Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Nearly there

 I visited Byfield earlier today. The church stood out against a wonderful azure sky and the sun was piercingly bright. If sun and sky were claiming that winter was over they were being mendacious for it was very cold.

Holy Cross Church, Byfield.  18 February, 2015

Summoning up my bulldog spirit I nevertheless struck out for the pocket park to look for some evidence that spring was, if not on stage, at least waiting in the wings.

A liverwort, Lunularia cruciata, on bare soil in
Byfield, Northants.  18 February, 2015

On a patch of bare soil, from which ice was just easing its grip, a bright green patch of liverwort stood out. It was the very common Lunularia cruciata.
A closer view showing a single gemma in a
crescent-shaped cup.

The word 'lunularia' suggests the moon and, as can be seen in a closer look, a crescent-shaped ridge of tissue is present on the thallus. Within this a single gemma is present. This may look seed-like but is better described as a bud. Often many of these gemmae are present in each of these cup-shaped depressions and a raindrop will dislodge them; should they fall on to a suitable spot they will grow and develop further into a new thallus.

The surface of the thallus has a liver-like appearance and, according to the 'doctrine of signatures', this was a sign that the plant could be used for the treatment of liver disorders.

A foolhardy Harlequin Ladybird, Harmonia axyridis.
Byfield, 18 February, 2015
A ladybird, deceived by the bright sunshine, had ventured out from its winter refuge. When I nudged it with my fingertip it only moved sluggishly, suggesting that it was in a rather torpid state. It is, unsurprisingly, a Harlequin Ladybird, Harmonia axyridis. I suspect that this fairly recent arrival on our shores is now Britain's commonest ladybird. This rapid spread is surely helped by the fact that it has been recorded flying at nearly 1,100 metres high and reaching speeds of up to 65 kph! 

Caloplaca aurantia on a sandstone wall.
Byfield, Northants. 18 February, 2015

Dare I mention a lichen? I excuse myself on the grounds that there wasn't much else about. 

Caloplaca aurantia. The ascocarps in closer view.

Growing on a sandstone wall in Church Street it presented a colourful crust among grey and black species. It is Caloplaca aurantia, and is a widespread and abundant lichen. The orange ascocarps, each about 1mm across. have a slightly paler margin to the disc; 'aurantia' comes from the Latin aurum - gold, and in this instance is highly appropriate.

I stayed long enough in Byfield to have a chat with friends and a bite to eat and, a couple of hours later, the sun was at last beginning to get to work.

Clumps of crocuses were present on a grassy verge, their flowers gaping open to tempt a passing bee.  Despite being the 'wrong' colour, the species is Crocus chrysanthus (Greek chrysos - gold) and the variety is almost certainly 'Blue Bird'. 

Another sign that we're nearly there.

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