Thursday, 25 September 2014

Old haunts: Byfield Pocket Park

Chris and I regularly revisit Byfield for one thing and the other and I grabbed the chance today for a stroll around the pocket park. It was cool, grey and breezy but I felt optimistic. But first I popped into Lynda Moran's to return some garden tools.

I was intrigued by her plants of "Nasturtium" - Tropaeoleum majus. This native of Peru is familiar to everyone as a colourful and easy-going annual.
Tropaeolum majus. Byfield. 24 September, 2014


The name Nasturtium is confusing, as it was originally applied to the water-cress now known as Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum, but the name, though incorrect, has stuck.

We are used to seeing the leaves of Tropaeolum being eaten by the Caterpillars of the Large White Butterfly, Pieris brassicae but I was surprised to see leaf mines on Lynda's plants.




I can't be certain but I am reasonably sure that the mines are the work of an agromyzid fly, Chromatomyia horticola. 

This Tropaeolum has never excited me although in the form of its flowers it is unusual. It is also useful for scrambling over unsightly drain covers, etc., but a far more attractive member of the genus imo is a climber, Tropaeolum speciosum, sometimes called the Scottish Flame Flower. It is also from the Andes and the cool damp climate of western Scotland, with its acid soils, seems to suit it but, not being able to emulate these conditions, I have never attempted to grow it.

Having returned the tools I continued to the pocket park. Summer was segueing effortlessly into autumn with leaves taking on shades of russet and gold.


Aster lanceolatus at Byfield Pocket Park.
24 September, 2014



On cue, Michaelmas Daisies, Aster lanceolatus, were in flower (Michaelmas Day is 29 September). This is a rather weedy, untidy plant and its flowers are little bigger than lawn daisies but they have the merit of providing valuable nectar for insects late in the year. It is a North American species but has become widely naturalised on waste ground











Although foliage was colouring most leaves were clinging on. I carefully examined them for galls and leaf mines but initially had little to show for my efforts.





Neuroterus albipes on oak at Byfield Pocket Park
Northants. 24 September, 2014



It was not until I examined a Pedunculate Oak, Quercus robur, that I came up with an interesting gall. It was the work of a cynpid wasp, Neuroterus albipes. It is a common species but nevertheless a new record for the pocket park and must rate as one of the more colourful of this group of galls.




Flowers were still wet from overnight rain and were therefore attracting few insects. but many were to be seen on foliage and gateposts.




Helophilus pendulus basking on a leaf.
Byfield Pocket Park, 24 September, 2014


Helophilus pendulus, a smart hoverfly and one the commonest of this colourful genus was on foliage. This female may manage to overwinter but even if she dies her offspring will survive as rat-tailed maggots in the still water of ponds or ditches.







A cicadellid bug, Allygus mixtus. on a gate post at
Byfield Pocket Park.  24 September, 2014

This undistinguished bug (for it is a true bug) was on a gate post near to the base of the aforementioned oak. It is Allygus mixtus, a species often found on oak trees. For obvious reasons little bugs like this are easily overlooked so, although it is common, it was another new species for the site, bringing to total of mini-beasts up to 538. 




...and that was about it. I had to get back to Daventry so, although ivy was in bloom and beginning to attract insects, I called it a day.


Comments?  E-mail: diaea@yahoo.co.uk.















Monday, 22 September 2014

Isle of Wight - the final days

Our heroic efforts of the previous day had sparked off a fierce debate: just how far had we walked? I perused the map and suggested three miles but the others rejected that figure as risible. John, supported by the rest, suggested five to six miles. Hurt by the rejection of my calculations and fearful of mutiny I re-examined the map. Allowing a few wiggles for detours around cow pats, I offered a figure nearer four miles; this received grudging acceptance.

