Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Byfield Pocket Park - no news

It is said that once, many years ago, with no big story to attract the public, London newspaper sellers came up with a cunning wheeze. They displayed boards reading: 


The newspapers sold like hot cakes, only for the gullible readers to find that there really was no mention of the monarch. 

The story may be apocryphal but I have always been amused by it, and it came to mind today as I strolled around the eponymous park today. No news!

I scratched my head. I couldn't disappoint my public, thirsting as they do for the latest scandals regarding woodlice, lichens or mosses. There would be mass suicides as distraught
followers hurled themselves from castle battlements or precipitous cliffs.

But sorry folks, it's the same old stuff and you'll have to put up with it.

Winter Aconite, Eranthis hyemalis. Byfield.
25 February, 2015

Spring flowers abounded but, alas, no native plants. Winter Aconites, Eranthis hyemalis, added a splash of gold to a roadside verge near to the park. This native of southern Europe is well established in many places and may tempt a few insect visitors now that the days are getting warmer.

One of the many cultivars of Crocus chrysanthus.
Byfield, 25 February, 2015

Crocuses (Croci?) were present in many gardens. The species shown, Crocus chrysanthus, was perhaps the commonest. About nine species are found growing beyond gardens in Britain but none is a native. The Sand Crocus, Romulea columnae IS native to the U.K. but is sufficiently distinct to be placed in a different genus.

The catkins of hazel are the male flowers.
Byfield Pocket Park, 25 February, 2015

In fact one native plant was in flower in the pocket park. The male flowers of hazels, Corylus avellana, are the catkins. In this first picture the female flowers can hardly be seen but are at the very tip of the twig.

The tiny female flowers of hazel. Byfield
Pocket |\park. 25 February, 2015

This close-up shows the tiny pink perianth. Not Britain's most spectacular wild flower!

The bursting heads of Reed-mace, Typha
latifolia. Byfield. 25 February, 2015

In a tiny pond adjacent to the pocket park the dense flower-spikes of Reed-mace, aka Bulrush, Typha latifolia were beginning to burst and release their tiny seeds. These, attached to woolly hairs, are capable of dispersal over great distance.

The plant grows from a thick underground stem (a rhizome). This is rich in starch and there is evidence that it was used as a food source as far back as 30,000 years ago. 

I understand that tiger nuts are now available for sale in Britain. When I was a child they were a popular sweet (perhaps because wartime conditions made 'normal' sweets unobtainable). They are the rhizome of a true bulrush, Cyperus esculentus, so the eating of rhizomes continues to this day. Plus ca change...

'Nothing is wasted in nature'. This aphorism is generally applied to the recycling of food but can also refer to the utilisation of space as soon as it becomes available. I was reminded of this as I returned to the village via the churchyard.

A yew seedling exploits the niche made
by a rotting stump. Byfield Churchyard.
25 February, 2015

A tree (larch?) had been cut down and, in the rotting stump, a yew seedling was flourishing. Its roots are exploiting a fertile, humus-rich medium and the tree should continue to do well. Yews are popping up all over the area and it seems that this species, given the chance, would become among the most numerous of trees.

And really that's about it. I called in to the Village Club, put the world to rights with friends over a cup of coffee and made my way back to Daventry.

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