Thursday, 17 March 2016

The Forest of Montgoger

The Association de Botanique et de Mycologie de Sainte Maure de Touraine had an outing to the Forest of Montgoger on Saturday 5 March. We were promised 'une promenade botanique et autres curiosités'. I expected the 'curiosities' to be manmade, but they turned out to be entirely natural and a function of this old, and until recently, abandoned forest.

Oak trees, still bare of leaves in March.

The forest was once the hunting domaine of the old Chateau of Montgoger, a stonking great early renaissance structure, now a ruin, but retaining its exterior walls and round corner towers to a considerable height. It is visible from the road as you head towards the forest from Saint Epain.

An oak tree with plenty of horizontal branches,
a form that is highly desirable for biodiversity.

Holly takes advantage of the gap in the canopy provided
by a dead oak, which it will replace.

It is now owned and managed by the Office National des Forets (ONF), who are currently in the process of encouraging the forest's 1.66 km² to naturally regenerate after purchasing it in 2009. Effectively, they are managing the forest for biodiversity, not timber, hunting, leisure or any of the other activities one might manage a forest for. As a consequence of a complete lack of management for years and a very light touch by the ONF, Montgoger has many mature oaks with dead and horizontal branches, as well as many dead trees both standing and fallen. This is perfect for the big beetles whose numbers are generally in decline because of insufficient suitable dead timber. Some of them are surprisingly picky, requiring a specific species of tree, or dead branches on a still living tree, for example. Many forests are way too tidy to suit those beetles that need years as a larva to mature -- their lovely rotting home will get cleared up long before they have a chance to turn into adult beetles.

UPDATE: Chantal, who led the outing, has emailed me to say that she deliberately kept to the untouched sections of the forest, but in fact, hunting is allowed once a week during the season and timber is taken from certain sections. She sees signs of wild boar sometimes where they have rooted around trees and the hunters paint the base of certain oak trees with pine tar as the smell attracts the boar. She also occasionally finds the remains of corn cobs.

About 10 years ago some of the oak from this forest went towards making the replica of the Hermione, the ship that Lafayette sailed to the US in when he went to aid the Americans in the War of Independence in 1780.

The eggs of an Agile Frog, near, but not in a pond. Has it been so wet the frog got confused?

The forest sits on a rise overlooking the small river Manse. The valley of the Manse is the most typical Touraine countryside you could possibly hope to see, and the mosaic of habitats it offers (forest, water meadows, limestone cliffs and ridges, ponds and marsh, pasture for goats and cattle, cereal crops and vineyards) is the subject of an ongoing botany project to create a complete inventory of the flora of the valley. The river Manse eventually flows into the Vienne at l'Ile Bouchard.

The inconspicuous flowers of Besom Heath, a plant which dominates the wet heathland here.

Corinne pointed this delightful little object out to me.
It is an egg sac, I think belonging to the pirate spider Ero aphana.

Marie-Claude demonstrates her baguette bag as lichen sample on stick storage system.

Two members of the club have uploaded their photos from the day onto their websites. To see Louisette's terrific coverage click here. You will see me in a couple of the photos, and I highly recommend her blog (you don't need to read French because it's photos). André has also uploaded his photos of the day. He's also captured me in a couple of his photos. I'm wearing a green hat and coat and fingerless gloves.

 Au jardin hier: Alex came over to rotovate one of the fallow vegetable patches. The Lady Orchid leaf rosette is up. The apricot is flowering. Primroses, sweet violets and wild pansies are flowering in the grass.
A la cuisine hier: Garbure, with smoked pork belly and shredded chicken, celeriac, potato, carrots, leeks, onions, garlic and cabbage in homemade veal stock. It was rather good. 

Pasta twists in a simple homemade store cupboard tomato sauce, topped with grated cheddar cheese.

Walnut cake, made gluten free with a mixture of buckwheat flour and ground almonds, and using walnuts from Niall and Antoinette's trees. Apple snow, made with our own frozen fruit, and eggs and fromage frais from the laitière (local dairy farmer who delivers).


Le Pré de la Forge said...

There are two possibilities with the frogspawn...
either the female laid them as she was trying to escape a ball of amorous males...
or something like a hedgehog or a fox took some spawn and dropped these....
I would suspect the latter as I can see some spawn in the water immediately behind the branch you photographed.
Lovely pic of the spider egg sac, too.

Susan said...

The frog spawn in the background is on a dead log, wet and shiny. There was spawn everywhere in this area. Either the pond had risen a lot or the frog(s?)were confused, panicked or something.

The spider egg sac was really difficult to photograph. I'm amazed I managed to get such a nice one!

Ken Broadhurst said...

About garbure, the word must surely be related to our word garbage. In the U.S., informally, we make "garbage soup" — a hodgepodge of whatever vegetable and meat scraps you find hiding in the refrigerator. It's as good as the ingredients you put into the pot.

Susan said...

I know that soup as 'fridge soup'.

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