Wednesday, 24 October 2018

South Way to Southbrook

I've been getting slothful, and it won't do! Chris was off to 'The Heart of the Shires' to meet an old friend so I asked her to drop me off on the edge of Daventry to investigate an area I know only slightly.

For me, one of the town's most attractive features is the amount of open space it offers. I fear that pressure will mount for these green areas to be built over, but at the present we need to appreciate it.

The start of my walk is not something to gladden the heart - unless you regard small factory units as aesthetically pleasing.  The southern end of South Way is flanked on both sides by dozens of such units, together providing employment for a great many people, but beautiful it ain't, and my camera was not called into action.
My chosen route took me along a footpath along the western edge of Southbrook parallel with South Way and lined with Italian Alders, Alnus cordata. I looked in vain for Alder Tongue, Taphrina alni, a fungus affecting the cone-like female inflorescences but found none. What I did find however was an interesting leaf-mine with a distinctive circular blotch.

The distinctive leaf-mine of the sawfly Heterarthrus vagans on Italian Alder.
Southbrook, Daventry. 23 October, 2018
It is the work of a sawfly, Heterarthrus vagans. Records are few on the on the National Biological Records maps and this could be a 'first' for Northamptonshire. However, in reality it is probably widespread. Certainly it was present on every tree I examined.

AS I strolled along the trees gave way to a hedgerow, with yew saplings and young holly bushes. Both species have probably arrived there via bird droppings. As is so often the case with holly, the lower leaves were well armed with sharp prickles.

The lower leaves of holly can be fiercely armed.
On tiptoe I was able to photograph higher branches where, out of the reach of browsing animals, the leaves were less fiercely armed.
Higher in the tree their edges are relatively smooth.
Southbrook, Daventry. 23 Occtober, 2018
The leaves of most of the plants had been mined by the very common fly Phytomyza ilicis.
As is often the case,  leaves had been mined by Phytomiza ilicis.

Cotoneaster shrubs may have been planted although they too are often spread by birds. It is odd how a song and dance is often made regarding Laburnum seeds and Woody Nightshade but Cotoneaster fruit, looking so much like harmless hawthorn berries, are quite toxic, with their leaves, flowers and fruit all containing cyanogenic glycosides. I would guess however that a good quantity would need to be consumed before harm resulted. The plants I saw all appeared to be the hybrid Cotoneaster x watereri.

A few cotoneaster bushes added colour to the scene with their scarlet
berries. Southbrook, Daventry. 23 October, 2018

A large number of different woody plants may indicate a hedgerow of some antiquity and here apart from yew, holly, and cotoneaster there were also specimens of ash, privet (the native species), sycamore and elder. However I suspect that this hedge, fundamentally of common hawthorn, is of no great age.

As is often the case as autumn approaches, some of the sycamore leaves were discoloured by white patches. It is a sort of powdery mildew, Uncinula aceris, and is very frequent in, for example Byfield, but few reference works seem to mention it.

Uncinula aceris is frequent at this time of the year. Southbrook, Daventry.
 23 October, 2018
Finally I reached the town where I was pleased to note that beside the Abbey Centre an Eastern White Cedar, Thuja occidentalis, was bearing cones - prolifically too. It is not really a cedar at all for it belongs to the Cypress Family whereas true cedars, Cedrus species, are members of the Pine Family.

The Eastern White Cedar is not the most commonly grow species
of the genus. Daventry, 23 October, 2018
Back to holly, for in town there was also a specimen in flower. These flowers are hardly an arresting sight and although they are of some importance for wildlife they would not earn Ilex aquifolium a place in our garden.
Easily overlooked, the flowers of holly are small and, usually, white.
Daventry town centre. 23 October, 2018

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