Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Holy Cross churchyard, Byfield

A little spare time earlier today gave me the chance for a stroll around the churchyard of this fine, Grade 1 listed building. The area has considerable potential as a wildlife habitat but the possibilities are not utilised.
At this time of the year the visitor is greeted by swathes of daffodils. They look rather fine but very little wildlife makes use of them.

There are hundreds of daffodils present. Holy Cross Church, Byfield.
5 April, 2017
One exception is the handsome hoverfly, Merodon equestris. Known as the Large Narcissus Fly it can be a horticultural pest, its larvae damaging the bulbs. It is a bumblebee mimic and is also found in bluebell woods, where it again attacks the bulbs but appears to do little damage. Today the only hoverfly I saw was the very common Eupeodes luniger, sunning itself on a nettle leaf. I had rather expected to also see the Juniper Shieldbug, Cyphostethus tristriatus. It is certainly present in the churchyard as I have noted it there several times over the years.
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It is often on or near to the developing cones of Lawson's Cypress, of which there are several specimens along the west of the area but I was to be disappointed. In a few weeks time the females will lay their eggs on these cones
Lawson's Cypress with hundreds of male cones. Holy Cross Church, Byfield
5 April, 2017
I had to be content with admiring the lovely little Acer griseum. Known as the Paperbark Maple, this species, from central China, is quite small and slow-growing, making it suitable for even a modest-sized garden. I am surprised it isn't more often seen.
Acer griseum is quite a small tree. Holy Cross Church,
Byfield. 5 April, 2017
It has a neat habit but is grown for its beautiful, coppery-brown bark with a distinctive peeling nature and its spectacular autumn foliage The specific name of griseum - 'grey' seems inappropriate. The species was introduced to Europe in 1901 by Ernest 'Chinese' Wilson. He is associated with Chipping Campden, and a while back Chris and I visited the interesting garden in the village, created in his memory. In Wilson's day the Acers were placed in their own family, the Aceraceae but are now placed in the large Sapindaceae family along with Horse Chestnuts.
It is not yet in leaf but the bark is beautiful. Holy Cross Church,
Byfield, 5 April, 2017
Several hundred square metres of grass surround the Acer, composed almost entirely of perennial rye grass and this seems a wonderful opportunity for the imaginative use of bulbs such as Snake's Head Fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris, dwarf irises Iris reticulata and Dog's Tooth Violets , Erythronium dens-canis, with the mowing regime adjusted appropriately. They  would certainly be far less trouble than the daffodils. As it is only a few plants of Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea, provide a spot of colour in the sea of green.
The flowers of Ground Ivy are a deeper blue than my photograph shows.
Holy Cross Church, Byfield. 5 April, 2017
Tony White:

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