Sunday, 14 August 2016

Lang Farm

Lang Farm is one of Daventry's most recent developments. I never intended to go there, my target being the Grand Union Canal, which runs a little north of Lang Farm. However, having taken a wrong turn and coming across a rather attractive lake; I changed plans and decided to have a closer look. It proved to be a balancing pond, i.e. one, usually near to urban areas, constructed to temporarily hold water in case of flooding.
The main pond at Lang Farm, Daventry. 14 August, 2016
Much of the surface was covered by Fringed Water-lily, Nymphoides peltata. It is not a true water lily at all but belongs to a small family, the Menyanthaceae, although at one time it was classified with the gentians. This plant is extremely rare as a true native of Northamptonshire but has recently been found in a number of new locations, perhaps as a throw-out from garden ponds. The word 'fringe' refers to the toothed edges of the petals.
Fringed Water-lily taken from a distance. Lang Farm,
Daventry. 14 August, 2016
At no point could I get near to it for a decent photograph but I did my best. It was receiving quite a few visits from bees and is altogether a 'good egg' as far as plants go. As with many of these ponds, alder trees, Alnus glutinosa, had been planted near to the water's edge. They were bearing a good crop of the cone-like female catkins and I found one bearing a grotesque tongue-like growth caused by the fungus, Taphrina alni. At this time of the year it is in the process of changing from green to a reddish-purple.
Alder Tongue, Taphrina alni on a female alder cone.
Lang Farm, Daventry. 14 August, 2016
Once very rare this has now become frequent enough to have gained the common name of Alder Tongue.

Here and there the alder leaves had been rolled into a tube; this was the work of a tiny moth, the Pale Red Slender, Caloptilia elongella.
A rolled alder leaf hides Caloptilia elongella. Lang Farm,
Daventry. 14 August, 2016
I carefully unrolled a leaf for confirmation and the slender green caterpillar was snug inside.

The handsome spike-like inflorescences of Purple Loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria, were present and attracting a few insects but none was out of the ordinary. Was it introduced or had it arrived naturally? Probably the latter as it is a common enough plant in the county. It has probably suffered from 20th century land drainage but the numerous flooded gravel workings now present along the Nene valley may have largely compensated for this. 
The spikes of Purple Loosestrife beside the pond at Lang
Farm, Daventry. 14 August, 2016

Such a lovely plant inevitably caught John Clare's attention:

                                   And gay long purples with its tufty spike
                                   She'd wade o'er shoes to reach it in the dyke...

                                                                                        Clare's Village Minstrel, 1821

Clare's use of the term 'Long Purples' is rather interesting. When Shakespeare wrote (Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 7)

                               ...Of crow-flowers, Nettles, Daysies and Long Purples
                                  That liberall Shepheards give a grosser name...

he was apparently referring to the Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula. What this 'grosser name' was I have no idea but it is worth remembering that 'orchis' is the Greek word for 'testicle'.

However, I digress.

This moth proves that bright colours are not required to create a lovely effect. This is a rather pale - probably female - form of the Brown China-mark, Elophila nymphaeata.
Brown China-mark moth, Elophila nymphaeata. Lang Farm, Daventry.
14 August, 2016
It was no surprise to find it adjacent to a pond as its larvae are aquatic, feeding on water plants. It is common right across Britain, absent only from some parts of northern Scotland.

So, not a bad afternoon, but I recorded no grasshoppers and only a couple of beetles. The area is quite well 'manicured' and arguably the local authority should allow a patch or two of rough grassland to develop. Perhaps there will be a surprise or two among the specimens taken home.

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