Friday, 12 February 2016

Brighter days beckon

Forgive me if my blogs have been thin on the ground recently. With my beloved wife Chris in hospital I have been - to put it mildly - distracted. However, with news that prospects for her are bright, I feel able to put pen to paper - or at least fingers to keyboard.

Crocuses in the grassy area of St Giles' churchyard,
Northampton. 11 February, 2016
In the seventeen days she has been away spring has advanced, not in a rush, but tentatively creeping forwards between each spell of frost.  The sun was brilliant as I crossed St Giles' churchyard yesterday and hundreds of Crocus tommasinianus, formed purple-pink drifts across the grass, with the odd hoverfly feeding, probably on the pollen. In my garden at home I generally grow forms of Crocus vernus, but 'tommies', being slightly taller, are a good choice in grass and naturalise easily.

In Byfield's pocket park the leaves of Hazel and Spindle, Euonymus europaeus, are unfurling and buds on Field Maple are fattening nicely. The Spindle, although native to Northants, is introduced here. It is a shrub generally associated with limestone so it is scarce in this area. Curiously the fruits of Spindle contain the alkaloids theobromine (found in chocolate) and caffeine (found in tea). Birds readily consume the fruits!

A number of yew saplings are now found
in Byfield Pocket Park.  10 February, 2016
I was pleased to find yet another Yew tree, fighting its way up through brambles and looking strong. The pocket park now boasts several specimens, almost certainly bird-sown from the nearby churchyard  and, although Yew is doubtfully a native Northamptonshire species, they are welcome for the variety they bring. It is of limited value for wildlife with the rather scarce Satin Beauty Moth plus a couple of gall midges being among the few insects associated with it. But the fruits are much eaten by birds with, as I have previously mentioned in blogs, the poisonous constituents having no apparent effect. In this respect it is like Spindle, whose fruits are also poisonous - sometimes fatally so.

The weather forecast is for several days of chilly conditions. Dratted climate warming!

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