, resembling Turkey Oak.

Oaks are so genetically diverse and the Sessile characteristics can merge with Pedunculate, making it difficult to identify hybrids.

It is always recommended not to identify using shade leaves, or the mid-summer Lammas growth, as both these can produce oddities such as in the photos.

2020-08-08T08:26:41+01:00August 7th, 2020|2 Comments


I have noticed Dutch Elm disease has taken hold of semi-mature Elms this summer in Todmorden.

Affected foliage is wilting and dying progressively from the crown downwards.

I have seen younger Elms affected by this disease over the last couple of years but it now seems to have got more serious.

Has anyone noticed Elms down the valley with signs of DED?

We still have many old Elms that escaped the last serious outbreak of 25-30 years ago.

2020-08-04T08:08:20+01:00August 3rd, 2020|4 Comments


I saw these fungi in the Tod Park woods.

I think the bracket fungi is Dryads Saddle and it occurred on this Sycamore a couple of years ago.

The other is Dogs Vomit fungi which I have not come across in the wood before.

2020-08-02T08:27:10+01:00July 18th, 2020|1 Comment

Lammas Growth

Red Lammas growth on Oak tree, which occurs in June/July. Named after the Christian festival of Loaf-Mass which occurred on August 1st.

2020-08-02T08:30:48+01:00July 8th, 2020|5 Comments
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