Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Stefen Leys Pocket Park - again

Tuesday, 3 March, turned out to be a fine day. The bitter wind which has plagued us for the last 72 hours, and had hindered me in my quest for blogworthy material, has eased off to just a breeze. I took advantage of the conditions to have a stroll around Stefen Leys Pocket Park.

Aspen, Populus tremula, showing the
distinctive bark. Stefen Leys Pocket Park.
Daventry. 3 March, 2015
There are quite a few aspen trees, Populus tremula, present, easily recognised by the distinctive patterning of diamond shaped impressions on the bark. The trees throw out lots of suckers from which other trees grow and a clump of aspen may prove to be just one clone. A similar situation usually exists with regard to elms.

The bark was - and is - highly esteemed by herbalists and my copy of 'Potter's Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations' suggests that it may be 'freely given' in cases of 'debility, indigestion, faintness, hysteria... gonorrhoea, gleet and other urinary complaints'. Gleet was new to me but Chamber's Dictionary tells us that it is 'a viscous, transparent discharge'.  Hmmm.

Turkey-tail, Trametes versicolor on dead
aspen. Stefen Leys Pocket Park, Daventry
3 March, 2015

Dead and dying stumps of aspen bore clumps of Turkey-tail, Trametes versicolor. I have mentioned this fungus species in previous blogs but that is hardly surprising as it is with little doubt the commonest of Britain's wood-rotting species. In older books it is called Coriolus versicolor. Throughout the winter clusters of this fungus have kept appearing and then dying off, only to be replaced by new patches.

Drifts of snowdrops remain from my previous visit. The perianth segments of the flowers (it is not clear whether they should be regarded as petals or sepals) will remain until fertilisation has taken place, but with bees sensibly not venturing out the flowers should remain as they are for some time yet. Many people love snowdrops but I am not one of their ranks. To me galanthophilia is a strange malady but thankfully any outbreaks are over by May.

As far as I know the pocket park is not subject to any management regime so, although it has great potential, it is quite limited in terms of wildlife (I would like to be proved wrong on this point). The situation is not helped by people dumping litter there and leaving dog faeces everywhere.

Someone (the local authority?) has gone around spraying these droppings with a bright orange spray and hundreds of these patches now highlight the mess in a way which, hopefully, will shame dog owners into clearing up.

Limax flavus in Stefen Leys Pocket Park, Daventry.
3 March, 2015

Someone had dumped some bedding at one point and, reprehensible though the act was, I found on turning it over that it had provided a congenial home for at least a hundred specimens of the Yellow Slug, Limax flavus. This is one of our larger slugs (up to about 10 cms) and is frequent in gardens.

Spawn of the Common Frog, Rana temporaria. Stefen
Leys Pocket Park, Daventry. 3 March, 2015
A short distance away was the pocket park's only pond. I was pleased to see that it contained 20-30 masses of frog spawn. There were more frogs in the water still mating so, barring disease or interfering humans, there should be plenty of tadpoles around in a month or so. The species involved was the Common Frog, 
Rana temporaria.

(Rana is the generic name of our commonest European frog; Ranunculus, meaning 'little frog' is the generic name for buttercups. I have read several explanations for describing buttercups as little frogs but to me none seems satisfactory.)

Mounds of the Yellow Meadow Ant,  Lasius flavus.
Stefen Leys Pocket Park, Daventry. 3 March, 2015

Several species of ant will build mounds. The commonest of these species is the Yellow Meadow Ant, Lasius flavus. A few mounds are present in a grassy area of the pocket park and, although I will do a check in mid-summer, I have no doubt that Lasius flavus is responsible. 

Research has shown that the microclimate inside these mounds is remarkably constant in terms of temperature and humidity. If necessary the adult ants will move the various juvenile stages to the most favourable spot. So, far from being dumps of waste material left simply as a consequence of the ants' burrowing activities, they are well-organised structures of considerable complexity. 

Snowdrops, frog spawn... Things are now moving ahead nicely but I won't tempt fate by dwelling on this issue. (We had a flurry of snow a few hours later!)

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