Monday, 26 October 2015

Within one hundred metres

We haven't yet had, I'm told, a significant frost. Chris has put her foot down - quite rightly I suppose - and I can presently only walk a hundred yards or so. But what a lot can be found virtually on the doorstep.

Convolvulus cneorum, still in flower on 26 October, 2015
Stefen Hill, Daventry.

Late November, and the garden is still full of colour. Shrubby Bindweed, Convolvulus cneorum, has become very popular in recent years, perhaps because gardeners are anxious to find drought-tolerant plants. It is native to coastal regions of Spain, Italy and the Balkans, but copes with our chilly conditions well if placed in a well-drained situation. Not only is it in bloom for me but there are still many flower buds waiting in the wings.

Next to it a plant of Argyranthemum frutescens is smothered in flowers. Again, this can cope reasonably in a sheltered spot despite originating from the Canary Islands. It will be interesting to see if it comes through the winter but, as it is usually employed as a summer bedding plant, I am not over-optimistic.

The Ruby Tiger caterpillar is one of the 'Woolly Bears'.
Stefen Hill,  26 October, 2015

On a chunk of rock was a 'woolly bear' caterpillar, the larva of the Ruby Tiger, Phragmatobia fuliginosa. This is probably the commonest of all the 'tigers' and, feeding on dandelions, plantains and other garden weeds, this should not be a surprise. The caterpillar appeared to be fully grown and was therefore probably seeking a suitable place in which to pupate. 

A poem which I find excessively irritating is Frances Cornford's 'To a Fat Lady seen from the Train'. Apart from being  - by modern standards - very politically incorrect, it shows the poet to be wholly insensitive to any experience outside what may have been her very restricted world. 

                        O why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
                        Missing so much and so much?
                        O fat white woman whom nobody loves,
                        Why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
                        When the grass is as soft as the breast of doves
                        And shivering sweet to the touch?
                        O why do you walk through the fields in gloves
                        Missing so much and so much?

The poet (I will flatter her with that description) sits haughtily in her railway carriage - no doubt first-class - and almost pities a woman strolling through a meadow, apparently assuming that this woman has a sad, narrow life. In fact the woman will observe flowers, butterflies and other insects, mosses and birds. On top of that she will have the breeze in her hair, the scents of the meadow and, with luck, the sun on her back. Meanwhile Cornford will sit there, cocooned in her carriage, only hinting at the lovely texture of the grass. Who, I wonder, is really 'missing so much and so much?'

Quite remarkably, she was the grand-daughter of Charles Darwin, a man who spent such a great deal of time wandering through the fields, presumably also missing so much!

For myself I intend to wander through the meadows for as long as I am able, missing as little as possible.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Stents and sensibility

For the millions worldwide who have been thirsting after my pearls of wisdom, apologies. In fact 'there's been trouble at t'mill', the mill being my heart. A visit to Angie O'Gram at Northampton General Hospital confirmed that a blood vessel perilously close to the heart was severely restricted and I was passed over to Oxford, where a stent was duly inserted. The good news is that I am now I'm as right as a trivet (What does that mean?) but the bad news is that I'll soon be blogging again. To every silver cloud there is a dark lining, as the man said when his mother-in-law died and he got lumbered with the funeral expenses.

I'm to take it easy for two or three days and then gradually increase my exercise, so I'll soon be poring over lichens, mosses and divers other exciting organisms. Heigh ho!

Lots of good wishes have arrived from friends, and for their support I'm very grateful.



Wednesday, 14 October 2015's getting chilly!

Cyclamen hederifolium, the hardiest of the genus.
Our garden. 14 October, 2015

I peered through the bedroom curtains to look for signs of frost, but so far we seem to have escaped it. Nevertheless Sowbread, Cyclamen hederifolium, was in bloom, a reminder that winter is on its way. Some authors, such as John Hutchinson, have opined that it could be a British native. Certainly it was recorded from Kent in 1778, but it is generally regarded as an introduction.

I had jobs to do in Daventry and, needing some exercise, I decided to walk. My journey took me through some rather dreary areas of housing - or at least, they could have been dreary but, for the gimlet-eyed naturalist...

Hawthorn 'berries' are ripening. Daventry.
14 October, 2015
Fruits were to be seen everywhere. These haws are beginning to soften and become more palatable to birds. Specialists like the hawfinch, Coccothraustes coccothraustes (Don't you just love that name!) are quite rare and certainly unlikely to be seen in suburban Daventry. But many other birds will feast on the haws even if they haven't got the hawfinch's ability to crack open the stone.

