Nature on our doorsteps - Little lambs’ tails

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

By Rosaleen Dwyer

The Hazel is one of our first hedgerow bushes to send out its flowers early in the new year.

Along roadsides and all through our parks, its lovely bright yellow catkins are dancing in the breeze, like little lamb’s tails.

Hazels red tipped female flowers are much smaller than its catkins compressor

Hazel’s red-tipped female flowers are much smaller than its catkins

As there are very few pollinating insects flying in the cold winds of January and February, the flowers of many of our native trees and bushes rely on the wind for pollination at this time of the year.

Tiny male flowers are clustered tightly along dangling structures called catkins, waiting for the slightest breeze to shake their pollen directly into the air where it will hopefully land on a female flower.

Hazel’s yellow catkins are easy to spot as we walk by, but its female flowers are far less noticeable.

A much closer look is required to see the small rounded female structures on the twigs, with red ‘hairs’ trailing out at the top that make them look more like sea anemones than flowers!

Bright yellow Hazel catkins bring colour to a pathway by the River Dodder compressor

Bright yellow hazel catkins bring colour to the pathway by the River Dodder

Any Hazel pollen that lands on these ‘hairs’ will fertilise the flower, forming the edible hazelnuts that will ripen later in the autumn.

Hazel’s catkins will be followed in February, March and April by the equally delightful catkins of other trees like Alder, Birch, and Willow, leading us gently into the coming springtime.

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