Tuesday, 23 April 2019


Ne'er cast a clout till May be out, goes the old saying (in pre-climate-warming times!). Almost certainly this refers, not to the month, but to the flowering of May, or Hawthorn as it is now more commonly known.

The genus Crataegus, to which hawthorns belong, is a huge one. There are certainly 200 species, largely in North America, but if 'microspecies' are included, then there could be as many as 1000. Here in Britain we have just two native species (several others have become naturalised) and both are found in Stefen Hill pocket park.

Unsurprisingly most of those present are Common Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna. Its sweet-smelling blossom is now beginning to appear. The leaves are deeply dissected, jagged even, and quite distinctive.
Common Hawthorn has deeply dissected leaves. Stefen Hill Pocket Park.
23 April, 2019

I was pleased today to find that few bushes near to the pond were of our other native, Midland Hawthorn, Crataegus laevigata. It has shallowly dissected leaves which are generally easy to recognise.

The leaves of Midland Hawthorn are only shallowly dissected.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 23 April, 2019
But the real giveaway is the flowers. Superficially the two species have flowers of a similar appearance but those of Midland Hawthorn have a rank smell, reminiscent of rotting fish. My grandmother would never allow hawthorn in the house, and I had assumed that this was because hawthorn is one of the many trees from which Judas Iscariot hanged himself. However, the problem was probably this rank smell which would pervade the house if the wrong hawthorn was gathered.

This species, as the name suggests, is quite widespread in the English midlands but is always the less common of the two species. Further north it becomes scarce and there are only a handful of scattered records from Scotland.
Not a flower for a bouquet! The odour of Midland Hawthorn flowers is
foul. Stefen Hill Pocket Park. 23 April, 2019

I took photographs of a couple of insects today. One was of the Cream-spot Ladybird, Calvia 14-guttata, the second record from the pocket park of this widespread species.

Calvia 14-guttata, a smart ladybird, with chocolate background colouring
and 14 cream spots. Stefen Hill Pocket Park. 23 April, 2019
The other was one of our bee-mimicking hoverflies, Myathropa florea. It has been given the name of the Batman Hoverfly because some feel that the markings on the thorax (the region behind the head to which the legs and wings are attached) are reminiscent of the Batman logo. All I can say is that you need a strong imagination!

This Batman Hoverfly was basking on the leaf of a maple.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park. 23 April, 2019
It is a handsome insect and is very common at least in southern Britain.

Tony White.  E-mail: diaea@yahoo.co.uk


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