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

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