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The art of germination - guest post by Sara Moeskjaer

Each issue of the Ringing Roger monthly parish magazine in Edale features a nature notes section written by people who live in the village. My friend Sara Moeskjær, who is a Research Associate in the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield, recently wrote this for the May edition. I really enjoy her writing because it's playful, informative, and captures the micro as well as the macro beauty of Kinder Scout and the surrounding area.

As winter turns to spring, and the days grow longer, deep underground and in the shallow soil a trove of treasures lie stirring, waiting. Small bundles of dormant energy, biding their time.

At this time of year, the sun's rays warm the cold ground, and plants begin to emerge with admirable determination. Some from bulbs and roots, fattened from last summer’s warmth, some from seeds, establishing a new life and a new beginning from where they landed in the autumn, each on their own unique journey. 

Dandelion seed, with their perfect parachute and barbed seed coat, soar through the air on a warm breeze, ready to latch on to any nook or cranny in their path. Any crack in the asphalt, fresh molehill, and drainage ditch sprout with their vivid green leaves and lucid yellow flowers feeding bees and pollinators from the earliest spring to late autumn, where other treasures emerge high in the treetops. 

Anyone who has seen a rowan tree in autumn and thought “berries that red and succulent looking must be tasty indeed”, now knows the real definition of disappointment. However, for the thrushes of this world, they truly are irresistible. Within the red rowan berries hides a little seed. Once it has passed through the grinding gizzard and acidic stomach juices of the thrush, the hard seed coat enveloping the delicate seed has been softened. It is then deposited, often far from its mother tree, with a neat little dollop of fertiliser, ready to germinate after feeling the cold of winter lessen. 

Others play a more patient game. Heather produces seeds year on year, dropping their seeds straight down into the peat below, creating a seed bank, and biding their time. If something were to happen to our dear heather plant – a moor fire or a hungry grouse – an army of descendants is ready to take its place, and the line of purple, fragrant perfection will be carried on. 

Meanwhile, in the crown of leafless winter trees above, you might see mistletoe – a dense, messy, evergreen growth – and wonder how it climbed so high. Its seeds are hidden inside innocent white berries, a favourite treat of the mistle thrush. Once the flesh of the berry has been digested, the sticky seed coat is exposed, and when the droppings hit a tree branch, the seed sticks firmly to the bark, germinating and continuing the parasitic mistletoe life cycle in the treetops. 

Over the coming weeks and months, these sprouting seeds will turn our beautiful valley green, from the top of the moors to the banks of the river Noe – the backbone of the abundant wildlife we all love and enjoy.


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