Sunday, January 6, 2019

Collared earthstars in Durham

I need to thank my former colleague Professor Stephen Willis, in the Biosciences department at Durham University, for giving me the location of these collared earthstars Geastrum triplex. I had never seen an earthstar before today and never expected to see them in Country Durham, where they are rarities.

These were growing under an ash tree.

Earthstars have a similar method of raindrop-impact spore dispersal to puff-balls, although it seems that they are not closely related. When raindrops fall on the thin inner coat (endoperidium) the impact sends a puff of spore-laden air out of the pore and into the air stream. Before this can happen the thick outer coat (exoperidium) splits into segments and bends outwards and backwards, forming a star-shaped collar that raises the whole fungus higher into the air stream - a particularly valuable attribute when it is growing amongst a ground layer of ivy, as it was in this case. Once they are no longer attached to the soil they can also blow across the ground on windy days, shedding spores as they go.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Knitted coral reef

These three old navigational buoys stand about ten feet tall and decorate the dock wall of Sunderland marina. Today when we passed by we found that someone had knitted a gigantic woolly cosy for one of them, decorated with knitted octopus and tropical reef marine life.

This artwork was made by a brilliant group of knitters and stitchers called Materialistics. You find out more their work on their web site 

The artwork was installed for the recent Tall Ships Race and is due to be removed on Wednesday 8th. August.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Natural History of Upper Teesdale

Durham Wildlife Trust has produced an entirely new edition of The Natural History of Upper Teesdale, perfectly timed to coincide with the blooming of spring gentians, perhaps the dale's most famous wild flower.

The first edition of this indispensable guide (below), with only 70 pages illustrated with line drawings, appeared in 1965 and has run through four editions. The new fifth edition is almost an entirely new book. Financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund has enabled the Trust to expand its size and scope, extend it to 198 pages and print in a larger format with an attractive easy to read layout, with high quality colour photographs and illustrations throughout.

In the new edition (above) nine chapters cover the history of habitation in the dale, its weather and climate, geology, geomorphology and glacial history, its flora and vegetation and the origins of the unique Teesdale assemblage of rare flowers growing alongside more familiar species, its fauna, freshwater life and conservation, all written by outstanding experts in the field. Edited by Trust chair Steve Gater, this is a magnificent achievement by all concerned.

This is a perfect introduction for new visitors to the dale, while those who know it well with find new and fascinating insights. 

The Natural History of Upper Teesdale is available from Durham Wildlife Trust’s Rainton Meadows and Low Barns Visitor Centres, with members able to buy at a specially reduced price of £8 with a £2 postage and packing charge. 

The book can also be purchased by non-members for £10 with a £2 postage and packing charge.

Copies can also be ordered by phone or email from the Trust on or 0191 584 3112. A £2 post and packing charge applies. 

Teesdale based book design company Mosaic (, who worked on the project, will also have copied available for sale.