Saturday, 2 June 2018

Flaming June

Flaming 'eck more like. It was hot today but the humidity was even more of a factor. Of course I went a-hunting and very productive a session it was too, but I certainly worked up a sweat! A lesser mortal would have succumbed to the heat but I was brought up on Virol and cod-liver oil so I was untroubled.

In the hedgerows wild roses are coming into bloom. The only species present was the Dog Rosa, Rosa canina. Perhaps I shouldn't use the word 'species' as this lovely plant is really a complex aggregate whose different forms are to be distinguished only by an expert.
Dog Roses have little fragrance but their simple beauty is unsurpassed.
Foxhill Farm, Badby. 1 June 2018 
Some claim that it was originally called 'Dag Rose' on account of its dagger-like thorns. As kids we would grind up the seeds - or use them whole - as 'itching powder' but I'm not sure the were really much of an irritant. During the war we collected the hips to be taken into school and weighed. We earned a few coppers this way. The hips really are very rich in vitamin C and I believe that it is still possible to purchase Rose Hip Syrup.
At the base of the hedgerows Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea grew and I was pleased to find one specimen bearing an impressive gall. As is often the case it was the work of a gall wasp, in this instance Liposthenes glechomae.
Liposthenes glechomae forms a remarkably large gall on Ground Ivy.
Foxhill Farm, Badby. 1 June, 2018
Distribution maps suggest that it is widespread but not particularly common. The gall is more frequently recorded than the actual wasp.
A speculative sweep with my net captured an interesting geometrid caterpillar (in America they are called 'inch worms'). It turned out to be an Angle-barred Pug, Eupithecia innotata and is another widespread species.


The caterpillar of the Angle-barred Pug, beaten from a hedgerow(from ash?).
Foxhill Farm, Badby, Northants. 1 June, 2018

This is a variable insect, so variable that different forms were once thought to be different species, and I must admit that I spent over an hour examining various features of it before coming to a decision regarding its identity.
In my previous blog I mentioned Yellow Rattle and commented on it being a hemi-parasite on grasses. The area where I was recording today contained a great deal of this ecologically important plant and it was interesting to note that, where it was abundant, few grasses flourished.
Where Yellow Rattle is present grasses are supressed...
Yet in an area barely a metre away, devoid of Yellow Rattle, grass was growing strongly. It illustrated forcibly what a dramatic effect even a hemi-parasite can have.
...but a metre away they are lush. Foxhill Farm, Badby. 1 June, 2018
This was a splendid visit and once again I was struck by the effects of a thoughtful management regime. Let's hope that this is the start of a developing trend, allowing nature to recover from the shocking agricultural methods of the last half century.



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