Whatever, we were tired. Predictably Ann and Chris suggested retail therapy as an efficacious remedy and, knowing when we were defeated, John and I threw in the towel. Reaching the main shopping area involved a (short) walk into Cowes. It is not a beautiful town but it is interesting. The architectural styles are worth noting, particularly the brickwork, where bricks from several local sources are used to great effect. These bricks have several different colours and textures depending on the origin of the clay and many attractive patterns have been created.



Wracks exposed by a low tide. Cowes, Isle of Wight.
17 September, 2014
We approached the town via the sea front. The tide was out and several species of seaweed were exposed. We tend to take the organisms for granted but they are really quite remarkable, with a few hours submerged in salty water followed by exposure to perhaps blistering sun, drying winds - or both. You have to be tough to cope with that. Those in the picture are all wracks, with the familiar Bladder Wrack, Fucus vesiculosus, prominent.






The ferry, approaching the quayside, reminded us that we would by departing the next day. It loads and unloads it cargo of vehicles and people near the mouth of the River Medina. Apparently there were once two sand banks nearby, looking like large animals in the water, hence the name "Cowes".



The financial damage turned out to be limited, allowing us to indulge in a lavish evening meal - fish and chips at Corrie's Cabin.

The following day, Thursday, may have been our last day but we weren't booked on the ferry until late afternoon so we had time to visit a favourite spot, Gurnard.

Once a separate village, Gurnard is now a sort of suburb of Cowes. It is reached by a pleasant stroll of a mile or so along the esplanade. 





In the hazy distance dozens of sailing boats were plying back and forth in some sort of race; there seems always to be 'some sort of race' going on. They made a colourful sight but sailing as a pastime has never appealed to me. I was happier crunching along the shingle of the foreshore.





Our destination was a delightful cafe on the sea front and fond memories of delicious food spurred us on. Its name, the Watersedge Beach Cafe summed it up.




Ann and John tucked in with a will



Regular patrons of the cafe risk obesity. It isn't that the food is unhealthy but it is both delicious and reasonably priced - not a common combination. As I say, not really unhealthy but the cream scones and the ice creams... 

The cafe is always busy, a faithful clientele returning again and again.





Castor Oil Plants at Cowes
17 September, 2014
Ann and John drove back into Cowes but Chris and I decided we needed the walk. Following a previous visit to the island I had published a whingeing blog about the unimaginative flower beds adjacent to the sea front. This time I was pleased to see that use had been made of two of my favourite bedding plants.

Castor-oil-plant, Ricinus communis, was one of them. It is an odd species, an atypical member of the Spurge Family and therefore related the Rubber Tree, Hevea brasiliensis and our common garden spurges. The word 'ricinus' mean 'tick', and the bean does indeed look tick-like (but there is a tick called Iloxedes ricinus because it resembles a castor oil bean - a curiously circular situation!)

The plant is notorious as the source of ricin. one of the deadliest naturally-occurring poisons known. Huge amounts of ricin are in the residue left from the production of castor oil but deaths are rare. This seems to be because ingestion of the stuff would induce severe vomiting, thus expelling any ricin from the body before it could enter the blood stream.

The plants being used in this bedding scheme have pinkish inflorescences but a bright red form is more commonly used and is, I think, preferable, having more impact.


Cleome hassleriana  in flower.
Cowes, 17 September, 2014


Cleome hassleriana was also being used (In gardening books it is usually given the incorrect name of Cleome spinosa). For decades it was included in the Caper Family (Capparidaceae) but more recent studies have led to the creation of the Cleomaceae family.






By mid-September the plants were past their best but remained attractive. Its common name of Spider Flower presumably refers to the long, slender fruit capsules. The flowers are available in a wide range of colours from white to a striking purple but here only a muted pink was being used.

After a detour to look at the by-now rather tatty flower beds we resumed our crunching walk along the shingle. Sea shells rarely survive for long in a this kind of environment but the pebbles themselves were of some interest.



The shingle, though largely flint, includes many other stones of interest.























Flints, eroded from the island's chalk deposits, dominated, with pebbles of a harder limestone also present. A good deal of quartz was also in the mix, some in the form of carnelian (aka cornelian). This is an attractive, slightly translucent stone, almost blood-red due to the presence of iron oxides, and I came away with a nice specimen.


