Saturday, 18 September 2010

Black and White

A quick walk around the lakes of Straw's Bridge this morning, while the sun shone. We needed our jackets on this morning as the temperature has started to plunge.
The sun had the effect of bringing the berries into sharp and colourful focus and as I have mentioned the red berries several times, I thought I would concentrate on the less colourful ones. Black berries are everywhere (and I don't just mean Blackberries), among the most numerous of which belong to the Dogwoods (Cornus sanguinea).
Native to most of Europe, Dogwood is one of the most useful hedgerow shrubs, providing food for numerous insects and birds. The wood of the Dogwood has been used by man for making arrows, for thousands of years. The 5300 year old, mummified body of a man found in 1991, on the Alpine border between Austria and Italy, was carrying a quiver full of arrows made from Dogwood. Dogwoods also provide wonderful Autumn and Winter colour as their leaves begin to turn golden and red, then drop, revealing the red stems during the Winter months.
Another Black berry, known to all, belongs to the Elder (Sambucus nigra). These are very common in the hedgerows too - although not so common as usual this year for some reason. The plant contains poisonous compounds, as do the berries (especially when unripe). They are edible when cooked however, and are well-known constituents of Elderberry wine, jams and chutneys. Another great favourite (in their raw state) of the birds too...
Leaving the black berries, we found a shrub with white ones. Another Dogwood, this time White Dogwood (Cornus alba). This, like it's black berried cousin, has beautiful, red stems which add a much needed splash of colour to the Winter hedgerow.
Back home and another black and white reference was to be found in our garden. Softer and more instantly charming than the shrubs of the countryside, the monochrome influence this time, came in the shape of our neighbours' cat 'Oscar'. The little minx!
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