Thursday, 18 July 2019

Beauty and the Beast

I toddled along to Byfield Pocket Park yesterday. Now it is more effectively managed the flowers are thriving and, with them, insects too.

Dominating things is Rose Bay Willow Herb. To eradicate this would require the use of a weedkiller and this is something were are not prepared to contemplate. And who would want to get rid of this lovely species anyway?

Rose Bay is almost too exuberant in Byfield Pocket Park.
17 July, 2019
The species has a curious history. A hundred years ago it was a relatively uncommon plant of woodland clearings and wayside. Then came war. Among the ruins of bombed buildings the plant suddenly flourished, giving it the alternative name of Fireweed. Why this happened is a bit of a puzzle. Was it due to a genetic change, giving the species more vigour? Anyway, it is now one of our most familiar wild flowers - but it still likes abandoned building sites.

A few years ago I found just a couple of specimens of Perforate St John's Wort, Hypericum perforatum, among the Rose Bay. Yesterday I counted a dozen or so. I think that on an earlier visit a seed got stuck on my muddy shoes and now there are plants in our front garden. I haven't the heart to remove them. (The same thing has happened with Yellow Rattle and we now have a small colony of that too.)

St John's Worts are instantly recognisable. This is Perforated St John's Wort.
Byfield Pocket Park, 17 July, 2019

Among the other plants a colony of melilot has appeared. It is Ribbed Melilot, Melilotus officinalis, probably an introduction from South-east Europe but now very widespread. The presence of this clover relative can be detected before the plant is even seen, for it releases a lovely scent of coumarin, the same smell as that of new-mown hay.

Bees love it. Ribbed Melilot has formed a significant colony in Byfield
Pocket Park. 17 July, 2019
Black Knapweed, Centaurea nigra, I have mentioned before. It is a magnet for several species of picture-winged fly, member of the Tephritidae family. Like the St John's Wort and the Melilot it can be an untidy plant, but is very welcome.

Clearly related to thistles but without the spines, Black Knapweed is
flourishing in the pocket park. Byfield, 17 July, 2019
All these plants attract insects but the most valuable of plants in this respect is surely Hogweed. It is particularly attractive to beetles and the photograph shows dozens of pollen beetles busy on the umbels of flowers. I took a couple to identify but haven't got around to it yet.

Covered in pollen beetles (woe betide anyone wearing yellow clothes),
Hogweed is a valuable plant for wildlife. Byfield Pocket Park. 17 July, 2019

Many more flowers were present but now for the beast bit. A person or persons had torn a 'Please take your litter home' sign from its moorings and hurled it over the nearby fence, together with a load of litter. A refuse bin was five yards away. Too far to walk of course!
What can I say?
I did my Boy Scout bit and cleared it (not that I have ever been in the Scouts) but we really have a problem with a small but significant sector of our population that shows contempt for society as a whole.

Nil illegitemi carborundum!

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