Cowes recedes into the distance


Once back we completed our packing and set off for the ferry and, as soon as we were aboard, we made for the top deck. There, sitting in still-glorious sunshine, we watched Cowes slip away into the distance.








Chris and Ann enjoy the late afternoon sunshine on the ferry.
17 September, 2014



When I say we made for the top deck I should mention that John had stayed below, having a snooze. We were due to arrive in Southampton in the middle of the evening rush hour, so he was being very sensible.






The traffic was indeed heavy but, once free of the city, we made excellent progress and were home in good time. Our very welcome break had all been arranged by Ann and John and for that we are very grateful.

Comments? Tony White can be e-mailed: diaea@yahoo.co.uk











Sunday, 21 September 2014

Isle of Wight holiday, part 2

'Twas a day that started off warm and got steadily hotter. 

One of my favourite villages on the island is Brighstone, and it may be reached by a very pleasant cliff-top walk. We parked the car at Hanover Point, a little to the east of Freshwater and set off, the sun's heat steadily increasing. Fields were well fenced to prevent livestock from approaching the sea and a pair of birds flitted ahead of us from post to post. None of us had binoculars but it was clear that they were Wheatears, easily recognised by the flash of white rump as they took to the wing. This rump gives this bird its name, as wheatear seems to be a corruption of 'white arse' (but I bet St Mildred never called them that).

The main season for flowers was over of course, but here and there a splash of colour indicated a tardy bloom.





This tiny thistle was in flower in parched limy soil on the cliff top. I casually thought it was Dwarf Thistle, Cirsium acaulon but failed to examine it properly, so now I have my doubts. It looks more like a stunted knapweed. A lone bee had no misgivings and was happy to take the nectar and move on.






Restharrow on a chalky cliff-top near Brighstone,
Isle of Wight. 16 September, 2014


This plant of Restharrow, Ononis repens, was less problematical, its hairy stems emitting an odd, rather unpleasant smell when rubbed. Its long, tough roots and stems would arrest a harrow in its progress, hence the odd name.








An old Northamptonshire  name for this plant was Fin-weed. John Clare, as a ploughman, was familiar with it and referred to it in his writings:

      Where the blushing Fin-weeds flower,
      Closes up at even's hour.

                                      Clare's Solitude, p.77 





Common Centaury on a cliff-top west of
Brighstone, Isle of Wight. 16 September, 2014



A pink-purple hue is clearly fashionable on the island with Common Centaury, Centaurium erythraea, happy to follow the trend. This pretty relative of the gentians would not look out of place in a rock garden.

George Claridge Druce, in his "Flora of Northamptonshire" uses the now-obsolete word 'pascual' to describe its habitat. It means 'growing on pasture land'.  Centaury does require fairly short turf to flourish and will die out if overgrown by rank herbs.






The erosion along this stretch of coast is severe and in places there were alarming crevices opening up, presaging falls. I felt safe, since these incidents are more likely when the ground is sodden by heavy rain. The island is famous for its fossils and no doubt enthusiastic collectors make for areas where slippage has been reported. The constant exposure of new habitat by these episodes leads to the development of a very interesting flora and fauna and I would have liked a little more time to poke around. However, by this time we were getting peckish. Time for a picnic.





The island is famous for its fossils.

Fortunately all the ground was bone-dry and we had no trouble in finding a thistle-free patch of turf. We lingered perhaps a little longer than we ought, for a little later we began to worry about missing the bus back to the car park - but it was a tasty picnic and for once I completed my snack without butter dripping on to my clothes (picnics often lead to a heavily-laden washing machine once home).





Rebelling against the lilacs and purples, Common Fleabane, Pulicaria dysenterica, still flaunted its canary-yellow flowers although the main season was almost over. As the name suggests, the plant was once regarded as a deterrent to fleas, but I know of no evidence to suggest that it was at all effective.





