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Blackberry crop threatened by record dry spring

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 14:19 UK time, Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Guest blogger Beverley Gormley from the Woodland Trust on why the warm, dry spring is not good news for this classic late summer fruit.

I've been blackberry picking every summer for as long as I can remember. As a child, a group of us would take empty carrier bags and plunder the local bramble bushes. Still to this day, as we get further in to summer, I check out every bramble I pass looking for those first plump, ripened fruits.

bramble

Bramble and bryony (E Jane / WTPL)

This year, the pleasure of seeing that first ripe blackberry is likely to come earlier than in previous years. Data collected by the Woodland Trust's Nature's Calendar survey over the past decade shows the average date for ripening has been the first week of August.

But with bramble already well into flowering, ripe fruit will not be long behind, so this year's crop could be much earlier. While this may sound like good news for blackberry pickers, an earlier crop is also likely to be a smaller crop.

gatekeeper butterfly

Gatekeeper butterfly (Patrick Roper / WTPL)

This year's unseasonably warm, dry spring means that the blackberries haven't received all of the rain they need to produce the plump fruits we love so much. This could have a huge impact on the species that depend on them. Blackberries are a vital food supply for a wide range of mammals such as badgers, dormice, hedgehogs and foxes; birds like blackbirds, bullfinches, chaffinches, magpies and song thrushes; and insects including butterflies, wasps and moths.

conker

Ripe conkers (Margaret Barton / WTPL)

Blackberries are not the only natural icons of childhood at risk due to this warm, dry weather; conkers could also yield a smaller crop this year. The Woodland Trust have looked back at records spanning the last 70 years for horse chestnut flowering and found the average date for flowering in 2011 was earlier than in previous years. Like blackberries, this means that conkers are likely to be early but not as plentiful or high quality as in previous years.

We anticipate the first blackberries will ripen in the next few weeks. You could help us monitor exactly when by telling us on the Nature's Calendar survey when you see first them. You can also 'score' the yield when you log your sighting. Your observations will help us track how climate change is affecting blackberries and the species that depend on them. Find out where to spot blackberries and learn more about brambles with our free guide.

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