Friday, 19 June 2015

More pottering around

Chris and I haven't been well for three or four days now - some sort of virally thing. Chris doesn't let illness inhibit her but has carried on as usual. I've been a brave soldier but have just pottered around. For much of my life I've been careful not to overtax my strength, so no big change there.

Mines on False Oat-grass, Arrhenatherum elatium.
Byfield, Northants. 17 June, 2015

Yesterday morning (Wednesday, 18 June) I had a stroll along the edge of Byfield Pocket Park and was much exercised by leaf mines on False Oat-grass. Many leaves had been affected but whatever had created them had up and gone. The most likely culprit seems to be a tiny moth, Elachista gangabella, known as the Yellow-barred Dwarf. But without the larva or imago (adult) I can't make a positive identification, and there are other possibilities.

Gorse Shieldbug in my garden
Stefen Hill, Daventry. 17 June, 2015
The afternoon saw me reduced to wandering around the garden, but a surprise awaited me. A green shieldbug was clambering up a metal post near the back fence and a close look confirmed that it was a Gorse Shieldbug, Piezodorus lituratus. What was it doing there? I then realised that a neighbour's broom plant hung over the fence a few feet away. Broom is an acceptable, though less common, host for this bug.

We were off in the evening to Wardington, visiting Pettifers, a very fine garden much featured in gardening magazines. It was an outing arranged by the Boddington and District Gardening Association. The backbone of the garden consisted of - perhaps predictably - fairly mundane plants. Rare and unusual plants are all very well but dependable and long-flowering species are required for a good basis.

Linaria dalmatica showing the long spurs on the flowers.
Pettifers, Wardington, Oxon. 17 June, 2015

I was much taken with a glaucous-leaved toadflax, Linaria dalmatica. Toadflaxes are closely related to snapdragons but the former have petals so shaped as to form long spurs. These structures, which contain nectar, can be easily seen in the picture. Dalmatia, a long coastal region of Croatia, has produced many fine plants and I have Geranium dalmaticum in my front garden at the moment.

Aquilegia petals are also spurred.
Stefen Hill, Daventry. 19 June, 2015

Speaking of spurs, Aquilegia plants, though quite unrelated to toadflaxes, bear a similar structure. The word Aquilegia refers of course to an eagle (Latin aquila - eagle) as a spurred petal bears a fanciful resemblance to an eagle's bill.

A petal showing the hooked eagle's bill.

The shape becomes more obvious if a single petal is removed, showing the hooked bill facing left. It is so tempting to get a ball-pen and draw in an eye.

Tropaeolum speciosum at Pettifers.
17 June, 2015
Generally speaking the plants were thriving but I found Tropaeolum speciosum struggling for survival beneath more robust plants. This lovely climber, though a native of Chile, is often known as the Scottish Flame Flower as it flourishes in the cool, moist climate of western Scotland. At Pettifers it seems the conditions were not at all suitable. Strangely, it too, has long spurred flowers, so these structures have evolved in several unrelated families.

This Rhamnus species (Rhamnus cathartica?) formed
a large tree at Pettifers. 17 June, 2015
A large, rather gloomy tree caught my attention, clearly a species of buckthorn. Most buckthorns (Rhamnus species) are little more than shrubs but this was quite a hefty tree and I thought briefly (there was no one to ask at that moment) that it was Rhamnus prinoides, a species rarely seen in Britain, but on reflection it was probably Rhamnus cathartica. Again, this is normally a shrub but given the chance it will make a decent-sized tree but this was the largest I'd ever seen.

I wandered around as the evening gloom began to descend, very much enjoying the wealth of plants but by now I was almost alone. It was time to join the others in the house where wine was being served.

All in all I was too busy to feel ill and it turned out to be a very interesting day.

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