Monday, 8 April 2019

A dull blog for a dull day - take 1

I have made no attempt to engage in any wildlife recording today. The weather is cool and the sky a monochrome grey. Nevertheless I had no excuse not to go for a walk and so I went for an unadventurous stroll locally.

Silver Birches, Betula pendula, are lovely at this time of the year. Leaves are developing but the delicate tracery of the branches are still distinct.

Silver Birches near Westerburg Square, Daventry.
8 April, 2019

Like many of Britain's native trees it bears catkins. An old, more or less obsolete, name for a catkin is an ament and couple of centuries back many botanists lumped the catkin-bearing trees together in one family, the Amentaceae. (Another meaning of ament is 'a congenital idiot'. What conclusions we can draw from that I'm not sure, but I put my camera away at this point, not wishing people to observe an ament photographing an ament.)

I was surprised to see that beneath a Horse Chestnut tree dozens of saplings were growing.

Sycamore and conker saplings in Stefen Hill Pocket Park, Daventry.
8 April, 2019
This would not have happened in my childhood. Eager children would gather up the 'conkers' and take them home for baking or steeping in vinegar, each child having its own recipe for hardening these huge seeds ready for a game of conkers. Few would remain to develop into new trees.

Lime green clearly describes the young foliage of lime trees but could
equally describe young horse chestnut leaves.
At this time of the year the palmately compound leaves are very attractive. What a pity that four months on they will be horribly disfigured by a tiny moth, the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner. The 'candles' of Horse Chestnuts are eagerly visited by honey bees but other than that - and the moth - the tree supports little wildlife. This relative of lychees (but not the sweet chestnut) is native to the Balkans, where it is endangered as a wild tree. 

Many flowers close up at night, a form of behaviour known as nyctinasty. Unsurprisingly on this dull day some of them had not bothered to re-open. Can't blame them - and in any case, I saw no bees around to pop in for a visit.

Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara, not looking its best on this dull day.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park. 8 April, 2019

The discs of Coltsfoot flowers, which ought to have been blazing like golden suns, remained closed or at best only half-open.

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