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Why is this a 'mast year'?

Any ideas? I certainly had not got a clue until a few moments ago when I watched Countryfile and all was revealed.

Its a year when a 'masting' phenomenon occurs in which an abundance of forest fruits are produced.

When I look at Wikipedia it also says it refers to a 'heap of nuts' and the term 'mast' comes from the old English word "maest" meaning the nuts of forest trees that have accumulated on the ground, and especially those used as food for fattening pigs, so I suspect for the wild boar in the Forest of Dean, this is great news!

There are even two types of 'mast' - hard and soft.

The hard mast consists of tree species such as oak, beech and hickory producing  acorns, hickory nuts and beechnuts.

On the other hand, other tree and shrub species produce a soft mast - leaf buds, catkins, true berries, drupes and rose hips.

Oak
elderberries Elderberries
Hawthorn berries on the tree Hawthorn berries
Acorns on an oak tree Oak

Believe it or not, no one really seems to know what causes a mast year which I suppose adds to the fascination. It is thought that weather and climate plays a major part, but certain trees such as the Beech for example, do seem to go through cycles of mast years every five to ten years.

So what does this mean for our wonderful British woodland? Well the seed-eating animals and birds such as grey squirrels and jays will undoubtedly take advantage of the bounty to hoard supplies for the winter, but this year there will be far more than they can all eat which means lots more seeds surviving next Spring and germinating. That will be wonderful for our woodlands for lots of natural regeneration.And for the rest of us, we can enjoy the wonders of nature and the abundance of fruit and shortly the glory of autumn colour.

Perhaps we can also just wonder whether the old wives tale will ring true that lots of berries means a harsh winter ahead and time to cosy up in front of that log burning stove!

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