This stem gall was spotted at 9 Wells nature reserve this week. Home to the larvae of a small wasp this gall is known as Diastrophus rubi and is host specific to the Dewberry or Bramble but has been recorded on Raspberry canes. Galls are very interesting natural phenomenon as they form on plants in response to secreted hormones from mainly insects but they can also be triggered by bacteria and fungus. They are not a sign of disease but consist of healthy plant tissue which is full of nutrients for the growing larvae within. This tissue is also easily digestible for the young larvae. This particular gall would have begun life in the spring as a green elongated swelling punctuated by red pimples indicating the chamber of a larvae. These galls can contain up to two hundred chambers. The gall changes colour from green to yellow to purplish then to light brown with the larvae overwintering inside before emerging the following spring. Once the galls become woody they can stay on the stem for several years.

Autumn and winter are a good time to spot them due to the lack of foliage.



The elongated swellings are green at first punctated with red pimples that indicates the inner chamber of a larva. In summer the galls go from yellow to purplish to light brown with the larva overwintering inside before emerging the following spring. One gall may contain up to 200 rounded chambers. Once used the galls become woody and can remain on stems for several years


Velvet Shanks

This lovely fungus was spotted in Bramblefields Nature reserve today. Velvet Shank is a stump rotting fungus which can also be found on standing deadwood. This edible fungus is a foragers delight this time of year when the colder weather deters most other edible fungi from fruiting. Good examples can still be found well in to January. The latin Flammulina refers to the orange caps which shine like ‘little flames’ in the winter sunshine. The velutipes refers to the stems and is an even more fitting description meaning ‘with velvet legs’. This is exactly what the stems look and feel like. Previously this fungus was mostly associated with dead Elm (of which there was no shortage during the 1970’s and 80’s with the Dutch Elm disease disaster). However they can be found on Ash, Beech, Oaks and other broad leaf trees.

After the preparation last month New Bit was ready to receive its local seeds collected from Cambridgeshire’s donor Coronation meadow. Seeds from Chettisham Meadow included Cowslip and Ox-eye daisy, Common Knapweed, Bird’s foot Trefoil and Lady’s Bedstraw to name a few. It was a great day with lots of volunteers enjoying the chance to establish this meadow for future enjoyment. Some passersby and dog walkers even joined in, taking the opportunity to plant up this meadow which they walk through most days. All who participated are looking forward to watching what comes up in the spring and summer!

John at Bramblefields.

The Saturday volunteers met this weekend and enjoyed the task of preparing Bramblefields Nature reserve for the Forest School visitors. Shirley School runs a forest school on the site for their reception children. The children really enjoy exploring and discovering their local green space and it was a pleasure to clear a few pathways to aid this!

The Saturday group runs every month on the last Saturday of the month 10am -1pm. The next one will be Saturday 31st October. If you are interested please email:

Cows on Sheep's Green, Coe Fen

4 Redpoll cattle have settled in to graze this valuable mosaic of grassland and scrub throughout September and October. Their grazing helps to push back scrub, reduce invasive non-natives such as Golden rod and Michaelmas daisy on the site. Their presence also works to break up the ground for new plants to seed into and the dung provides a home for a myriad of invertebrates,which in turn creates a good food source for the birds. The cows help to continue the great job the volunteer work parties do throughout the year at Barnwell East.

Having grazed other Cambridge sites these Redpolls are used to people and dogs. However, as with all livestock we encourage people to not directly approach them and to keep dogs on leads during this time.

It’s worth remembering to look out for redpolls this winter at Byron’s pool, not the cows but the birds! Last year many were spotted, along with Siskins feeding on the Alders there.