Tuesday, 11 September 2018


I was in Daventry today and, despite rather inclement weather, was enjoying one of my occasional strolls around the town.

The are an inordinate number of Box Elder, Acer negundo, trees throughout the town, as though an over-enthusiastic planner had ordered a hundred trees when the intended figure was ten. But their dangling strings of fruits, technically samaras, are attractive enough.

Long bunches of keys (samaras) hang from a Box Elder. The Hollows,
Daventry. 11 September, 2018
Beneath one of these trees a plant of Oxford Ragwort, Senecio squalidus, was in flower and a wasp-mimicking hoverfly, Helophilus pendulus, was busy fuelling up with nectar.

A Tiger Hoverfly, Helophilus pendulus, on Oxford Ragwort.
The Hollows, Daventry. 11 September, 2018
However, what most set me thinking (a rare activity for me nowadays) were the plants of Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus, currently bearing their fruits. Apparently known in some areas as Lardy Balls, they are familiar to everyone, even though the plant is a native of North America. The fruits are technically drupes although the term berry is generally used and, unless one is being very pedantic, is convenient enough. (A banana is a true berry, showing how problematic are some botanical terms.) Anyway, this discussion is about as interesting as one of Nigel Farage's beer-sodden rants and as far as we are concerned snowberry fruits are berries.

The fruits of Snowberry are surely familiar to everyone.
North Street, Daventry. 11 September, 2018

Snowberry shrubs are untidy, sprawling things and would never find a place in a garden of mine although this member of the Honeysuckle Family does have its points of interest. It seems that birds will eat the fruits - sometimes described as being like 'soft meringues' - and after the species was first introduced it was widely planted for game cover. Since then it has become almost invasive even though it rarely regenerates by seed and usually spreads via suckers.
A fifth (final) instar of the Green Shieldbug on Snowberry.
North Street, Daventry. 11 September, 2018

The flowers are rich in nectar and attract a wide range of insects including honey bees and, it would appear from the photograph, the Green Shieldbug, Palomena prasina.

Perhaps predictably it attracts a number of leaf miners normally associated with honeysuckle, such as Aulagromyza cornigera, whose larva produces a long, sinuous mine. In fact several species of insect were mining the leaves but I will not try the patience of my readers by rabbiting on about them.

Snowberry leaves are commonly mined by Aulagromyza cornigera.
North Street, Daventry
Not far away, a second species of Symphoricarpos was being grown. This was another American example, S. orbiculatus, and curiously, although its nectar was attracting insects I found no examples of leaf miners at work. This species has smaller, pink berries and to my mind is a neater, more garden-worthy plant.

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus behind Daventry library.
11 September, 2018
One day perhaps I will venture into Daventry and not find something to pique my interest!

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