Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Of Zeller's Midget and other things

In these short winter days the naturalist tends to note things which might otherwise be overlooked.

Byfield's pocket park is home to a couple of Holm Oaks, Quercus ilex, and I noticed today that several of the leaves have been mined by a very small moth with a very long name, Phyllonorycter messaniella, otherwise known as Zeller's Midget. The species is widespread across the south and midlands of Britain but becomes very rare further north. This is probably the first record for Northamptonshire. It is named after Philipp Christoph Zeller, who first described the species.                                                
                                                                  At the edge of the pocket park is a small pond which has been colonised by Common Reed-mace, Typha latifolia, often called Greater Bulrush. This is one of several plants I intend to monitor over the next few months with the hope of recording the Bulrush Wainscot, a moth yet to be recorded in the park.

Reed-mace or Bulrush? This is a long running argument. Reed-mace is regarded as the older name but apparently a Victorian painter produced a picture of "Moses in the Bulrushes" and illustrated it with Reed-mace (instead of the "true" Bulrush, Scirpus lacustris). This is said to be the source of the confusion but the argument persists. Indeed, in Northamptonshire pubs the talk is of little else. The problem is avoided in North America where these plants are called Cat-tails.  

Greater Reed-mace Typha latifolia in Byfield Pocket Park


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