Firethorn in fruit, Daventy. 14 October, 2015

Even more common were shrubs of firethorn, Pyracantha coccinea. Both yellow and red cultivars were to be seen everywhere and, again, will be much appreciated by birds as temperatures drop. It is a good plant for the naturalist's garden as the flowers are rich in nectar.

Firethorn Leaf-miner. Daventry. 14 October, 2015

Firethorn and hawthorn are closely related members of the Rose Family, Rosaceae, so it is not surprising that they are attacked by similar insects. Here the Firethorn Leaf-miner, Phyllonorycter leucographella, has formed its characteristic blister-mine on a leaf...

It also affects hawthorn. Daventry, 14 October, 2015

...whilst on a nearby hawthorn a leaf is under attack from the same species. It was first recorded in Britain as recently as 1989 but has since spread very rapidly. It is a native of southern Europe.

A nearby species of Berberis was unaffected, being not at all related to the Rosaceae. I make no claim to be an expert on these shrubs, but I believe this is Berberis wilsoniae.

Two minutes further on an I came to a Eucalyptus tree, more precisely Eucalyptus gunnii, and paused (I do a lot of pausing!) to look at the 'leaves'.

The cladodes of Eucalyptus gunnii. Daventry.
14 October, 2015
In fact this tree has no leaves but, like many eucalypti, bears instead structures called cladodes. These are flattened sections of stem which have the same functions as leaves. A true leaf always has a tiny bud (an axillary bud) in the angle between the leaf and the stem. As can be seen from my photograph, no such bud exists.

This species blooms in mid-winter and the flower buds were swelling in anticipation.

Wild Privet was heavy with fruit.
London Road, Daventry. 14 October, 2015

Another shrub producing a heavy crop of fruit was Wild Privet, Ligustrum vulgare. This is not to be confused with the privet of garden hedges, which is Ligustrum ovalifolium, from Japan. The latter does produce fruit of course, but not in abundance. If the fruit look like little black olives, that is because they are closely related, being in the same family.

So, a potentially tedious walk turned out to be quite 'fruitful' and I was in Daventry in double-quick time, to be greeted by a lovely bank of white Cyclamen. This time it was (I think) Cyclamen coum, a species with far more rounded leaves.

A snow-white form of Cyclamen coum, London Road, Daventry, Northants. 14 October, 2015

Monday, 12 October 2015

Odds and ends around Byfield

Chris and I popped over to Byfield today to 'sit' for Jane. Her daughter Harriet is a delightful child but needs lots of care and support; that is where Chris comes in. On arrival at Byfield Chris dropped me off at the village centre and continued on to Jane's and I made my way by foot.

As I strolled through the village a pleasant, honeyed fragrance wafted towards me at intervals; the ivy was in full bloom. Insects of many kinds were taking advantage: a comma butterfly flitted past; a hornet buzzed away as I approached a little too closely and bluebottles were feasting at the flowers.
Palomena prasina, a final-stage instar.  Byfield, Northants.
12 October, 2015

A little less likely was a Green Shieldbug, Palomena prasina. Common certainly but not always to be seen at flowers. It was at the final instar stage; its final moult will see it emerge as an adult, with fully-formed wings.

A female Eristalis tenax on ivy. Byfield,
Northants, 12 October, 2015
And of course there were hoverflies, dozens of them, all bee mimics of some sort. The one shown is Eristalis tenax. Known as the Drone Fly it does have some resemblance to a Honey Bee drone. It is a hardy insect and will sometime emerge in the depths of winter, prompting newspaper reports of 'honeybees' in January. The presenters of BBC's 'Gardeners World' are caught out too, where this insect is often filmed as the presenters chatter on about 'bees'. 

Ribes odoratum. Bell Lane, Byfield. 12 October, 2015

Down Bell Lane a Buffalo Currant, Ribes odoratum, was an arresting sight. In the U.S.A. it is sometimes called the 'Spice Bush', helping to explain the specific Latin name, but the fragrance escapes me (or perhaps it is reduced in Britain). It has pretty yellow flowers but I have never heard anyone refer to its amazing autumn colour. Perhaps it should be grown more often.