Hops clamber through a hedge near
Brighstone. 16 September, 2014


As we approached Brighstone the hedgerows were garlanded with Hops, Humulus lupulus. It is an escape from cultivation in many areas but it is a British native and there was no reason to suggest that these specimens were not the genuine wild plant.

The female flower heads, forming short, plump catkins, are well-known for their use in the brewing industry but a pillow filled with hops is considered good for inducing a restful sleep.








We reached Brighstone and were relieved to find that the last bus had not gone.

"Come in and see our fossil dinosaur footprint" trumpeted the local cafe.  Well, we had coffees and then, quivering with anticipation, had a look at the footprint. Hmmm, not terribly exciting.




I recall as a 7-8 year-old, leafing through the pages of an encyclopaedia and being fascinated by an artist's drawing of a small dinosaur, Hypsilophodon foxii. I may have thought that the animal must be fox-like but the name was in fact patronymic, being named after the Rev. William Fox. I mention this because Fox was the curate at St Helen's Church in Brighstone, and it seems likely that he collected the cafe's specimen. He was quite famous in mid-Victorian times and several other extinct creatures bear his name in some form.

Any road, we duly caught the bus and made it safely back to our "home", where Ann and Chris conjured up a delicious curry to crown a very good day.








Saturday, 20 September 2014

Isle of Wight holiday, part 1

Cowes, Gateway to the south

We are taking a shortish break of five days, welcome after the hard work of moving home. And over the last few days I have completed the removal of ten Leyland's Cypress - so the holiday is doubly welcome.

As usual we are going with our very good friends Ann and John Pimm. Chris and I are weary and Ann is still recovering from a serious illness, so the accent will be on leisure and ice-creams. I nevertheless hope to find the strength to take a few wildlife photographs.

The flora and fauna of the island is of considerable interest. Romans called the island Vectis Insula and in various forms this word is a basis for several plant and animal names. There is an orchid, Epipactis phyllanthes var. vectensis; a sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis; a ground beetle, Philorhizus vectensis and an extinct sea urchin, Catopygus vectensis. All completely irrelevant I know, but...

So we set off, hearts aglow. A break at a motorway service station was interesting in one respect. Tree trunks in the car park bore quite a rich assortment of lichens. A few "toughies" have always been able to survive in polluted environments, but the number of species I noted seems testament to the improvement in air quality over recent decades.



Lecanora chlarotera at Rownhams Services beside the M27
14 September, 2014



I counted eight lichens including this attractive Lecanora chlarotera on the bark of a cherry tree. Like several of its relatives the ascocarps (fruiting bodies) look like little jam tarts.








With this in mind, I know all my readers will experience an extra frisson of excitement as they approach motorway service areas. 

It was early evening before we arrived at our destination - a lovely property overlooking the Solent - so, following an excellent meal we simply relaxed and did a bit of chin-wagging (as my grandmother poetically put it).

The following day we made our way over to Haven Street, home of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. The workshops there are currently working on a number of locomotives and have, I suspect, a better "stable" of engines than most preserved railways.


Calbourne, an 0-4-4 loco at Haven Street
Isle of Wight 15 September 2014



Calbourne was in a sidings, looking very smart. Built to a design by Adams, sixty of these locomotives were built from 1889 onwards; this is the only survivor of the class although at one time 19 of them operated on the Isle of Wight.

W11 is a Stroudley "Terrier", built in 1878. After a long working life the engine was bought by Billy Butlin and spent some years at his holiday camp at Pwllheli. He was eventually persuaded to return it to the south coast and it became part of the stock of the I.O.W. Steam Railway. Restoration took thirteen years!








This less satisfactory photograph shows Freshwater, another "Terrier" with a chequered history. Restoration was a considerable task, with a new boiler alone costing around £35,000. It now apparently performs very well but I suspect that neither this nor its companion Terrier are over-used. When I am 136 years old I intend to take it easy too.





