Saturday, 17 November 2018

That's more like it!

There is no doubt that summer blogs can be rather boring and I plead guilty to my sins in that respect. Perhaps it is because, with so much to see, blogs become little more than an illustrated list of what is seen. As the year edges toward its end a little more imagination is required to produce anything worthwhile.

Today found me in Byfield, and as a rule there is little to get excited about; observations  are largely of mundane features.

Beside the Brightwell playing fields in a tree stump. It is more or less buried beneath soil and leaf litter but a crop of fungi has made its position very obvious. They are not rare and they are not colourful - but there's a lot of them.

Marking the location of an old tree stump. Byfield, Northants.
17 November, 2018
I'm sure they are a species of Coprinus, i.e. inkcap, but beyond that I won't go. With beetles, flies, bugs, woodlice and spiders I have enough to keep me busy so fungi are a step too far.

Yews in the village are fruiting prolifically. I once read that their name, Taxus baccata, is related to toxic. Certainly the word toxic comes from the Greek toxon, a bow, and toxicon, arrow poison, but there seems no etymological evidence to go a step further and assume that Taxus comes from the same root. Yew is highly poisonous but has it been used for poisoning arrows? I have no idea.

Yew carried large numbers of 'berries'. Byfield, Northants.
17 November, 2018
The tree has been greatly valued in the past for its timber, and I will not discuss its use for the English long-bow, but with regard to its toughness, a spear found at Clacton has been dated to 250,000 B.P., making it the world's oldest known wooden artefact.

Notwithstanding the late date Choisya ternata was still flowering vigorously. Despite this I have never found any sign of fruit and neither do I know of any cases of it escaping into the wild.
Choisya ternata hoping for a visiting insect. Byfield, Northants.
17 November, 2018

Red Valerian, Centranthus ruber, grows all around the village. A native of the Mediterranean region it is widely naturalised over much of Britain. It is usually pronounced 'sentranthus' but a good argument could be made for 'kentranthus' and indeed in his 1930 Flora of Northamptonshire G Claridge Druce actually spelled the genus Kentranthus (although this spelling is no longer accepted).

All this may - or may not! - be interesting. What I did find of interest was that some of the plants had been attacked by the psyllid bug Trioza centranthi.

Trioza centranthi attacking Red Valerian. Byfield, Northants.
17 November, 2018
Apparently this insect was once described as 'rare and local'' but recent records suggest that it is moving northwards. Certainly I had not seen it outside text books and journals so it was a very pleasing find.

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