Monday, 4 June 2018

Of flowers

Today was cooler than of late and the cloud cover was 100%. Nevertheless I decided that I'd do a spot of recording, especially as Chris was also out rambling with friends. She dropped me off and I set out walking but after some ten minutes it began to drizzle. Nevertheless I was not to be daunted although the insects seemed to be lying low.
Although my interest nowadays is mainly in the recording of insects and spiders it has not always been so. In terms of wildlife I started with botany, and given the weather today it seemed a good time to pay a little more attention to the flora on and around Matt Moser's land.
The approach to the more interesting eastern part of the farm is made via a minor road which goes over the A45 Daventry by-pass by means of a bridge. The bridging required the construction of quite a big embankment and on the slopes of this is a small group - no more than a handful really - of Foxgloves, Digitalis purpurea grows. The local soil is neutral to slightly acid and therefore suitable for foxgloves but they are only occasional and this little colony may have been imported with the soil used to build the embankment.
A small number of foxgloves occur on the side of the Daventry by-pass.
4 June, 2018
Foxgloves are among the most flamboyant of our wild flowers and also extremely popular in our gardens. Horticulturists have made a wide range of colours available but our native plant in its original form is surely the finest. Gill Gent and Rob Wilson, in their 1995 flora (Ref. 1), described it as 'rare' although I would now simply term it 'uncommon'. (Incidentally Rob died less than a month ago on 9th May.)
A couple of forms grow in our back garden, Stefen Hill, Daventry.
4 June, 2018
The foxglove is poisonous of course, with two dangerous, heart-stopping chemicals, digitoxin and digoxin, in its make-up, but very few people wander around gardens chomping at leaves and flowers or at least, the number who do is fast dwindling! Bees are very fond of foxgloves but cannot access their nectar by, as it were, standing on the doorstep ; they need to completely clamber into the tube-like flowers and of course in so doing make a thorough job of pollination. The corolla tube is covered in hairs barring the entry of small insects useless for the foxglove's requirements.  In my last blog I mentioned the Angle-barred Pug moth, Eupithecia innotata, usually found on ash trees. Many plants seem to have their own pug moths and there is a Foxglove Pug too, Eupithecia pulchellata.
Flourishing beside the road were clumps of Ox-eye Daisy, Chrysanthemum leucanthemum. My grandmother always called them Marguerites, a name which commemorates Margaret of Anjou. The fifteen-year old had a spray of three ox-eye daisies embroidered on her robes when, in 1445, she married Henry IV.
Ox-eye Daisy beside the London Road, Daventry.4 June, 2018
At one time this species was abundant to the point where it could be a nuisance in cornfields; those days are no more but this lovely plant is still widely distributed on waste and disturbed ground. It normally attracts a wide range of insects but in today's cooler, sunless conditions it was receiving few visitors.
Cooler it may have been but Field 5411, into which I strolled, was a mass of colour, mainly the yellow of Meadow Buttercup, Ranunculus acris, and Yellow Rattle, Rhinanthus minor. There are several common buttercups to be found in pastures but Meadow Buttercup is a tall species with deeply dissected leaves and spreading, not reflexed, sepals. Ranunculus species are harmless when dried in hay but when green can be a problem in pastures, causing irritation to the digestive system because of the high concentration of ranunculin. This when broken down will produce the toxin, protanemonin but in fact livestock generally avoid buttercups.
The spreading sepals of Meadow Buttercup. Foxhill Farm, Badby.
4 June, 2018


In the distance the yellow was stained with a rusty red. This was due to the presence of Common Sorrel, Rumex acetosa. Its wind-pollinated flowers, male and female on different plants, may be individually small but they make certain pastures very distinctive.
Golden buttercups and yellow rattle with, in the distance, the rusty
stain of Common Sorrel. Foxhill Farm, 4 June, 2018.
Sorrel is a member of the dock/rhubarb family and its sharply sour leaves have been - and sometimes still are - sprinkled on salads.

Sorrel surrounded by yellow rattle. Foxhill Farm. 4 June, 2018
Of course, there were insects to be seen, especially as the earlier drizzle began to clear up. One very common but distinctive species was the Malachite Beetle, Malachius bipustulatus, with its red-tipped elytra but most other specimens taken were 'small fry' and will require microscopic examination.
The Malachite Beetle is both common and distinctive. Foxhill Farm.
4 June, 2018
I now have a daunting backlog of insects to be identified and a pint or two of midnight oil will be consumed over the next few days.





Reference

Gent, G and Wilson, R (1995) The Flora of Northamptonshire and the Soke of Peterborough. Northamptonshire Flora Group








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