Being a bit of a steam enthusiast I could ramble on about the rolling stock for some time. "But," I hear you ask, "what about the wildlife?" 


Pantilus tunicatus at Haven Street, Isle of Wight
15 September, 2014

Of course I couldn't resist surveying the odd shrub or herb and my efforts were rewarded by finding the rather smart mirid bug, Pantilus tunicatus. It isn't rare, and a check of my records showed that I had found it in Byfield Pocket Park some years previously. With its chestnut-red coloration it is quite a handsome insect.





After a very acceptable pub lunch in Haven Street we went to see St Mildred's Church, in Whippingham, but not before being stopped in my tracks and photographing this striking specimen of Fascicularia bicolor (=F. pitcairniifolia) in the pub's car park! 




Fascicularia bicolor in the car park of a pub
in Broad Street, Isle of Wight.15 September, 2014



Hailing from southern Chile this member of the Pineapple Family, Bromeliaceae, is rarely seen (I saw it in southern Italy about five years ago) but appeared to be quite happy in a terracotta pot. It is moderately hardy, tolerating about ten degrees of frost for short periods. Dare I gamble with it in Daventry?





So, what of St Mildred? She came from good stock: Dad was King Merewald of Magonset, Mum was St Ermenburga, a Kentish princess, and her sisters were both saints - Sts Milburga and Milgith! The tiniest fart in that household and you were in trouble, big time!
St. Mildred's Church, Whippingham






The church is oddly impressive. Victorian architecture can be a hotch-potch of styles but this example, though ornate, is nicely balanced and in harmony with the surroundings. Prince Louis of Battenberg, who made a fortune in cakes, is buried in the churchyard. 













Speaking of burials, this large block of stone, possibly covering some sort of tomb, bears the lettering ENTRANCE; rather disturbingly (or perhaps reassuringly) there is no inscription showing EXIT.













The stained-glass windows were striking, but the colours were too garish for my taste. I didn't linger long in the church itself but strolled around the churchyard, which was disappointingly free of obvious insect life.









So, a good and memorable day, every minute packed with seconds. 








Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Daventry Country Park 1

I felt it was likely, on moving to Daventry, that I would spend quite a lot of time at the Country Park. Today I made my first visit, just a recce really, to look around and consider the possibilities.

Few flowers were in bloom. Hedge Bindweed scrambled through bushes and in places patches of Greater Chickweed, Stellaria neglecta, grew alongside the track.






This diminutive member of the Pink Family can hardly be called spectacular; even the most enthusiastic of botanists would hardly get excited about it.








Greater Chickweed, showing the pink stamens.
Daventry Country Park.  8 September, 2014
Nevertheless a close-up of the flowers is quite revealing. The petals are deeply bifid (a common situation in this family) so that there appears at first glance to be ten petals rather than five. The stamens are pinkish but, when all is said and done, it is quite a dull little plant.








Of more interest were the clumps of Angelica, Angelica sylvestris, occupying damp but open areas. The interest arose partly because their size gave the plants considerable impact, but from my point of view they were attractive for the many insects which visited the umbels for a nectar-fest. They play a similar role to the earlier-flowering Hogweed.






The hoverfly Eristalis pertinax on Wild Angelica
Daventry Country Park.  8 September, 2014
The most obvious visitors were hoverflies, particularly species of Eristalis. The photograph shows Eristalis pertinax, a very common member of the genus, easily recognised by the distribution of yellow on the front legs (not obvious in the picture). Of the nine Eristalis species found in Britain this is the one I see most frequently. The gap between the eyes shows that it is a female.


A reservoir forms the heart of the country park and there were large patches of water-mint beside the water. 



Water-mint. Mentha aquatica.
Daventry Country Park.  8 September, 2014

The flowers of this plant normally attract large numbers of insects and I approached them very optimistically. As it happens there were none of the usual greenbottles, etc so I left, devastated.









I pottered along, paying particular attention to blemishes on leaves. These may be caused by fungi, bacteria or mechanical damage. But what I was on the lookout for was evidence of insects or mites.



