|Alder twigs. The oval "cones" of last year's fruits lie|
alongside the dormant catkins awaiting the summer.
Daventry, 1 January 2014
In Daventry, silhouetted against unrelentingly grey sky, Alder twigs portray the past and the future, with the past being represented by the cone-like remains of last autumn's fruits. (These are not true cones as what falls from them are fully developed fruits enclosed in an ovary; the pine and its relatives shed naked seeds not enclosed in an ovary.) Alongside these now-redundant structures lies the future - the slim male catkins, still tightly protecting their precious pollen. They are truly "keeping their powder dry"!
|Birch trees bearing catkins|
Byfield Pocket Park, 2 January, 2014
|Catkins on Hazel.|
Byfield Pocket Park. 2 January, 2014
|A closer view of male and female flowers on |
Hazel. Byfield Pocket Park, 2 January, 2014
It was clearly a good strategy for in the buffeting wind (not helpful for photography) the pale yellow catkins were freely releasing their pollen; the small pink female flowers (to the right of the three catkins) stood an excellent chance of being pollinated.
The Daisy can hardly be called a harbinger of spring as it flowers all the year round (Its Latin name, Bellis perennis, could be loosely translated as "forever beautiful") but I couldn't resist photographing one. The flowers receive visits from many small insects and, given a spell of warm sunshine, this one may be in luck.
|Grounsel, Senecio vulgaris. Byfield, 2 January, 2014|
|A closer view of Groundsel, showing the black-tipped|
outer flower bracts. Byfield, 2 January, 2014
|Annual Meadow-grass, Poa annua.|
Byfield, 2 January, 2014
A plant of Annual Meadow-grass (Poa annua) was also in full flower nearby. Like the Daisy and Groundsel it is very common but generally overlooked. Its flowers, small and green, are efficiently wind pollinated. What point would there be in having brightly coloured flowers if there is no need to attract insects?
Finally I make no apology for including a garden plant. Laurustinus, Viburnum tinus, is common, but understandably so , for it it one of the most valuable of all garden shrubs. Its long flowering period takes it through the depths of winter and it receives numerous insect visitors including hoverflies such as Eristalis pertinax. The flowers and fruits are commonly both on the plant at the same time, these fruits leading to it being quite widely naturalised. Its common name of Laurustinus may refer to the laurel-like leaves but it is not related to true Laurels (see blog for 10.3.2013). As a consequence of recent genetic research all species of Viburnum, together with Elders (Sambucus species) have now been removed from the Caprifoliaceae and placed in the Adoxaceae Family.
|Fruits and flowers together on Viburnum tinus.|
Garden in Byfield, 2 January, 2014