Steatoda nobilis (female). The Twistle, Byfield,
Northants. 12 October, 2015
At Jane's a common but nonetheless quite interesting spider was scuttling across a window ledge. Much is heard about the False Widow Spider, Steatoda nobilis, (and I had an encounter with one recently on the Isle of Wight). It has a unpleasant, but not dangerous, bite

This is its smaller, harmless and very common relative, Steatoda bipunctata. With a glossy, dark brown abdomen and a variable white streak down its back, it is easily recognised.

The species seems to have a penchant for door jambs on rarely-used garden sheds and, as in this case, windows, where its retreat is often beneath the sill. It is probably one of the first species with which an arachnologist becomes familiar. The four 'dorsal punctures' which give the species its name are points of muscle attachment.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Walking for Children in Need

All over Britain sponsored walks are being organised this weekend to raise money for the BBC's Children in Need campaign. Locally a walk was setting out from Byfield with a meeting point at the Cross Tree.

Chris and I decided to go and were pleased when Jacqui agreed to come with us. About twenty people duly assembled. 

Lovely weather was the icing on the cake.

Angelica was blooming near Byfield Pool.
11 October, 2015

We wound our way out of the village via The Twistle and were soon heading towards Boddington Reservoir. This took us across sheep pastures and some wet ground adjacent to Byfield Pool where Angelica, Angelica sylvestris, was still in flower. This plant generally attracts many insects but at this time of the morning was still in shade

Speckled Wood basks in the sun near Boddington
Reservoir. 11 October, 2015

Elsewhere the morning was warming up and the occasional Speckled Wood butterfly, Pararge aegeria, was taking advantage of the conditions.

Once arriving at the reservoir I prudently zipped up my jacket; a brisk breeze was keeping the nearby wind turbine moving and dinghy sailors busy doing whatever dinghy sailors do. A rather late pair of Common Terns were making the most of the conditions before heading for southern Africa.
Musk Mallow. Note the deeply dissected leaves at the
 lower right of the picture. Boddington Reservoir.
11 October, 2015

On the stony reservoir bank Musk Mallow, Malva moschata was flowering in its less common white form, with the usual bright pink blooms nowhere to be seen. A limestone gravel formed the embankment perimeter path and this plant, with its liking for alkaline conditions, seemed strong and healthy.

Wild carrot. In the centre of the umbel a single red flower is present.
Boddington Reservoir. 11 October, 2015

Another lime lover also in flower was Wild Carrot, Daucus carota. Related to the Angelica seen earlier on the walk, its single dark red flower was present, as usual, in the centre of the white umbel.

The feathery fruits of Clematis vitalba. Boddington
Reservoir. 11 October, 2015

Our only native clematis, Clematis vitalba, has long ceased flowering but its fruits (technically achenes) with long feathery styles, are far more decorative. The reasons for the old country name of Old Man's Beard, are too obvious to require discussion.

Further on a few plants of Chicory were in bloom, their flowers tatty but of a lovely deep sky-blue. Otherwise few photogenic features were to be seen, at least none that could be photographed as we pushed on at a steady pace. 

And so, back to the pub for a coffee and a few minutes of relaxation and gossip. Most were staying on for burgers or whatever but we had other jobs pending. So, our four miles complete, we left. The kitty stood at just over £100 but more contributions were pending so, overall, a worthwhile morning.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Frustration - then a surprise

Chris and I were tied down by jobs all morning but sun shone from a clear blue sky. With a free afternoon I was looking forward to a visit to Kentle Wood or Newnham Windmill. But it was not to be.

As Chris was off to Byfield for a meeting the world was my oyster and I set off for Kentle Wood. I had managed about five hundred yards before frustratingly, threatening clouds gathered and, as on 8th October, prospects were not good. Time for Plan B!

Where the A361 joins the A45 a moderately complex junction exists. An 'island' of land, with grasses, herbs and shrubs exists and there the hand of man has never set foot - or only occasionally - and I'd had an eye on it for some time. It was easy to reach and I set off, virtually going back home in the process.

Stefen Hill is an area of attractive houses, with plenty of open space. I guess the area was developed when the land was relatively cheap. Here the horror of Leyland Cypress hedges has been replaced by the lovely blue-green of Lawson's Cypress, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana. An inappropriate name as the prefix 'chamae' means 'low' but, given a chance, these trees will reach a towering 140 feet.

