Monday, 22 February 2016

Taking the air

I've been a bit limited in my wanderings of late. No complaints, but I was glad to have the opportunity to stretch my legs today and enjoy a bit of late winter sunshine.

All passion spent... Crocus flowers are withering.
Stefen Hill, Daventry. 22 February, 2016

Officially the first day of spring is the first of March but already many of the early crocuses are more or less over, their flowers prone on the ground. They brought to mind Robert Herrick's lines:

      Ye doe lie,
      Poore girls, neglected.

He was, of course, writing of violets, but the same sentiments apply.  Iris reticulata, together with the common garden Grape-hyacinth, Muscari armeniacum and forms of Primula polyanthus were all in bloom too. 

Prunus x subhirtella autumnalis 'Rosea'? Stefen Hill,
Daventry. 22 February, 2016

Trees with pink blossom were - probably - the Winter-flowering Cherry, Prunus x subhirtella autumnalis 'Rosea', but I lack confidence about this. There are so many other hybrids.

Similar shrubs, but with white blossom, were in bloom on waste ground beside the A45.  Given a little more warmth these may receive insect visitors but none was seen today.

This waste ground was strewn with rubbish and these lovely trees drew the attention away from the ugliness. Nevertheless I couldn't resist investigating.

Leopard Slugs by the dozen beside the A45, Daventry.
22 February, 2016

I pulled aside some discarded plastic sheeting in the hope of revealing insects such as ground beetles (Carabidae) but instead exposed a quite extraordinary gathering of slugs (What, I wonder, is the appropriate collective noun - a slither of slugs?)
The Leopard Slug. Limax maximus, under plastic sheeting.
22 February, 2016

All were Leopard Slugs, Limax maximus, and I estimate there were 70-80 of them. They are common in gardens but are generally welcome, feeding largely on dead plant material and thus helping to convert it to humus. Despite the specific name 'maximus' it is not Britain's biggest slug, that honour probably going to the black or orange Arion ater. Even so, they are very able-bodied, as my grandmother would have said.

Returning home by a slightly different route I was pleased to find Cherry-laurel, Prunus laurocerasus, in bloom and mildly shocked to discover that in some cases the petals had already fallen. Spring is perhaps a little nearer than I'd realised! 

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