Monday, 30 September 2013

Brighton Break

Elms in a Brighton street. 27 September 2013
In a word association game, anyone given the word 'Brighton' will inevitably respond with 'elms'. No? Well, they should. The first photograph shows a rather mundane street in Brighton but the roadside trees are elm. Anywhere else in Britain this would be a most unusual sight but in Brighton there are thousands of such trees - over 17,000 at the last count. 
A 'Weeping Elm' near to the Royal Pavilion.
26 September, 2013

Elsewhere in the town there are finer examples, some even being rather famous. The next example, a specimen of Ulmus glabra 'Horizontalis' was photographed in a park adjacent to the Brighton Royal Pavilion. It might be assumed that these trees are naturally resistant to Elm Disease but in fact their survival is due to a very well organised 'sanitation' program which quickly identifies, and deals with, any outbreak of the disease. As most people
are aware the disease is caused 
by a fungus carried by the beetles, Scolymus scolymus and Scolymus multistriatus. 

No doubt I am a philistine, but I found this park far more interesting than the Royal Pavilion. Of course there were the usual street pigeons (feral Rock Doves) and Wood Pigeons strutting around but, staying aloof from these, was a Stock Dove. This is a slightly less common species, perhaps often overlooked,  and lacking any of the bold markings borne by its relatives.

Stock Dove in the gardens adjacent to the Royal
Pavilion, Brighton. 26 September, 2013

A calliphorid fly, Stomorhina lunata, taken in gardens
beside the Royal Pavilion, Brighton.
26 September, 2013
I was stooping down to take a closer look at this bird when I spotted a rather unusual fly on nearby foliage. Fortunately (but not for the fly) I managed to catch it and, once home,  was able to identify it as Stomorhina lunata. This relative of the blowflies is described in Peter Chandler's Checklist as an "occasional vagrant". It is more at home in southern Europe where it apparently feeds on locust eggs. There are yellow bars on the abdomen, rather like some hoverfly species, and there is striping on the eyes reminiscent of certain Horse Flies. Is it established in southern England? If it is breeding here it may feed on grasshopper eggs, after all a locust is really a large grasshopper. 

Another insect to catch the eye was the familiar Green Shieldbug, Palomena prasina.
Although it is bright green throughout the summer months, it takes on dull brown colours to overwinter. The specimen I photographed was in a transitional stage; it will eventually hide itself away under dead leaves or some such material and remain concealed until spring.
Green Shieldbug, Palomena prasina, in the gardens
of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton 26 September, 2013

Indian Pokeberry, flowers.
Gardens beside Royal Pavilion, Brighton

By and large the park was planted up with commonplace species but I was pleased to see a few plants of Indian Pokeweed, Phytolacca acinosa in the flower beds. This species is frequently bird-sown and the fact that the plants weren't labelled suggested that they weren't a deliberate planting. 

Indian Pokeberry , Phytolacca acinosa ,in fruit.
Brighton, 26 September, 2013
Although birds eat the berries with impunity they are poisonous to humans unless carefully cooked. It has a long flowering season; some flowers were yet to open but elsewhere there were fully ripened fruits.   

I could have spent more time in these gardens, and many people less strong-willed than myself would have lingered on to give more attention to the fungus, Melampsora hypericorum affecting the leaves of a St John's Wort. 
Hypericum rust, Melampsora hypericorum,
affecting St John's Wort. Brighton, 26 September, 2013

...but there were other places to visit and other scenes to enjoy and I tore myself away. 

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