Lawson's Cypess, Stefen Hill, Daventry.
8 October, 2015

Despite being a hybrid the Leyland Cypress does carry a few cones; Lawson's Cypress bears huge numbers and, whereas the former is very limited in terms of wildlife the latter can receive many visitors. I decided to investigate.

Juniper Shieldbug, from Lawson's Cypress. Stefen Hill,
Daventry. 8 October, 2015

The very first sweep of my net yielded the nymph of a Juniper Shieldbug,  Cyphostethus tristriatus. Once a great rarity, restricted to juniper shrubs in Surrey and adjacent counties, it began sometime in the 1960's to colonise Lawson's Cypress trees in local gardens. Soon it was spreading rapidly, but this seems to be the first record from the Daventry area.

Duller, but rather more interesting, were nymphs of a groundbug, Orsillus depressus. It was unknown in Britain until the late 1980's but has also spread quickly. It appears to be confined in Britain to Leyland's Cypress.

I was also surprised to capture two specimens of the picture-winged fly, Tephritis formosa, not because it is rare - it is quite common - but not usually associated with cypress trees. One specimen could have been a stray - but two? It is normally associated with sow thistles, but there were no obvious specimens nearby.

Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta on ivy. Daventry
8 October, 2015

Ivy was in flower and, when the sun broke through, it received visitors including this Red Admiral (the butterfly, not a Russian naval officer). Hoverflies were also feeding but I didn't attempt to secure any.

I was intrigued by the mottled colours assumed by Sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus, leaves. The white spots are, according to books, caused by powdery mildew, but these look quite different and I suspect a Rhytisma species.

I guess a species of Rhytisma is the culprit here too. The best known is Rhytisma acerinum. well- known as the cause of Tar-spot, but related species may cause different discolorations.

I pressed on to my traffic-island target and received a surprise. It quickly became obvious that the area was remarkably rich in species. At this late time in the year expectations were low, but I realised that this patch would not only need a close examination now, but merits further visits. 

A patch of Oxeye Daisies, Chrysanthemum leucanthemum, was in bloom but, although the sun deigned to make an occasional appearance, it had no insect visitors.

Wormwood Pug, swept from ragwort. Roadside at
Daventry, Northants. 8 October, 2015

Oxford Ragwort was also in bloom, and from it I swept this caterpillar. It is the Wormwood Pug, Eupithecia absinthiata. It will feed on a wide range of plants, obviously including wormwoods, Artemesia species, but ragworts are frequently chosen.
Long-winged Coneheads were common on roadside
vegetation. Daventry, Northants. 8 October, 2015

Finally, before the tolerance of my readers is too strained, I would mention this Long-winged Conehead, Conocephalus discolor. Though obviously related to grasshoppers, they display several differences. This is a female, and her long ovipositor to the left is very obvious. Three dark spurs beneath the hind legs confirmed the identification. I needed to bring it home to confirm the species and it had failed to survive the experience.

So, with fifty or so flies to sort through (all microscope jobs) I made my way home, resolved to pay another visit next spring.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Matthew Moser's Farmland

Matt Moser owns much of the land around Newnham Windmill. He farms the land with wildlife in mind and avoids weedkillers or pesticides in general. When I met up with him a few months ago I was given the go-ahead to survey the land; he was as keen as I to find out how species-rich the land is under his regime.

I set out this morning feeling quite optimistic. We have had two days of heavy showers, some of them prolonged, but as I prepared to go the conditions were dry and warm. As I gathered my kit - net, pooter, specimen tubes, etc - the sky began to cloud over and a wind picked up. 'B****r!' I muttered. It was definitely going to be welly boot weather.

But having girded my loins I set forth and was soon parked up on the Newnham Road.

I was reluctant to use my net for sweeping through wet grass. Today it would be a case of examining fencing, tree trunks and so on. A prominent tree stump held promise...

Red Admiral in disguise, near Windmill Hill, Newnham
Northants. 6 October, 2015

Nothing doing, was my first thought, but a closer look held a surprise. Clinging to the bark was a Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta, looking like a dead leaf. As one of Britain's most brilliantly coloured insects it was, with its wings closed, remarkably well camouflaged.

Seven-spot Ladybird near Windmill Hill, Newnham.
6 October, 2015

On a nearby stump a Seven-spot Ladybird, Coccinella 7-punctata, had no need for protective colouring; would-be predators recognise the warning coloration and leave well alone.

