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September berries, fruits, nuts and seeds

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September is a great month for berries and they can be a useful aid to identifying shrubs. For example, there are red haws on hawthorn and juicy blue-black sloes on blackthorn, both of which become more noticeable as their bushes shed foliage. Both can also be found on the ground as September goes on, though it is not clear whether this is because they have fallen of their own accord or been dislodged by birds or rodents feeding on them. Blackberries can still linger throughout month, but while some may still be edible, others are moreish or over-ripe. (Amazingly the very occasional bramble flower may also still be seen.)

You also see red hips on rose bushes, black berries on dogwood and – early in the month – the hanging clusters of elderberries. Bizarrely, dogwood can even produce a few flowers during September. Cherry laurel also has black berries but as the month goes on they all fall to the ground. Wayfaring tree (a shrub of downland) may start the month with some red berries but they are all black by its end. Likewise privet berries (both on the narrow-leaved wild bushes and the rounder leaved garden variety if it is not too closely trimmed) can still be green earlier in the month but turn black later.

Trees and shrubs with red berries include rowan, guelder rose and female yews (the latter possibly still ripening to red earlier in the month: by mid month some may be falling to the ground), while the distinctively fluted berries of spindle start the month a dull maroon colour and then ripen to an attractive pink towards its end. Whitebeam berries turn from green to red around mid month (at least this is true of common whitebeam: Swedish whitebeam berries may turn earlier) and holly berries do likewise. The garish orange seed heads of cuckoo pint may just still be seen on shady verges, as can the equally garish ones of stinking iris (mainly but not exclusively found on chalky soils).

Two climbing plants - black and white bryony – leave long strings of their red berries in hedgerows sometimes long after their leaves have withered. On both species they may still be ripening from green to red during the month, though in places they are fully red from the start of the month. Black bryony berries have a more luscious look than those of white bryony, and are more thickly clustered on the stem. White bryony berries are duller, smaller and more spaced out - also much harder to spot. Both are poisonous. In addition you can see red berries on honeysuckle even as it sometimes continues to produce flowers, and the same is true of bittersweet (otherwise known as woody nightshade) whose poisonous berries look alarmingly seductive. Because it can be so late flowering, some bittersweet berries can still be green even late in the month.

Another shrub that is in flower in September is ivy, though its blooms look so unconventional that you may not recognise them as such. It is their sickly sweet smell that usually alerts you to their presence, and the summery sound of buzzing insects, as honeybees, butterflies, wasps and flies are attracted to this important late source of nectar. Timing varies widely from bush to bush and year to year: typically ivy flowers some time in September but it can happen as early as late August or last in places until late in October.

In gardens and semi-wild places firethorn (aka pyracantha) bushes are aflame with great sprays of orange (or very occasionally red) berries; cotoneaster is also covered with red berries and you sometimes see tutsan with its black berries. In similar locations (and also sometimes in wilder spots) snowberries sport white globular berries which will in midwinter will stand out on their otherwise bare twigs (though at this time of year the shrub still has green leaves). This is another plant that also may continue produce new flowers (tiny pink ones) well into September. You may also see some viburnum (strictly a garden shrub) starting to put forth white flowers.

You can still find wild plums of various kinds (including damsons, which look like large oval sloes, and bullaces, which are oval and purple blue or yellowish with a pink blush). Plenty of apples and crab apples also remain on branches, though large quantities of both litter the ground right from the start of the month. In suburban streets fallen berries and fruits can make a squashy mess on pavements: plums, sloes and cherry laurel berries are popular candidates for this..

Nuts and seeds

Nuts have already started falling to the ground in August and this continues in September. By the end of the month the ground crunches underfoot with horse chestnuts (known colloquially as conkers), acorns (on both normal oaks and evergreen ones), beech nuts (or at least the cases they came in: the nuts themselves seem to disappear very quickly, eaten by squirrels, wood pigeons, mice and voles, apparently) and even some sweet chestnuts, though plenty of the latter still remain on the tree. If you are sharp-eyed you may spot ripe hazelnuts early in the month, though squirrels and dormice generally seem to have eaten nearly all of them by now.

(Horse chestnut and sweet chestnuts, incidentally, are not related - sweet chestnuts are actually part of the beech family. Horse chestnuts are eaten by deer and wild boar and used as an emergency food source by some squirrels, but they are mildly poisonous to most British mammals. Sweet chestnuts, by contrast, are food for deer, boar, squirrel, badger, fox and wood mouse, among others.)

Some seeds on trees yellow or even turn brown as the month progresses and from a distance can look like tinted leaves. You can see this with ash and hornbeam, both of which sport big clumps of seeds. Hornbeam seeds may start to fall even when still green, forming thick carpets on the ground. Squirrels feeding on them may be to blame for this, since plenty still remain on the tree.

Squirrels also eat sycamore, field maple and Norway maple seeds while they are still green in July and August, leaving carpets of them under the tree (look closely and you can find the slit where they cut the seed out of its winged casing). You see fallen seeds under these trees in September too, but by now they tend they have increasingly turned brown (especially on sycamore, where they are generally brown from quite early in the month), so may be being shed naturally. Some seeds of all three species also remain on the tree.

Winged seeds litter the ground beneath limes, having fallen off during July and August, though some still remain on the tree. Some of those left may turn yellow but others do not. Birch has fat cylindrical fruits, some already brown at the start of the month, some turning as the month progresses, and some still green at the month's end. If you look closely birch also has the tiny buds of next year's catkins and the same is true of alder and hazel.

The new cones of larch are now brown and almost indistinguishable from last year's ones, which are also still on the tree (the new ones are now open to release the seeds, but not quite as splayed as last year's). On alder this year's cones are still green but sit among desiccated ones from last year. The same is also true of the seed balls on London plane: this year's are green but a few brown ones from last year may still be on the tree.

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