A bumper crop of blackberries will spell good news for wildlife this year – as well as foragers and jam makers.

Smallholder:

Weather conditions over the last couple of years have made for a huge harvest this autumn, which spells good news for wildlife, from dormice to foxes.

Brambles are one of a number of species of fruiting trees and plants to have benefited from the cold winter and a warm, dry summer, which has helped stimulate flowering and produce plenty of fruits, plant charity Plantlife said.

And last year’s cool, wet summer delivered a poor autumn harvest of blackberries but helped brambles put on growth, setting them up for a bumper year when the conditions allowed.

Richard Moyse, in charge of Plantlife’s Ranscombe Farm Nature Reserve, said: “They’re not alone in having had a good year for flowering, and that must be down to the terrible year we had last year, which was poor for flowering but had a lot of growth.

“This year the summer did turn really nice, and when it did get under way the plant has got all this energy it can put into flowering and it has gone for it. Everything’s right for flowers to develop and set.”

The warm, dry conditions in the summer have helped fruit production, and berries are ripening nicely, the charity said.

The bumper year for blackberries will benefit a host of wildlife, many of whom struggled in last year’s poor autumn.

“Dormice will fatten up on them, badgers love them, foxes love them, all the birds, even butterflies and hoverflies when the fruit has broken out, it’s good all round,” Mr Moyse said.

He added: “It’s definitely good for those, like me, who like blackberry and apple crumble.”

But Plantlife also said brambles were increasing in the wild, thriving on nutrient-rich soils and becoming abundant in woodland that was not properly managed, where they can smother other plants such as bluebells, primroses and orchids.

This autumn, visitors to woodlands are likely to see a spectacular show of a host of forest fruits and nuts from species such as oaks, hawthorns, beeches and ash trees experiencing a “mast year”, according to the Forestry Commission.

In mast years, tree species produce very large crops, compared to almost none in other years, possibly due to weather and climatic conditions.

Simon Toomer, director of the Forestry Commission’s National Arboretum at Westonbirt, said: “Part of the fascination of experiencing a mast year is that we don’t completely understand the complex blend of factors that give rise to them and allow plants to coordinate the production of so much fruit and seed.

“Weather and climate can certainly affect fruit and seed production in plants, however we also see certain trees go through cycles of mast years. Beech, for example, produces a mast year every five to 10 years.”

With such a bumper natural harvest, seed-eating animals and birds such as grey squirrels and jays are expected to hoard supplies for later in the winter, the commission said.
 

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