I described them recently as poisonous and my very good friend, Lynda Moran, asked if there was any evidence for this. When disturbed a ladybird usual first reaction is to withdraw its legs safely into depressions beneath the abdomen and, if more alarmed, it will exude a yellow fluid from the leg joints, a phenomenon known as 'reflex bleeding'. The fluid has an unpleasant smell and a bitter taste. It also contains toxins, harmless to humans but probably quite dangerous to small birds.

A Green Shieldbug basks on a crab apple. Near Windmill
Hill, Newnham, Northants. 6 October, 2015

Crab Apples, Malus species often of doubtful parentage,  were turning yellow. As they soften and fall they will become an important food source for many thrush species and other birds. Here a Green Shieldbug, Palomena prasina, basks in a (very temporary) shaft of sunshine.

Phyllonorycter blancardiella mine? On Crab Apple near
Windmill Hill, Newnham. 6 October, 2015

One of the apple leaves bore a distinctive leaf mine, probably the work of the Spotted Tentiform Leaf Miner, Phyllonorycter blancardella. I have remarked before how the length of some of these micro-moth names seem to be in inverse proportion to the length of the moth itself.

Blackberries, Rubus fruticosus, were bearing large quantities of fruit. This was to be expected but, tucked a little further into the brambles, were flowers, still in bud!

These will open with the encouragement of a little sunshine, their nectar being a late-season bonus for bees and hoverflies. There will be blackberries around for a few weeks yet but towards the end of the month they become inedible. Not because, as the legend goes, 'the devil pissed on them', but because flesh flies, Sarcophagus species, deposit saliva on them. The saliva apparently contains enzymes which soften the fruit, allowing the flies - and many other insects - to feed on the juices. The fruits lose their firmness and become rather slimy.

Spear Thistle - only too common in pastures. Windmill
Hill, Newnham, Northants. 6 October, 2015

Spear Thistles, Cirsium vulgare, were forming their distinctive, viciously armed rosettes in preparation for flowering next year. They are weeds but support many species of insect. At the top right hand corner a tiny amber spot is easily overlooked and I very nearly missed it too. 

The tiny beetle, Sphaeroderma testacea. Windmill Hill,
Newnham. 6 October, 2015

It was the widespread and common Sphaeroderma testacea, and at only 3 mm it is not surprising that it can be missed. In fact it is not confined to thistles but occurs on other members of the Daisy Family, Asteraceae.

A lichen, probably Flavoparmelia caperata, on a
fence. Windmill Hill, near Newnham. 6 October, 2015

It is when flowers are near to their end that lichens come into their own. I believe this example to be Flavoparmelia caperata because, although it is not clear from the picture, the thallus had a pale green coloration.

Rain arrived at 10.30 in the form of a short drizzly patch but it passed over and I was able to snatch a further half an hour. Then it returned as much heavier rain. Time to beat a retreat, with quite a few flies to examine at leisure later.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

University of Oxford Botanic Gardens

I suppose that, generally speaking, most people would regard October as a bit late to be visiting botanic gardens. Certainly it seemed to me that the ideal flowering season was well behind us. Garden borders are looking 'tired'; municipal plantings will soon be grubbed up. But I would be proved wrong.

Together with our friends Ann and John, Chris and I set off on a rather grey Saturday morning to Oxford, with the aforementioned gardens as our main target. I drove to the park and ride at Water Eaton and we got the bus to the city centre. Neither Ann nor John had been to the very interesting covered market so we made a point of passing through there en route.

After coffee at Patisserie Valerie in High Street we continued our walk in ever-improving weather to arrive in quite sunny conditions.

The blaze of colour which met us was remarkable.

A lovely border of herbaceous perennials at Oxford Botanic Gardens. 4 October, 2015

I was expecting the bulk of the colour to come from Michaelmas Daisies; certainly they played a big part in the display but there was so much more.

Stipa arundinacea? Certainly a grass to covet.
Oxford Univ. Botanic Gardens. 4 October, 2015

Ann was very taken by this lovely grass, with its pinky-red stems. We couldn't find a label but it may have been a form of Stipa arundinacea called 'Scirocco'. It would have been at home near the front of any border, whereas...

Cor, what a whopper! How often have I heard those words!
Oxford University Botanic Gardens. 4 October, 2015

...this Gunnera manicata is not only huge but demands wet conditions. Despite coming from South America, e.g. Brazil, it is reasonably hardy. Known as the Giant Rhubarb it is in fact unrelated to our garden vegetable. Most definitely not a plant for the border!

