Tag Archives: Wood Spurge

News from the Farm

There isn’t a lot of news. It has been quite dry the last few days but bitterly cold.

Yesterday we had a clear blue sky so Fizz and I went off to count the sheep. They were in the top field and the wind was whipping across that field. I had to retreat, I was almost crying it was so cold.

It’s been cold, that’s what I am trying to tell you 🙂

So.. Fizz and I went down Badger Alley to look for plant life, it is quite sheltered there.

Badger AlleyPrimroses would have been nice.

PrimrosesPrimroses will be nice but just not yet.

PrimrosesThis is just the way that it is this year, it is cold. The Primroses were in flower here and I was photographing them on the third of February last year and the Red Dead-nettle. We are running a little late this year because of the crisp winter days but I probably prefer this to the rain.

No I don’t, I am just not big on winter, whatever it is like 🙂

One reason for going up there was to find Wood Spurge. When I wrote about it the other day I didn’t have pictures of the milky irritant sap and they should be quite easy to get.

Wood SpurgeI found the Spurge easily enough but I couldn’t get much sap out of it, I maybe need to try this on a warmer day. This will have to do for now.

Wood SpurgeOh yes, and we looked at the catkins again.

Just for the record here is a photograph taken yesterday on the farm. This is what a Hazel tree’s man bits look like when it is bitterly cold. (Poor thing)

Hazel CatkinsIt is much more sheltered down here and they are beginning to open.

Hazel Catkins

Hazel CatkinsThe most interesting thing that we found was signs that the Badgers were getting active.

Nature Detective DogNature Detective Dog at work.

Nature Detective DogBadgers don’t hibernate but they usually spend December and January underground, living off their fat, all cuddled up together, warm and cosy.

We saw quite a lot of fresh snuffle holes and evidence of straw gathering and some fresh digging.

Badger SettSo if these babies are active then maybe it is time to go and look for our own Badgers.

This is the main sett. It isn’t the best place to try and film Badgers, it is on public land and it is quite confined. I would prefer to film the Badgers on the farm.

Patch was beaten up and kicked out of this sett last year because he wanted to have a go at making baby Badgers. He was joined by two other Badgers and I am hoping that at least one of those was female and that we will have cubs on the farm.

But I don’t know where they are!

Come on Puppy, let’s go Badger hunting.

FizzHave I mentioned that it is cold on the farm? At least the mud is clean 🙂

Cold FizzThe hedges have all been trimmed. It is a job done by machine and it looks pretty brutal but the wounds will heal quickly in the spring.

Hedge trimmingThis hedgerow is a good mix of Hazel, Willow, Holly, Blackthorn and Hawthorn. It is not particularly unique but I am concerned for the Elm trees as I survey the wreckage.

It is necessary work to protect the sheep who were getting caught up in the brambles.

SheepStop following me!


Fizz and I searched all around the hedgerow looking for signs of Badger activity. There are three setts on the farm that they used last year, the first two were obviously empty.

The third one is a possibility, can you see what I see.

Badger SettWhy is this broken grass outside of the entrance? Because Badgers collect straw for bedding? It is a possibility.

It’s okay, I am a Big Game Hunter, I’m supposed to see these things.

Broken GrassCome on Puppy.

strawSo we went off and found a nice patch of dried grass, gathered some up and put it outside of the sett.

strawI am  not nuts, I have done this before 🙂

I have left the camera watching the sett. I would be so pleased to find them here. Badger cubs are born in February (they won’t come out of the sett until May) wherever the Badgers are now, that is probably where any cubs will be born. Be here.

Now I suppose that you would like to play ball?


FizzGood Girl!

FizzMight as well look for fleas while I’m here.



Fizz would like everyone to know that she hasn’t got fleas.FizzToday’s flower is Elder because there is an association with Badger Setts and Elder, The Badgers like the berries and you will often find it growing around old setts.

