29 November 2011

Harvests and Lichens

Winter harvests are pretty tiny from a small garden. But these chillies, still on the go in the greenhouse, are wonderfully spicy. With the parsley, they went into a turkish salad made for a bunch of women friends who met on a wild and windy Saturday night for good food and a great laugh. Thanks BK!

On Sunday, the wind had blown itself out and the day was sunny and cool. So it was back to the Dargle, on the other side of the valley this time, not as lovely a walk, but we were able to get down to the river, where I spotted these polypody ferns (Polypodium vulgare) growing happily out of what I think are Pre-Cambrian quartzites (Bray Series).  I seem to remember learning that these ferns grew best on walls or on the spreading limbs of oak trees... And the Dargle runs through what look like remnants of native forest, which would have had oak, ash and (at one time) elm. Certainly we passed under a lot of young oak trees on the way. Also, unfortunately, lots of laurel: dark, spreading and weedy. Probably planted quite some time ago by the Powerscourt estate; some sweet chestnut trees in the same wood reinforce the idea of someone doing the planting of non-native species.
There are some gorgeous lichens in the woods there too - the air in Wicklow is clean air - apparently lichens are one of the first things to go as the air gets polluted. Lichen is amazing stuff: a fungi-algae combo, the algal part takes care of nutrition, the fungal part looks after reproduction. Seems like a good division of labour. I love how they look though: these ones on a twig that I found on the forest floor, but they're also so beautiful as they map themselves onto rocks. On granites, be they in Wicklow, Connemara or Donegal, you'll see them grow especially well on the shiny mica-rich bits - years ago we were told that one of the common mica minerals, Biotite, got its name from its ability to support life, but wiki says otherwise: named after M. Biot apparently.

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