In some cases the damage is obvious and very disfiguring. Horse Chestnut leaves showed the characteristic mines of a micro-moth, Cameraria ohridella. So much has been written about this pest that I will dwell on it no further.








Galls formed on alder by the mite, Aceria nalepai.
Daventry Country Park., 8 September, 2014


Less obvious, and rather more interesting, were these galls on Alder, Alnus glutinosa. The distribution along the midrib shows that they are the work of a species of mite, Aceria nalepai. The specific name commemorates the great Austrian acarologist (mite expert) Alfred Nalepa. (Valuable information to bear in mind; acarology questions are always cropping up in pub quizzes).


Alder leaf mined by the fly, Phytomyza agromyzina.
Daventry Country Park.  8 September, 2014






Even more interesting were these wavy lines on dogwood (Cornus sanguinea). Not a moth or a mite, these are the mines of a fly, Phytomyza agromyzina. It is probably fairly common but it is a 'first' for me.


The dogwood shrubs were bearing a good crop of fruit.
Daventry Country Park.  8 September, 2014




Although the mined leaf was disfigured, the shrub seemed otherwise healthy and was bearing a good crop of berry-like fruit (they are technically drupes) and will form valuable bird food as they ripen.

The original name of dogwood was dagwood. Apparently the stems were sharpened to a point and used as cattle prods; 'dagger' comes from the same root-word. 



Many other mines and galls were present, but as these are excruciatingly boring for most people I will not dwell on them. It is clear from this cursory visit that the site has great potential so I am likely to become a regular visitor.

e-mail: diaea@yahoo.co.uk








Friday, 5 September 2014

Off to church

I went into Daventry earlier today with the intention of going to church. I walked, as Chris had taken the car to Stratford upon Avon for some retail therapy and I needed the exercise. 

The sun was reluctant to show its face but conditions were mild and the walk was pleasant. 


Pyracantha (Firethorn) with the mines of
Phyllonorycter leucographella.
Daventry, 5 September, 2014



In several places, as I strolled past gardens, I saw Firethorn shrubs with their leaves carrying the distinctive blister mine of the Firethorn Leaf Moth, Phyllonorycter leucographella. It is so common today that it barely merits a mention.











Ash leaflets bore the familiar puckered blister on the midrib, the work of a fly, Dasineura fraxini. As with the previous case, little damage seems to be done to the host.





Entertained by these trivia I pressed on and, some 15 minutes after setting out I was at Daventry's Holy Cross church. As a resolute atheist my destination may seem odd, but I am fond of churches, both for their aura of peace and for their architecture. I also enjoy strolling around churchyards - 'God's little acre' - so often an oasis in an otherwise wildlife-hostile habitat.








From the town's main street I have always regarded this church as rather ugly, with an unsatisfactory hybrid of tower and spire. I went round to the rear and, whilst not completely altering my view, felt a little more kindly disposed. Constructed from warm golden Jurassic sandstone it sat comfortably in the landscape.








Ashlar masonry, Holy Cross Church, Daventry.
5 September, 2014


The blocks of stone were square-cut and closely fitted with very little mortar. This type of masonry, known as ashlar, always creates a pleasing effect, but not all was well.







Serious erosion was eating into some blocks of masonry


Some of the sandstone blocks were of indifferent - indeed, poor - quality and were eroding badly. In some cases mortar had been smoothed over the concave areas of wear and the result was most unattractive.













Ridges of iron oxide (probably limonite, but I am not a geologist) stood out in places. Quite often these ridges form concentric layers in a roughly rectangular form, when they are known as box stone. 









Belemnites, an ancient relative of squids.
Holy Cross Church, Daventry. 5 September, 2014


In some of the blocks fossils abounded, with belemnites being the most obvious. Most of the fossils were badly broken; an experienced palaeontologist could probably have identified much of the material but I could only look, and imagine the ancient sea bed on which these remains had accumulated. 










