SPECIES TO LOOK OUT FOR
Having been extensively appropriated for stockproofing due to its spiky nature, hawthorn is surely our commonest shrub. Also known as the May flower, due to the masses of white blossom produced each spring, the equally distinctive brightred haws provide food for mammals preparing for hibernation and newlyarriving winter thrushes.
Similarly thorny, this shrub’s flowers, by contrast, appear well before its leaves unfurl. Early spring blossom seemingly brings alive what might initially appear to be a dead-looking hedge. In autumn, bitter black sloes are formed – favoured by birds and gin aficionados.
As a wildlifefriendly plant, bramble excels on every level. The nectar and blackberries provide a source of food for birds, mammals and invertebrates right from spring to late autumn, while the arching, thorny stems make the perfect nesting place for birds, and the perfect hibernaculum for hibernating hedgehogs
The female of this fastdeclining butterfly ( below) is easily distinguished by an orange-gold band across its dark-brown forewings and small tails on the hindwings. Encountered in southern England and south-west Wales, the key to this species’ continued survival is woodlands and hedgerows with abundant blackthorn, upon which the eggs are laid.
Found in a variety of wooded and scrub habitats, hedges provide much-needed cover for a species that figures high on the menu for a range of predators. Bank voles are also adept above ground, making hedgerows the perfect climbing frames during their autumnal search for blackberries.
Blackthorn drupes are foraged by fans of sloe gin.