Autumn Fruits, Berries and Seeds

Autumn is the time when wild fruits, berries and seeds are a-plenty. Although we like to harvest some of these they are a really important source of food for all sorts of wildlife.

Information and Activities

Autumn Berries

Birds love berries and eat brambles, haws (hawthorn berries), rosehips, rowan berries and elderberries in winter.

The bright berries are easy for birds to see. They eat the juicy part of the berry but the seed comes out in the bird’s poo and often grow into new plants!

As you can see other animals love berries too!

Brambles are thorny shrubs that give us blackberries or brambles in the Autumn. These black berries are popular with birds and insects. Wood mice, squirrels badgers, pine marten and foxes love them too! Also see the Bramble section on the Woodland Trust web site.

Hawthorns (haws) - small birds like tits and thrushes love the berries of the hawthorn shrub. The spiky branches also protect them from predators. Also see the Hawthorn section on the Woodland Trust web site.

Holly - these gorgeous red berries can be seen from November-February,and are really important for birds in winter. Remember male and female holly flowers grow on different plants so when you see red berries on a holly tree is a female tree and if no berries it is a male – unless of course the birds have visited the tree before you get to see the berries! Also See the Holly section on the Woodland Trust web site.

Rowan - these lovely orange-red berries can be seen from August-January. Like many berry trees some caterpillars feed on them, as do birds like redwings, fieldfares, mistletoe thrushes, song thrushes, waxwings and blackcaps. Also See the Rowan section on the Woodland Trust web site.

Blaeberries - This is a deciduous shrub of low to medium height with light green oval leaves. It is found in dense carpet on the floor under Scots pine woodland. After flowering in the spring by mid-summer they produce an edible purple-bloomed black berry, with red juice. The leaves turn to shades of red and yellow in autumn, before dropping off. In winter the shrub is not so visible without its leaves but if you look carefully you will still find some of the small berries on the plant.

Some people think that the Picts (painted or tattooed people) could have used the purple fruits to stain and colour their skin!

Photograph Credit Andy Wilson
Photograph Credit Andy Wilson
Photograph Credit Ron Macdonald
Photograph Credit Ron Macdonald

Autumn Fruits and Seeds

Many trees have fruit such as apple, plums and pears which are harvested in autumn… (note there are young apple trees growing near Shepherd’s Lodge near the Bennachie Visitor Centre).

Other trees have seeds.

Horse Chestnut-bonkers about conkers!

Conkers are the seeds of the horse chestnut tree. You usually find two of these lovely hard brown seeds sitting inside a protective spiky casing, which drop to the ground in autumn.

Autumn is all about battlefield games of conkers! The World Conker Championships take place in Northamptonshire in England every October. You can find Horse Chestnuts on Bennachie growing not far from Rowantree car park.

Jock o' Bennachie

Jock Says: Centuries ago, I remember watching children playing a game like conkers with hazel nuts-conkers only came to Britain from Turkey in the 1600’s!

Watch this video to find out how to play conkers.

How to Play Conkers by the Official International Rules

Important: Don’t eat conkers as they are poisonous!

They are also poisonous to animals because they contain some nasty chemicals. Jock sometimes sees deer on Bennachie eating them as they are able to break down these chemicals.

Horse chestnut trees can grow up to 30 meters tall and can live for 300 years. They are especially beautiful in autumn as their leaves turn from orange to deep red before falling off.

Jock o' Bennachie

Jock Says: If you look carefully at a Horse Chestnut branch you will see why it is called a horse chestnut tree as when the leaf stalks fall off there’s a scar on the twig which looks like an upside down horse shoe!

More about conkers:

A Year In The Life Of A Horse Chestnut Tree

Oak trees produce acorns which are considered nuts, sycamore seeds have V shaped wings have rounded ends. These are one of the most recognisable seeds, also known as 'helicopters' which spin round and pine cones have lots of seeds inside.

Acorns from oak trees - ripen in autumn, much to the delight of red squirrels and jays who collect them, hiding them in the ground to keep them as a food stash that can be used during the cold winter months.

Some of these “hidden “ acorns could grow into young oak trees if the conditions are right.

Once every 2 to 5 years you can get a bumper crop of acorns; in fact 2020 is a good year so keep a look out!

Learn more by exploring these links.

Pine Cones from Scots Pine Trees

Pine cones are the fruiting body and reproductive part of pine trees. The tree's female cones develop as the seeds mature and are usually conical or round shaped. The individual plates on the cones, known as scales, keep the seeds safe from weather extremes and hungry animals, until seeds are mature and it's warm and dry enough to release them to grow into new trees.

Jock loves to see the pine cones falling to the ground in autumn as he knows his hungry pine marten, squirrel, crossbill and siskin pals will need them for winter.

The Woodland Trust can tell us heaps about Pine cones.

Also have a read of When do pine cones fall? And what to do with them.

Wildlife Feeding Signs On Cones

Crafts With Pine Cones

Collect  some  cones (only take what you need and leave some behind for mice or red squirrels) in the Autumn from the forest floor and take them home and allow them to dry out.

As the cones dry out the scales will open up to expose the small seeds inside. Watch this video to learn more.

Time Lapse Pine Cones Opening

Now try making something yourself by having a look at these links.

Christmas Cones

Also See

About Autumn

About Autumn

Autumn starts in September, when Jock 'o Bennachie notices that daylight gets shorter, and it gets colder and wetter.
Birds in Autumn

Birds in Autumn

Learn about migration and the many birds you may spot this Autumn.
Autumn Feeding Birds

Feeding Birds in Autumn

Give your birds a helping hand by feeding them, especially in autumn and winter.
Autumn Fruits, Berries and Seeds

Autumn Fruits

Learn more about the Autumn fruits and seeds and learn how to play "real" conkers!

Autumn Minibeasts

Learn more about what Minibeasts do in the Autumn and how the handle the colder conditions.
Autumn Activities

Autumn Activities

Browse our collection of Autumn activities as well as one from across the web.

Also see our Summer Programme, Spring Programme, Winter Programme and Autumn Programme

If you have enjoyed these activities please share them with your friends and family.