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.

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