OH! I nearly forgot to tell you that the Elm trees were all right, the maniac hedge trimmer didn’t go up that far 🙂

Elm Trees

Sambucus nigra, The Elder Tree

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra)Sambucus nigra, the European Elder also known as the Black Elder or Elderberry. This small tree is as well known for it’s purple/black fruit as for it’s froth of white flowers.

Elder fruit (Sambucus nigra)It is one of the first trees to come into leaf with new leaves appearing in early March.

Elder leaf (Sambucus nigra)The leaves are made up of five and sometimes seven leaflets on a central stem, with opposite pairs and one at the tip of the stem. The leaflets are longer than they are wide and have a toothed edge.

Elder leaf (Sambucus nigra)

Elder leaf (Sambucus nigra)This next picture is of one leaf, comprising and showing the arrangement of five leaflets. That is important to understand because a single leaflet or leaf, that is this shape would not indicate an Elder, each leaf is composed of five leaflets, sometimes seven and rarely nine.

Elder leaf (Sambucus nigra)

Elder leaf (Sambucus nigra)The woody stem of Elder is also quite distinctive.

A fresh stem is usually covered in small pale warts, these are called lenticels. They are sometimes described as breathing pores and allow the tree to exchange gasses.

Elder stem (Sambucus nigra)You will pretty much always see some branches marked with these distinctive lenticels on a live Elder.

Elder stem (Sambucus nigra)

Elder stem (Sambucus nigra)Older bark becomes furrowed and the breathing pores are not noticeable then.

Elder stem (Sambucus nigra)

Elder (Sambucus nigra)The Elder is a short lived tree, not more than about 60 years. It is also quite small and shrub like. I have read that it can attain a height of twenty feet or more but it is usually smaller than that.

Legend has it that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from an Elder tree. I think that this is unlikely, for hanging you really need a tree that is taller than you with sturdy horizontal branches, like an Oak or a Chestnut. It is more likely that this defamation by association is the work of the Christian Church in the battle against Paganism because the Elder once held great spiritual importance.

You wouldn’t have much luck, hanging yourself in one of these.

Elder (Sambucus nigra)However the association stuck and the small jelly fungus that grows on the Elder became known as Judas’s Ear and later just Jew’s Ear.

Jelly Ear Fungus Jelly Ear Fungus   Jelly Ear Fungus   Jelly Ear Fungus It is now more often referred to as Jelly Ear or Wood Ear, Auricularia auricula-judae.

Jelly Ear FungusThe flowers arrive in May.

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra)

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra)

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra)A flower head may consist of several hundred small flowers. The flowers are hermaphrodite. Each flower has five white petals, five stamens tipped with yellow anthers and a style with three stigmas.

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra)

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra)The flowers produce nectar and pollen and are much loved by Bumble Bees.

White-tailed Bumblebee White-tailed Bumblebee   White-tailed Bumblebee   White-tailed Bumblebee  Too much sometimes….. (It is not dead, just too drunk to stand up)

White-tailed BumblebeeThe fruit ripens in August.

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)When it is ripe the birds eat it.

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)The Elder is a valuable wildlife plant. It provides shelter for birds and forage for deer. Many small mammals (including Dormice) eat both the flowers and the fruit. It is a larval food plant for several British moths including the White Spotted Pug, Swallowtail, Dot Moth and Buff Ermine. The flowers provide nectar and pollen for many insects and birds also eat the fruit.

Despite it’s reputation for Elderflower tea and fritters and Elderberry wine all of the green parts and the fruit are mildly poisonous to us. The fruit needs to be cooked before eating.

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)This tree is a member of the same family as the diminutive, green wildflower, Town Hall Clock (The Adoxaceae)

Town Hall Clock

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)Taxonomy

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Dipsacales

Family: Adoxaceae

Genus: Sambucus

Species: Sambucus Nigra

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)Wildflowers in winter.


Why do they call you Long John Silver?

It’s because of my pirate ancestry, innit?

So, it’s not the underpants then?

Everybody wears long johns in the winter, it’s cold!

That’s not what you told Andrew.

I may have embellished things a little bit.

Ah well, it will soon be spring.

