Sunday, 20 January 2019

Excuses, excuses

Dylan Hartley, the Saints' skipper, has missed some recent games with a 'grumbly knee'. For my part, I've been limited in my walking recently with a 'grumbly ankle'. The connection is rugby because I put my dodgy ankle down to years of place-kicking duties, thumping what was often a wet, heavy ball. Ah well, no-one made me do it.

Of course, I could be using my dodgy ankle as an excuse for not braving the recent chilly weather.

After giving the matter much though I cast aside these pusillanimous thoughts, put on a pair of stout trainers and set off.

A small colony of Common Fumitory, Fumaria officinalis, formed a misty patch at the end of Trinity Close. It blooms, we are told, from May to September, but here it was making a half-hearted attempt to display its pink-purple flowers.
Fumitory was almost in bloom (and rather out of focus) at the end of
Trinity Close, Daventry. 20 January, 2019

It was apparently once favoured for the treatment of 'stomach derangements, liver complaints and in skin affections'. Lucky in that I suffered none of these problems I refrained from gathering any, especially as the taste is 'bitter, saline and unpleasant'.
(Ref 1) The species may have been introduced to Britain as a crop impurity or, bearing in mind its pharmaceutical fame, deliberately. And it also had a simple cosmetic value, as noted by John Clare:

                               A fumitory too - a name
                               That superstition holds to fame -
                               Whose rare and purple mottled flowers
                               Are cropped by maids in weeding hours,
                               To boil in water, milk and whey,
                               For washes on a holiday,
                               To make their beauty fair and sleek
                               And scare a tan from a summer's cheek.

                                                             Clare's Shepherd's Calendar

Facing the bottom of Trinity Close a brick wall bore a wash of the lichen Psilolechia lucida, its yellow-green almost appearing luminous in the dull afternoon light and justifying the specific epithet of 'lucida'  (bright; clear). It is sometimes called the Sulphur-dust Lichen.

The lichen, Psilolechia lucida, stood out brightly in the dull conditions.
Christchurch Drive, Daventry. 20 January, 2019
Many pictures purporting to be this species are to be found using the internet: about 50% of them show a different species!

In Stefen Leys Pocket Park the snowdrop flowers, like those of the fumitory, were sensibly waiting for warmer, sunnier conditions. Bees, which find these flowers a useful source of pollen and nectar, will have to be patient.

Snowdrops kept their tepals firmly closed. Stefen Leys Pocket Park,
Daventry. 20 January, 2019
The hedgerows behind Worcester Way contain many hazels, some with catkins fully mature and releasing their pollen, others biding their time and yet to open. Some of the catkins were distorted and I suspected the fly, Continarinia coryli, was responsible but a microscopic examination revealed nothing (Ref 2). I will gather more in about April and check again.
Is this distortion cased by Continarinia coryi? By April it should be possible
 to tell. Daventry. 20 January, 2019

No, my ankle wasn't being at all helpful . I limped my way home for a mug of restorative coffee.


1. Wren, R.C (1923) Potter's Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations. Potter & Clarke

2. Redfern, M and Shirley, P (2nd Ed, 2011) British Plant Galls  Field Studies Council

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