Someone, with remarkable prescience, had already suitably engraved the church wall. I will forgive the spelling error - in this context the correct spelling is surely 'woz'. 








Next was the churchyard. It will have to await further investigation as today was unremittingly sunless and insect sighting were few. I didn't linger. A visit to the market, from which I came away empty-handed and then a slightly less sprightly walk home and it was back to the job of clearing away more  'Leylandii'.


e-mail: diaea@yahoo.co.uk





Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Byfield: the return

Back to Byfield today to see my old friend Oliver Tynan and also drop off a few letters.

Just before setting out I popped into the garden shed and noticed (I've only been in there 20-30 times!) a wasps' nest clinging to the roof.





I suspect it is a nest started earlier this year and then aborted. I understand that this can happen if there is a sudden cold snap or wet spell. Alternatively the inhabitant(s) may have found themselves trapped as the windows and door are tight-fitting and I can see no other obvious openings.



Anyway, after taking an indifferent photograph I set off and was soon parked up near a cherry tree in Byfield.
Cherry leaf showing mines of Lyonetia clerkella.
Byfield, 2 September, 2014 





Glancing up into the foliage I saw some distinctively curved mines on one of the leaves. They were the work of a moth, Lyonetia clerkella, known as the Apple Leaf Miner. It can occur on several species in the Rose Family, Rosaceae.






Garden Cross Spider, Araneus diadematus, with
Rhingia campestris. Byfield2 September, 2014


Nearby a spider, Araneus diadematus, occupied the centre of its orb web consuming a hoverfly. The victim was rather chewed but close examination showed it to be Rhingia campestris, quite interesting because this insect mimics a small wasp. The mimicry is meant to be a deterrent to predators. It hadn't worked!






So, on to Oliver's garden. It is not only large, but is very time-consuming, with a constant war being waged with Ground Elder. No one who has fought against this plant can remain religious; God would not have created such a species. 



Bittersweet Smudge on Woody Nightshade.
Byfield, 2 September, 2014


In a quiet corner I found an overlooked patch of Bittersweet, aka Woody Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara).  Its leaves had been mined by a micro-moth, the oddly named Bittersweet Smudge, Acrolepia autumnitella.






There was time to visit the churchyard. A nice specimen of Silver Maple, Acer saccharinum. stands there and I was interested to see that the leaves bore galls formed by Vasates quadripedes. 




Vasates quadripedes on Silver Maple.
Churchyard, Byfield, Northants.  2 September, 2014


They turn more or less black as they mature and can be very numerous, as shown. Vasates quadripedes is a mite and its galls were first recorded in Britain in 2002. It now appears to be widespread but, as mites are wingless, the speed with which they have spread is remarkable.








Taxus baccata. Yew with fruit in the churchyard.
Byfield, Northants. 2 September, 2014
Also in the churchyard, the yew trees were in full fruit. These scarlet structures are very berry-like but technically each is an aril, a succulent covering around a seed but which is outside the testa. (Yes, I know, does it really matter?) Anyway they looked very tempting and, although most part of a yew are very poisonous, the aril is not; just don't eat the fruit inside it! Birds and other animals feed on the fleshy aril with impunity.



Rosa rugosa in fruit beside Byfield village hall.
2 September, 2014
Beside the village hall is a short row of Rosa rugosa. The brilliant scarlet fruit looked good enough to eat and indeed they are perfectly edible (if the irritating seeds are removed first). In some parts of the world, where they grow in coastal regions, they are sometimes called "sea tomatoes". Rugose means wrinkled with sunken lines, and the  specific epithet rugosa refers to the wrinkled leaves.






The rugose leaves are very distinctive.



This wrinkled surface of the leaves make the plant instantly recognisable even when not in flower. This is not one of my favourite rose species but it is as tough as old boots and does well even on poor gravelly soil.






So. It was nice to go back, and I will do so many times in the future, "God willing and a fair wind" as Oliver is wont to say.