I can’t do much today, I can’t get lovely photographs it is too dark. So let’s look at some insects instead. Dragons and Damsels Okay?

This is the female of one species, Common Blue Damselfly, lovely?

Common Blue DamselflyThis is the male. He is a bit shy.

Common Blue DamselflyI am sure that if you just go over and say hello then she will be pleased to say hello back.

Common Blue Damselfly I forgot, the odonata are a bit carnivorous.

I think she liked you.

Common blue DamselflyBurp!

It is great that they are carnivorous 😀 The things they eat need eating.

MosquitoesCome into my world little Dragonflies.

Southern HawkerThis one is a Southern Hawker.

Southern HawkerThis next one is a Migrant Hawker.

Migrant Hawker

Migrant HawkerThis is a Hairy Dragonfly, sometimes known as a Spring Hawker it is the earliest of the big blue dragonflies to appear but it is not that early, it arrives in May.

Hairy Dragonfly

Hairy DragonflyThe Hawkers above all belong to the same family (Aeshnidae) They are the largest and fastest of our Dragonflies. They hunt by patrolling the skies and swooping down on their prey like Hawks.

We also get a lot of Darters, Skimmers and Chasers, these belong to the family Libellulidae, the largest family of Dragonflies. These Dragonflies tend to be ambush predators rather than Hawks.

Common Darter.

Common Darter

Common DarterBlack-tailed Skimmer.

Black-tailed Skimmer

Black-tailed SkimmerBroad-bodied Chaser

Broad-bodied Chaser

Broad-bodied ChaserWell that’s enough Dragonflies. I know that you would rather have news from the farm and pictures of Fizz but it is just horrible outside. (I would stay in HK if I were you 🙂 )

Horrible FizzI was talking to a friend in Vancouver recently about lime green flowers and I got inspired to add Wood Spurge to EW. Thank you David.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeEuphorbia is a genus of plants commonly known as Spurge. There are about 2000 species in this genus including the familiar Christmas Poinsettias and the Rubber Tree. In South Africa some Euphorbia have developed characteristics very similar to Cacti and are often incorrectly referred to as such. All Euphorbia species contain a milky white, toxic sap in the stem and leaves which can severely irritate the skin on contact.

The Wood Spurge is a species native to Europe and to Southern England. It grows in woodland and shaded hedgerow. It is an evergreen perennial and the small plants are a common sight in winter.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge   Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge   Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge Wood Spurge spreads by underground rhizomes so you will often find plants growing close together in a group.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeSpring growth.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeThe Wood Spurge has a complex and very unusual flower. The green buds that you see in these pictures are not really flower buds, they are a pair of modified leaves that contain an unusual flower head.

The “Bud” is called a cyathium (plural, cyathia) sometimes referred to as a “false flower” and it contains the inflorescence of the Spurge.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeThere is quite a lot going on inside each cyathium. There are four small “horse shoe” shaped glands, called “Involucral glands”, these glands are not part of the flowers themselves but part of the cyathium, they produce nectar.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeThe flowers themselves are the small two lobed yellow anthers in the centre of the horse shoes. There is nothing more to the flowers than a single stamen with two yellow anthers at the top. The anthers produce pollen.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeThe two large bud like objects beside the flowers are in fact further cyathia. So there are flower heads growing out of each flower head as well as flowers and nectar producing glands.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeThe cyathium also produces a female flower. It consists of nothing more than a three lobed stigma (pollen receiving organ) leading down to an ovary. The female flower is produced before the male flowers that I have shown you and drops down out of the way when the male flowers arrive to avoid self pollination. I don’t have photographs of the stigma at this time.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeIt sounds complex but it is not that difficult to understand. The horse shoes are producing nectar, the flowers are just the stamens in the middle and the buds are new flower heads with all the same stuff inside them.

It is a lime green flower and it is beautiful.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeTaxonomy

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Malpighiales

Family: Euphorbiaceae

Genus: Euphorbia

Species: Euphorbia amygdaloides

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge   Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge   Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeWildflowers in winter.