Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Return to old haunts

Time was, a few years back, when I would make two or three visits a week to Byfield Pocket Park. Now my visits are far more occasional but warm sunshine lured me out there today and, as it turned out, I was glad I went.

We are well into the bluebell season and Byfield Pocket Park has its share. There are pale blue ones, white ones and some of an intermediate, rather wishy-washy mauve. Quite clearly garden escapees - Hyacinthoides hispanicus, the Spanish Bluebell. No native bluebells, or so I thought.
A mix of Spanish Bluebells. Byfield Pocket Park, Northants.
1 May, 2019

At that point I noticed that some were rather different. Unlike the Spanish Bluebell our indigenous species, Hyacinthoides non-scriptus, has a drooping inflorescence forming a one-sided raceme. The ones I had just noticed tended towards this one-sided arrangement and had flowers of a darker blue. I am reasonably certain these were hybrids, possibly meaning that the native bluebell had once been present but was now being hybridised out of existence. Maybe.
English-Spanish Bluebell hybrid? Byfield Pocket Park.
1 May, 2019

Red Campions, Silene dioica, were doing well and a number of young plants suggested they are spreading.
Red Campions appear to be spreading in the pocket park.
1 May, 2019

Vetches were doing well too, with Tufted Vetch, Vicia cracca, putting on a good display.
Tufted Vetch at Byfield Pocket Park. 1 May, 2019

Interesting though these plants were why, as I indicated in the opening paragraph, was I glad I went?

While stooping down to photograph the vetch an intriguing bug caught my eye, It was a species I didn't immediately recognise and I felt confident I'd never encountered one before. Once  home, a closer examination confirmed my suspicions. It was Rhopalus subrufus, not rare but, as far as I was concerned elusive, for I had indeed never seen one before.

Rhopalus subrufus.
It appears to be associated with St John's Wort, of which there is a patch some ten metres from where this insect had occurred but cranesbills, another food-plant, were also present.

All in all, I was rather pleased.

Tony White. E-mail:

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