I needed to get away from my computer and enjoy the small differences between things. What better thing to do than go and look at ferns in Highams wood? This is one of my favourite spots in the civil parish of Forest Row ever since I found the coppiced sweet chestnuts in a sea of bluebells last year
. So, armed with Roger Phillips' splendid book on ferns and grasses
, I ambled up there on Sunday. It's not even that far: up to Cansiron lane, turn right and it's the bit of Ancient Woodland by the mast.
There seemed to be two main species there (though I am a bit of a novice at telling them apart, so could be wrong): the Broad Buckler Fern (Dryopteris austriaca
) and the Scaly Male Fern (Dryopteris pseudomas
Here's the first. You can see how the fronds narrow quite sharply towards the tip:
and the shield-like sori on the underside of the leaves:
On the other hand, the leaf shape of the Scaly Male Fern is quite different, and tend to be toothed only at the tip of the smallest leaf divisions:
and the sori are a rather different shape:
As you scratch the surface in a great old wood like this it is amazing what subtlety there is. Highams wood itself includes a great number of different habitats, and I only started looking in one corner. There's bound to be even an greater diversity of ferns than I found in twenty minutes, let alone the diversity of other species. Not surprisingly, there's lots of information about ferns on the web. A good starting point for their biology is Fern World
, the site of the British Pteridological Society.
Still, ferns weren't all I found in my short, quick walk. Walking up through Hazel wood there was some Hedge Woundwort (Stachys sylvatica
), historically used to staunch bleeding, and the Early-purple Orchid (Orchis mascula
). A nice mix of flowering plants and evolutionarily older forms: it makes a nice change from the computer.