What’s happening on Holmwood Common?

Pussy willlow on Holmwood Common Surrey

Work is continuing at Fourwents to try and return the pond to a healthier state...

We’re pleased to say that this project is progressing well, even though at the time of writing there’s only a large muddy depression where the pond used to be. The fish have all been removed and when all the digging work is completed we'll start planting new vegetation. The islands will have low fences on them to help protect the plants.

Pussy willow pollen – food for moths and butterflies

Goat willow or Pussy willow (salix caprea) is in flower now, displaying its furry catkins and is very much associated with spring. Although it’s a bit of a weed, it does have its uses: 

  • The catkins provide an early source of pollen and nectar with several species of moths using it as a food plant for their young 
  • Traditionally willows were used to relieve pain, with the painkiller aspirin being derived from salicin, a compound found in the bark of all salix species

But, most relevant to the Common, the caterpillars of the purple emperor butterfly also lay their bright green eggs on it so that their caterpillars can eat the leaves. We have small numbers of this butterfly but they are hard to spot. This is because they’re normally found high in the tree canopy feeding on aphid honeydew. Occasionally, however, they can be seen at ground level feeding on the salts found in dog poo!

Don’t forget to pop along to our Cadbury Egg Hunt on Saturday 15 April.

Rob Adam, Area Ranger