Identify fruits and seeds

Field maple seeds
Look out for fruits and seeds - like these field maple seeds (Photo: Ben Lee/WTML)

As autumn approaches, all sorts of fruits and seeds are ripening. Many of them are a tasty snack for birds and animals, as well as for us. How many of these can you spot in woods and hedgerows?

Blackberries

Blackberries
Look for glossy blackberries (Photo: Margaret Barton/WTML)

The glossy, purple-black fruits of the bramble are everywhere in late summer and there’s nothing more satisfying than going blackberrying and coming home with a haul of juicy berries. They’re high in Vitamin C too. Why not try some of our delicious blackberry recipes?

Did you know… after World War I, there was a food shortage and children were given time off school to pick blackberries for a government jam-making scheme. They even got paid!

Conkers

Conkers in cases
Find conkers scattered around horse chestnut trees (Photo: Margaret Barton/WTML)

The seeds of the horse chestnut fall from trees in September and October. For centuries, children have used them to play a traditional game. Why not find out how to play conkers and have a go? Or you could make these cute conker models.

Did you know… the World Conker Championships takes place every October in Southwick, Northamptonshire.

Acorns

Acorns
Acorns are green at first, then turn a gleaming brown when ripe (Photo: Ben Lee/WTML)

The fruit of the oak tree is an important food for birds, insects and animals, including squirrels, who like to hide them away for later. See if your memory is as good as a squirrel’s by trying our fun acorn hunt activity, or use the ‘cups’ to make these colourful wool acorns.

Did you know… a mature oak tree can produce 2,000 acorns in a year but only around one in 10,000 will grow into a tree.

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts
Hazelnuts grow in little clusters (Photo: Pete Holmes/WTML)

These nuts begin to ripen in early September. Pick them when they’re still green as otherwise the squirrels will beat you to it. Leave them in a place that’s warm, dark and dry until the outer casing goes papery.

Did you know… the hazel was believed to be a magical tree and sometimes people used to carry hazelnuts as charms to ward off evil.

Elderberries

Elderberries
Look for little black clumps of elderberries (Photo: Margaret Barton/WTML)

Look out for these on elder trees in woodlands and hedgerows. They’re great added to fruit crumbles and jam, but don’t eat them straight from the tree as they can make you sick if they’re not cooked.

Did you know… elderberries have long been used in folk medicine. They’re especially good when you’ve got the sniffles.

Sloes

Sloes
Sloes grow on blackthorn trees (Photo: Margaret Barton/WTML)

These large, blue-black berries appear on the prickly blackthorn in late summer. Birds love them, and they’re often used to make jam and to flavour alcoholic drinks.

Did you know… freezing releases more of the sugar in the berries so people often waited until after the first frost to pick them. Nowadays, we can just pop them in the freezer.

Rose hips

Rosehips
Fat red rose hips grow on dog rose bushes (Photo: Margaret Barton/WTML)

These are the fruits of the rose, and the best ones are found on the wild dog rose. They’re packed with Vitamin C and can be used to make syrup, jam and herbal tea.

Did you know… rose hips have hairs inside to protect the seed. The hairs are sometimes used to make itching powder for pranks!

Haws

Haws on a hawthorn
Keep your eyes peeled for shiny red haws (Photo: Ben Lee/WTML)

The fruits of the hawthorn are a nutritious treat for birds and small animals, and can be used to make jellies, wine and ketchup.

Did you know… if you eat them straight from the bush, the seeds produce a tiny amount of the poison cyanide during the digestion process so you might feel a bit sick!

Ash keys

Ash keys
Ash keys hang in clumps (Photo: Margaret Barton/WTML)

You’ll see these bunches of winged seeds hanging from ash trees around this time of year, and they often stay on the tree through much of the winter, getting more and more dry and brown until they eventually fall. Some people like to pickle them in vinegar when they’re still young and green.

Did you know…they’re a favourite food of bullfinches so look out for these chubby, rosy-breasted birds snacking on them.

Remember: foraging is great fun but:

  • don’t eat anything unless you’re absolutely sure what it is
  • be careful not to trample surrounding plants
  • make sure you leave plenty for wildlife.

Which fruits and seeds have you spotted? Share your pictures using #NatureDetectives.

Which fruits and seeds have you spotted?

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