Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Sauntering into Daventry

I sauntered into Daventry earlier yesterday, appreciating the lovely sunshine. (I was tempted to use the word 'traipsed' as my walking is not quite as brisk as in days of yore, but this would have implied a modicum of reluctance.) No, I sauntered. My sauntering skills are a source of great pride and, call me immodest, but I like to think that, were it an Olympic event, I could find myself in Team GB. Perhaps I should apply for funding. 'The Gold Medal for the 100 metres Saunter goes to Tony White'. It has a nice ring to it; a certain je ne sais quoi...
Daventry is quite a green, leafy town and the area through which I walked is particularly so, and there was much to see. The last time I came this way I noticed a beech hedge bearing some leaves with a curious border. This is the work of a mite Acalitus stenapsis, and I encounter it only occasionally.
The mite, Aculitis stenapsis, forms a neat edging to beech leaves.
Daventry, 27 April, 2017

Yesterday my eye was instead caught by a hawthorn hedge where a Red Admiral butterfly, Vanessa atalanta, was, like me enjoying the sunny conditions. At one time it would have been seen regularly on Michaelmas Daisies at this time of the year only to perish, failing to over-winter. Now it regularly survives and over the last dozen or so years its status has changed from being a migrant to being a resident species, although migration still occurs on a considerable scale.
Soaking up the sun. Red Admiral on hawthorn.
Daventry, 12 September, 2017

On the same bush, but keeping to a shadier spot, was a Hawthorn Shieldbug, Acanthosoma haemorroidale. I have remarked elsewhere that it is by no means confined to hawthorn but the shrub is a popular choice. This insect, along with its relatives, is known as a stinkbug because of the smelly fluid released when alarmed. The fluid is released from glands just behind the head and has a rather almond-like smell - an odour generally associated with cyanide.
Smart but smelly. Hawthorn Shieldbug on hawthorn.
Daventry. 12 September, 2017

A hollyhock, Alcea rosea, sprawled across the footpath. This well-known garden plant, probably of west Asian origin, is popular with pollinating insects but today it was a caterpillar that caught my attention. There were several specimens, each concealed beneath a tent-like web on the leaves.
  A caterpillar is obscured by a neat web...
I teased one out for a better photograph and, once revealed, it became obvious that it was a Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui. Its main food plants are nettles and thistles but members of the Mallow family such as hollyhock are perfectly acceptable.
...which is removed, revealed the the larva of a Painted Lady.
Daventry. 12 September, 2017
So a rather ordinary walk turned out to reveal a number of interesting features and a few minutes later I arrived in Daventry where a patch of waste ground had been sown with a wild flower mix. There were poppies and cornflowers but most striking were plants of the Common Toadflax, Linaria vulgaris. Old names included Pig's Chops, Devil's Head and Lion's Mouth, all alluding to the way the flower will gape like a mouth when squeezed sideways. The young plants look very like flax plants, apparently causing problems when the plant appeared as a weed in a crop of flax.
Yellow Toadflax helped to brighten up a patch of waste ground.
Daventry. 12 September, 2017
The bright yellow flowers suggested, in accordance with the doctrine of signatures, that it could be used for the treatment of jaundice but your G.P. is unlikely to prescribe extract of toadflax - hopefully, for it is in the same family, the Scrophulariaceae, as Foxgloves, all parts of which are very toxic.

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