Sunday, 19 November 2017

Taking a risk

I took a risk with my reputation today and walked into Daventry wearing a bowler hat and galoshes, thus making myself inconspicuous. In this 'Babylon of the East Midlands' [Daily Mail] one cannot be too careful.
There have been a couple of freezing nights recently with encrustations of frost on the tops of cars. Our dahlias appear to have escaped harm but I was on the lookout for damage. By this time of the year autumn colours are often largely confined to the foliage of trees and shrubs, so I was pleased to see that a plant of Yucca filamentosa was in full flower. Its raceme of ivory flowers was unlikely to attract bees over these last weeks of 2017 but stranger things have happened. Yuccas are now placed in the Asparagaceae Family but it is difficult to envisage a plant less like asparagus.
Yucca filamentosa in Park Leys, Daventry. 19 November, 2017
A while back Chris and I were recalling how, as children, we would wander to school gathering spiders' webs on a twig bent over into a shape hooped like a snow-shoe. The webs seemed invariably to be on privet hedges, but such hedges seem far less common today. I recalled this reminiscence today as a passed such a hedge. It consisted of Japanese Privet, Ligustrum ovalifolium, this apparently making a tighter, denser hedge than out native privet, L. vulgare.
A privet hedge can be very dense. Coppice Close, Daventry.
 19 November, 2017
Most of the flowers and fruit were generally lost in the process of hedge clipping but privet flowers are very fragrant which, despite their rather cloying scent, I quite like. As I have mentioned before in these blogs, beekeepers are happy to see the flowers go since, although they produce copious nectar, the subsequent honey has been described as 'nauseating'.
Oddly enough, as I crossed the London Road, a little further into town, a passed a shrub of Ligustrum vulgare. It was carrying a good crop of fruit, and if they look a little like olives it is worth remembering that privet is in the Olive Family, Oleaceae. This shrub is unlikely to have been planted and may have clung on since the time when this area was open countryside. The berries are moderately toxic and medical help should be sought if significant quantities have been consumed. There are nearly forty other species of Ligustrum known, many from China but the etymology of the word is not clear; it may somehow refer to the region of Liguria in northern Italy.
The fruit of Common Privet, London Road, Daventry.
19 November, 2017
All very interesting but, as I have said, during the autumn months it is foliage which generally catches our attention. Sycamore is such a commonplace tree that we could be in danger of ignoring it for much of the year, but it grabs our attention in the autumn. It leaves may turn a fiery gold but to my mind this pale gold coloration is equally attractive.

Sycamore, St Peter's Close, Daventry. 19 November, 2017
I also photographed this cherry tree and it struck me how similar the foliage is to that of witch hazels, especially when this autumn bronze colour has developed.
Cherry foliage. Coppice Close, Daventry. 19 November, 2017

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