Thursday, 14 September 2017

Of Aileen and other things

Storm Aileen swept through last night but, other than a broken pot, we were spared and our journey to Byfield later in the morning was uneventful.
A broken pot was our only damage from storm Aileen.
Stefen Hill, Daventry. 13 September, 2017
In yesterday's blog I spoke of the yellow-flowered Common Toadflax and today two other, much commoner, toadflaxes were in bloom in the village. Everyone knows Purple Toadflax, Linaria purpurea, as it is a long-established garden escapee originally from southern Italy. Linarias, along with the related Foxglove, are toxic, with the latter plant dangerously so.

Purple Toadflax is toxic to livestock but, as people are unlikely to go around munching it, the plant does not present a problem. It is much visited by bees and other pollinators and is the food-plant for the caterpillar of the Toadflax Brocade Moth, Calophasia lunula.
The slender spikes of Purple Toadflax are familiar everywhere.
Byfield, Northants. 13 September, 2017

Also present was Ivy-leaved Toadflax, Cymbalaria muralis, otherwise known as Kenilworth Ivy and Oxford Weed, reflecting its abundance on the walls at these two localities. It is closely related to Linaria species and was once known as Linaria cymbalaria.
Ivy-leaved Toadflax breaks up plain walls as here in Byfield.
13 September, 2017
In Byfield, as elsewhere, it can form thick mats of growth on walls (muralis of course, means 'of walls') but, although the habit differs from that of other toadflaxes, the flower shape is more or less identical.
The flowers of Ivy-leaved Toadflax only differ in detail from Purple
Toadflax. Byfield. 13 September, 2017
Meteorologically autumn began on the first of this month but, despite that and storm Aileen, flowers were abundant. Very frequent around Byfield is Orange Hawkweed, Pilosella aurantiaca. Although not native to Britain, this native of the Carpathians has been around for long enough to have picked up a number of common names of which 'Fox and Cubs' seems to be the most widespread. 'Devil's Paintbrush' and 'Grim the Collier' are regionally common. A number of gardens have it present as a weed and  I covet it but sowing seed has so far failed as a strategy. I'll try yet again as it is not only of a striking colour but is good for attracting insects.

The fox surrounded by its cubs.  Pilosella aurantiaca on a grass verge in
Byfield, Northants. 13 September, 2017
Speaking of insects - as I always am - ivy has now been in bloom for about ten days and was being much visited by honey bees and hoverflies.
A Red Admiral butterfly feeds on ivy nectar. Byfield, Northants.
13 September, 2017
A coy Red Admiral was reluctant to spread its wings but on a sheet of warm canvas (covering a boat) Small Tortoiseshell butterflies were soaking up the sun.
The Red Admiral's nymphalid cousin, the Small Tortoiseshell, spreads its
wings to catch the sun. Byfield,. 13 September, 2017
Another of the stinkbugs, this time a Green Shieldbug, Palomena prasina, was also enjoying the warm conditions. It was safe on elm foliage in its green colours but, even if it was seen by a hungry bird (and they are always hungry), the foul smell released when the insect is alarmed would be a powerful deterrent.
Palomena prasina on an elm leaf. Byfield. 13 September, 2017
So, another day with no great excitement but pleasant enough. Refreshments at the Byfield Coffee Club and a natter with friends rounded off an enjoyable morning.

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