Thursday, 26 March 2015

Woodford Halse: St Mary's Church

Chris was in Woodford Halse yesterday for a tonsorial operation. As it was likely to take about an hour and a half I took a stroll - not for the first time - around the churchyard of the St Mary the Virgin. 

It is a large area, neat and tidy in places but very neglected elsewhere.

Some of the graves were so overgrown that only a protruding piece of masonry revealed their whereabouts.

The Yellow Meadow-ant had played its part too with large mounds covering graves here and there. In these mounds root aphids will be farmed. For most of the year they will provide the ants with honeydew but during the winter many of the aphids will be eaten.

There are some fine trees in the churchyard including some lovely examples of Lawson's Cypress, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (not to be confused with the notorious Leyland Cypress). Currently the male cones are a beautiful wine-red colour, giving the whole tree a striking appearance.

Cones on a cedar. St Mary's churchyard, Woodford Halse,
Northants. 26 March, 2015

A rather fine cedar tree stands to the rear of the church. From the form of the needles I believe it to be Atlantic Cedar, Cedrus atlantica. The cones are streaked with white dribbles of resin.

A yellow coating to a cone on this cedar is probably algal growth.
St Mary's churchyard. 26 March, 2015

The cones are rather persistent and in one case the cone had been there for so long that it had developed an odd yellowish patina of (presumably) algae. Here it can be seen that the leaves are grey-white, showing it to be the popular cultivar 'Glauca'.

I had no intention of delving into the tussocky grass but even so there were insects to be seen, including an attractive ladybird, so glossy that the edges if the wing cases appear blurred.

It was a 10-spot ladybird, Adalia decempunctata, but not with the typical patterning; it was the less common form  
decempustulata, a variation I had not seen before. It is one of the smaller of the British ladybirds, being only 4 mm long.

Sitticus pubescens blending in against a lichen-scabbed
gravestone. Woodford Halse. 26 March, 2015

Also difficult to photograph clearly - for obvious reasons - was this well-camouflaged spider. It is Sitticus pubescens, one of the jumping spiders. It is commoner around buildings than in the open countryside, and will occasionally find its way into our houses. Again it was tiny - barely 3 mm long, and had it not moved I would probably not have spotted it.

This early in the year there was little else of note but I had just left the churchyard when I saw a plant of Nipplewort, Lapsana communis, growing at the base of a wall.

The fungal rust, Puccinia lapsanae. has attacked this
Nipplewort. Woodford Halse, 26 March, 2015

The species is very common but this example had grossly distorted and discolored leaves, the result of an attack by a rust, Puccinia lapsanae.
 It is widespread, but I had not seen it for many years.

So, only an hour's break but imo time well spent. And Chris's hair looked very nice too.

Tony White. E-mail:

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