Ladies of leisure at Oxford. 4 October, 2015

Chris and Ann took a five minute break while I wandered off to have another look at an oddity which had caught my eye.

Hiding away. A broomrape at Oxford University Botanic
Gardens. 4 October, 2015

Almost hidden beneath an unnamed shrub was a broomrape, probably a species of Orobanche. These parasites really need close examination with a lens before an identification can be made, but I could hardly start picking flowers! Nevertheless I suspect it could have been Orobanche ramosa. The bed consisted of members of the tomato family, Solanaceae, and O. ramosa is known to parasitise tomatoes, tobacco and so on.
Orobanche ramosa?As a parasite the plant
 lacks all green parts. 4 October, 2015

The word 'ramosa' refers to a branching habit. A close-up shows no obvious branching but I am not inclined to change my mind.


Looking tropical but quite tough. Akebia quinata at
Oxford University Botanic Gardens. 4 October, 2015

Another plant admired by Ann was Akebia quinata. It is a hardy climber for a sunny wall (and grows perfectly well in Byfield) but here it was being used, very cleverly, for trailing over the edge of large urns. The plant is sometimes called the Chocolate Vine.

Castor Oil Plant. Oxford. 4 October, 2015

Quite commonplace plants were often shoulder-to-shoulder with rarities. Here the well-known Castor Oil Plant, Ricinus communis, is happy in a border. It is a member of the Euphorbia family, but strikingly different from the spurges. Despite producing ricin, said to be deadly in even minute amounts, it is a great favourite of mine. Quite frequently it is found on waste ground in Mediterranean countries where it can form a disappointingly untidy shrub. 

Like small plums. Cornelian Cherry in fruit.
Oxford. 4 October, 2015

The Cornelian Cherry, Cornus mas, ought to be more widely planted, although I admit it is best in a fairly large garden. Not only are the flowers attractive but the fruits are interesting too. It is not a cherry at all but is often used in the eastern Mediterranean for jams and pie fillings. Here is was fruiting in abundance.

Speaking of pies, a picnic had been carefully prepared and, by common consent, it was now due. Our chatter was interrupted by much crunching and sighing.

A lingering flower on Magnolia grandiflora.
Oxford, 4 October, 2015

We sat beneath a fine specimen of Magnolia grandiflora and, as is often the case, the occasional, snow-white flower was still to be seen.

And we gazed across to a tree which had me puzzled. Surely it was a Service Tree, but those huge fruits...

It was a Service Tree; to be more precise it was Sorbus domestica, var. pomifera. As a youth I had understood that the word 'service' indicated that the fruits were used in the brewing of ale (cf. the Spanish word cervesa - beer) - but I was wrong. The Latin sorbus means 'reddish-brown' and came to us in medieval Britain as the now-obsolete word syrfe. As for 'pomifera' - it means 'apple-bearing', and certainly the large fruits have in the past been eaten.

The rather uncommon Ptelea trifoliata. Even if I had a huge
garden I'd hesitate to grow it. Oxford, 4 October, 2015
A tree with elm-like fruits turned out to be Ptelea trifoliata. It's leaves are not unlike those of Choisya which, like Ptelea, is a member of the Orange Family, Rutaceae. It was curious rather than beautiful, but the flowers had gone, so perhaps I'm being unfair. For reasons unclear to me, it is sometimes called the Hop Tree (although perhaps the cone-like bunches of hops look vaguely similar).

I could go on, but a quick visit to the greenhouses was called for. A Stag's Horn Fern was doing well but was unfortunately unlabelled. There are several of these Platycerium species; my best guess is that it was P. wallichii.

Nearby, and suspending from roof girders, was a Pitcher Plant. Again, frustratingly, it was unlabelled, and the genus contains a large number of species.  The 'pitchers' contain a tempting fluid, encouraging insects to enter and take their fill. But it doesn't quite work out like that, and the corpses dissolve in the fluid, making a range of nutrients available to the plants which could otherwise struggle.

Fron the southern U.S.A. Yucca gloriosa. Oxford.
4 October, 2015

It was time to go - but I cannot leave without showing this lovely yucca plant. Yet again it was unlabelled but it is undoubtedly Yucca gloriosa, and the name is certainly justified, for it is glorious.

So, notwithstanding our combined ages of around 300 years, we strode briskly back to Oxford just in time for a bus.