One of the questions we asked you in the WildSquare survey was to look for 4 different tree shapes, round, tall and thin, triangular or droopy. By far the most common shape to spot so far has been tall and thin. On average each person saw 12 tall thin trees in their WildSquare. Why is this?
Trees have different shapes to suit the different places that they grow. Two of the most important things trees need to grow are sunlight and water. They use their leaves or needles to collect as much sunlight as they can without losing too much water. And they need to do all of this without falling over by growing too heavy. Trees with large round canopies like oak or beech trees are designed to capture as much sunlight as possible in a cloudy climate where the sunlight is coming in from all angles. Tall thin trees, like pine trees or the common lime in the picture, are designed to get as high as possible so that they can reach sunlight above other trees and also so that at sunset and sunrise, when the sun is shining from the side, not above they have a lot of leaves catching the sun’s rays.
One of the leaves you are looking for in this WildSquare survey is a feather leaf, it’s got a stem in the middle with lots of little leaves coming out from either side. If you see a leaf like this it could be from a rowan, ash or elder tree. All these trees are native to Britain and have lots of myths and legends surrounding them.
RowanRowan trees are associated with magic and are sometimes called Wizard trees, people used to plant them outside their houses to protect them. Rowans trees produce red berries which are poisonous for people to eat raw but birds love them.
Ash In Viking and Norse mythology there was a ‘tree of the world’ this tree stretched up into heaven with it’s leaves and it’s roots reached down into the underworld. The tree was called Yggdrasil and was an ash tree. In Cheshire people used to believe that an ash tree could be used to cure warts.
ElderYou can spot elder at this time of year by it’s white sweet smelling flowers. It’s flowers and berries can be used to make wine and cordials. If you like Harry Potter you’ll know that the most powerful wand in the world was the Elder wand and, you guessed it, was made out of wood from and Elder tree.
Are you looking for something to do with the children? Try a WildSquare survey. It’s a great way to get children outside looking closely at what’s around them. Children are asked to complete a short survey on the plants and wildlife in the area they’ve chosen as their WildSquare and then tell us their results online. What’s unique about WildSquare is that it’s an ongoing project that seeks to help children to understand their local area, the wildlife in it, how it changes throughout the seasons and to introduce them to the concept of surveying as a scientific activity.
WildSquare has changedWildSquare has relaunched this summer with a brand new survey format and instant online results. Once they’ve had a look at their WildSquare they can compare what they’ve seen with what other children have seen all over the UK. It doesn’t have to be limited to one location either, WildSquare now lets you enter results for any location, so you can do a WildSquare survey on a day out or a visit to the grandparents or friends.
How does it work?1. Register and adopt a WildSquare using a postcode or map. This can be where you live, or an area you visit regularly.2. Print off the survey identification sheet and instructions and go outside to complete your survey. (This should take about 30 minutes to an hour).3. Input your results onto the computer; see them represented graphically straight away and compare them against other people’s results.
Every child taking part for the first time will receive a calendar and sticker pack on entering their first survey results.
There's a new survey to complete every 2 months, tracking the changes in the seasons and looking at specific topics. The current survey encourages children to look closely at the trees in their WildSquare, focusing on the shape of the leaves and any seeds or fruit they can see.
If you enjoyed getting outside and seeing the wildlife in your WildSquare why not bring some wildlife spotting into your home too? Not real wildlife of course, most birds, insects and animals would much rather be outside than running around your living room and your parents probably wouldn’t appreciate having a blue tit flying around the kitchen. You could try one of the wildlife games on the RSPB website though. If it’s raining where you are and you’ve had enough of splashing around in puddles, why not sit down with a drink and a snack and have a go at our Ladybird snap game. Click on the blue link to print the cards off from our website, cut them out and have a game whilst finding out all about the ladybirds that live in this country. You might even find some new ladybirds from the cards next time you’re out in your WildSquare.
If you enjoyed getting outside when you did your WildSquare survey, why not try this idea another time you’re out and about. The idea is to look around at all the things there are in your WildSquare and find materials that could be used to make a house for an elf, insect, small animal or a fairy. Try to use only objects that you find lying around such as pebbles, sticks, twigs, fallen leaves and bark. If you do pick anything, make sure you only pick it if there is lots more around and don’t damage the plant.
What could you use to make a floor, are there a lot of leaves lying around? What about a bed, is there some moss or something else soft? Walls can be made with sticks and a roof could be made out of a large leaf. Will your creature need a table and chairs, or a cupboard to keep their clothes? Can you make stairs or a door out of the objects around you?