Thursday, 20 June 2019

Micro moths and liverworts

If it's Wednesday it must be Byfield. Chris and I meet up with old friends at the coffee club, but I usually snatch a quarter of an hour to check out the pocket park. It was a drizzly sort of morning, the damp, windless air heavy with the scent of Elder.

Elder, Sambucus niger, is currently filling the air with fragrance.
Byfield Pocket Park, 19 June, 2019

It is a bit of a Marmite plant: Chris finds the fragrance unpleasantly cloying but I find it delightful.

Very optimistically I gathered a few catkins from a Silver Birch tree in the hope of revealing some Semudobia galls on the fruits. In this I was unsuccessful as it is too early in the season, but a consolation came in the form of a micro-moth on a nettle plant near the foot of the tree. It was a specimen of Epinotia trigonella, rather unimaginatively called the Birch Epinotia Moth. It is very common but was a 'first' for the pocket park.

Epitonia trigonella is strongly associated with birches.
Byfield Pocket Park, 19 June, 2019

Another moth was, or had been, present. I didn't see the insect but I did see the distinctive patches left by its larvae on Creeping Thistle leaves. It was the Pale Thistle Case-bearer, Coleophora peribenanderi, and was another first for the pocket park.

These translucent patches on Creeping Thistle are the work of the larvae of
the Pale Thistle Case Bearer. Byfield Pocket Park, 19 June, 2019

Red Campions were blooming well, and although the flowers were of a pale pink I'm sure they were the genuine article and not the hybrid with the White Campion. Incidentally, under ultra-violet light the flowers of the Red Campion are an amazing bright blue, and this is what attracts many insects.

Only pale pink but nevertheless the flowers are of the Red Campion.
Byfield Pocket Park, 19 June, 2019
A hoverfly was busy either taking nectar or feeding on the pollen grains. A closer look showed that it was Episyrphus balteatus. It is one of the few hoverflies to have acquired a common name, being known as the Marmalade Fly. It is unusual in having double bands on each abdominal segment and 'balteatus', meaning 'belted'' perhaps refers to this feature.

A Marmalade Fly, Episyrphus balteatus, taking pollen or nectar. The  insect
migratory, visiting the UK in large numbers each year. Byfield Pocket Park,
19 June, 2019
Having confirmed that the pocket park hadn't been stolen I sauntered back to the coffee club. (I'm not one to boast but I have to put it on record that I am one of Britain's outstanding exponents of sauntering. I once sauntered all the way across the Albert Bridge in London sustained only by an ice cream. Passers-by could only look on with astonishment.) My route took me past the village tennis courts and I was pleased to see some nice patches of liverwort flourishing on damp, shaded gravel. True, the species involved, Marchantia polymorpha, is very common but none the less photogenic.

The female organs are like umbrellas or tiny palm trees, depending on your imagination.

Female reproductive organs of Marchantia polymorpha. Byfield
village tennis courts. 19 June, 2019
Beside them grew patches displaying the distinctive male organs.
Marchantia polymorpha showing the male organs.
The plant is also able to reproduce vegetatively by the forming of structures called gemmae. These are held in distinctive round cups. These gemmae are apparently splashed out by raindrops during a storm

Gemma-cups of Marchantia polymorpha.

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