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Greendykes Road Hedgerow

Back to GD House HedgerowOn to GD Avenue Hedgerow

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Field side of Greendykes Road
hedgerow in winter.
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Road side of Greendykes Road
hedgerow in spring.

This is a wide, dense hedgerow, which separates Greendykes Road from open fields, following a gentle slope uphill. The field side of this hedgerow is south-facing along its whole length, so it receives a lot of sunlight. The road side is more shaded (as can be seen above). Also, the bottom of the slope is very wet. Most of this hedgerow consists of sprouting Wych Elm. This makes it very thick and difficult to pass through in places. Wych Elm gets its name from its flexible branches - the meaning of the word ‘Wych’ is ‘flexible’ rather than having anything to do with witches! Twine was once made from the inner bark of the tree, and was used in tying up cloth for tie-dying.

All Elms are vulnerable to Dutch Elm Disease, which is a fungal infection that kills the tree. It is carried by Elm Bark Beetles and has wiped out many Elm trees in Britain. The City of Edinburgh Council is helping to control the spread of this disease through the Dutch Elm Disease Programme. Infected Elms are identified, cut down and the bark is burnt (killing the beetle larvae) so the beetles can’t spread the fungus to other Elm trees. 

Holly, Elder, Hawthorn and Dog Rose also make quite an effective barrier here.

Holly Leaf

Holly was once seen as a plant that protected against ‘evil’. This could be because of its prickliness. Evil spirits were thought to get caught up in Holly bushes and would be unable to pass through them. Being evergreen ‘proved’ that it also had a supernatural ability to stand up to winter, so houses were decorated with Holly at Hogmanay (when fairies were likely to be looking for mischief). It was considered unlucky to cut down Holly, although the wood is hard, white and good for carving. Many tool and weapon handles have been made from this wood. Holly flowers provide food for the caterpillars of the Holly Blue butterfly, which also needs Ivy flowers, in alternate generations.

A few Wild Cherry trees can be spotted beside the road, especially in early May, when their white blossom stands out amongst the browns and greens of spring.

There are not that many different kinds of ground plants here – mainly Creeping Buttercup, Cow Parsley, Ivy, grasses and mosses with some Brambles, Hogweed, Cleavers, Thistle, Dandelion and Wild Garlic. Lesser Celandine can be found towards the bottom of the slope, in the wetter soil and Wood Avens can be found more towards the top. There is a low, crumbling stone wall between the hedge and the road, which supports mosses and lichens, and also provides a bank for Cow Parsley and White Dead Nettle. There are many decaying tree-stumps (good for wildlife) in the hedgerow and molehills are present in some places.

You can see Greenfinches, Blackbirds, Redwings and Great Tits in the bushes here, and Starlings around the nearby houses.


What to look out for and when

Spring Summer Autumn Winter
White blossom on Wild Cherry trees and Hawthorn bushes

Cow Parsley leaves appearing

White flowers and onion smell of Wild Garlic

Glossy green leaves and yellow flowers on Lesser Celandine - at bottom of slope

White blossom on Brambles. Butterflies feeding on Bramble flowers in late spring

Paper-thin Elm seeds (appear before the leaves)

Delicate, white Elder flowers

Ash keys – bright green – in big clumps (nr top of slope)

Delicate white flowers of Hogweed and Cow Parsley

Elderberries forming (still green)

Yellow flowers of Wood Avens, and some hooked seed heads already

Ground Elder seeds forming

Hoverflies on flowers

Pink/white Dog-Rose flowers

Round, hooked seed heads of Wood Avens

Bright red Rose hips

Seed heads of Hogweed -like umbrella or bicycle spokes

Bright Red Hawthorn berries

Shiny, dark purple clusters of Elder berries

Birds eating berries. Listen for them dropping berries too!

Cherry tree leaves at bottom of road, by flats, turning to yellow/red

Holly leaves - some prickly, some smooth

Bright red Holly Berries

Some Rose hips (maybe more black by now)

Green Ivy leaves, and berries

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Go explore for yourself!