Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It Pays to Advertise

Guelder rose's berries are ripening and its leaves are taking on their autumn colours already. The berries are so shiny that they look permamently wet.

Back in the early summer I photographed this same plant, in a hedgerow in Durham, when it was in flower and you can see one of the peculiarities of its blooms - two kinds of flowers in each inflorescence. Only the outer ring of flowers have fully developed petals but they are there purely to provide a long-lasting advertisement to visiting insects - they're sterile and they don't produce any fruits.

It's only the small, petal-less flowers in the centre of the inflorescence that have stamens and stigmas and ultimately produce the berries. The fine crop of fruits currently ripening shows that the arrangement works. Garden hydrangeas have a similar floral division of labour in their inflorescences.


  1. Those berries are fantastic! Are they good for the birds, Phil? They're having a right feast on the berries on our Rowans just now. :)

  2. Something else learnt, now i only have to remember.
    Autumn really seems to be early this year. I am hoping for a good winter and not merely a wet one.

  3. Hi Lesley, Interesting that you should mention that. Lots of books and wildlife gardening sites say that birds like them but I often see guelder rose bushes with berries still attached deep into winter, where birds have ignored them..... unlike rowans, where the birds gobble them as soon as they're ripe. Our blackbirds literally hurl themselves at rowans, to rip the berries off..

  4. Hi Adrian, it does seem to be an early autumn - I noticed a horse chestnut with leaves that were beginning to go yellow the other day..

  5. Yes, it's the blackbirds that are taking ours.... not that I mind. It's good to see them being well-fed. A couple of days ago I counted six blackbirds on the one Rowan tree. It's fun watching them. The sparrows have also being having a great time eating the seeds off the Angelicas. :)

  6. Hi Phil -Lovely pictures and info. I've always wondered about the cave people who presumably were the first-ever to try eating berries - eg enjoyed the strawberry or bilberry but died after trying the yew...
    I'm really glad you saw the Guardian piece about Churchill's butterflies online. It's a shame it wasn't in the paper, but that's terribly formulaic these days and they already had a natural history story - that terrifying prehistoric bird - and they don't seem to run two for fear of spoiling 'the mix.' Anyway, when I was researching it, I thought I had that book but discovered that the Newman one I've got is a straightforward butterfly guide. But I knew I'd read it and seen the pictures you describe; and then I realised that I'd borrowed it from Leeds Library while writing the linking pieces for A Gleaming Landscape, the collection of 100 years of Guardian Country Diaries (such as your excellent ones). I checked, and I did actually use that wonderful, and so Churchillian, "plan of action" quote.
    I'm very interested in the point about the BVWs and fruit trees. It would be nice if they could come back, in spite of all the scientific hesitations. I'm now going to copy and paste this as a Comment on your blog as I realise I'm a bit hopeless about corresponding properly in that way.
    All warmest wishes