Thursday, 24 October 2019

Byfield Pocket Park in late October

Chris and I drew aside the bedroom curtains this morning to reveal fog, with visibility down to barely 100 yards. We were off to Byfield to meet old friends but there would be a chance for a stroll around the village pocket park.

The fog had begun to thin out by the time I reached the park but spider webs were still glistening silver-grey. Spiders on this dock plant would have to wait for the dew to disperse before they stood a chance of ensnaring a victim.

These webs are commonly present but usually less obvious. Byfield Pocket
Park. 23 October, 2019
There were a few flowers to brighten up the scene and, as the sun broke through, insects began to stir themselves. They become torpid in cold conditions and must wait for the temperature to rise. This Rose-bay Willowherb was open for business but its flowers were not yet receiving visitors.

Rose-bay Willowherb is still flowering well. Byfield Pocket Park.
23 October, 2019
Once the sun gained in strength the mist dispersed rapidly and other flowers became obvious. The racemes of the Rose-bay had been predictable but I was pleased to find that an aster was flowering too.

This aster is probably Symphoritrichum lanceolatum. Byfield Pocket Park,
23 October, 2019

Asters can be tricky: many are North American species, escapees from gardens are frequent and to complicate the picture hybrids are common too. The Byfield plant appeared to be Aster lanceolatus, now perhaps better referred to as Symphoritrichum lanceolatum. The group appears to be rapidly evolving and new hybrids are likely to occur.

As striking as the flowers, if not more so, were berried shrubs. Spindle has fruit as bright as any and despite their toxicity to humans they appear to be happily accepted by birds.
Spindle is fruiting profusely...

The birds will need to be quick, for berries are beginning to split, following which they will wither and lose their edibility.

… but the pink fruits are beginning to split, revealing the orange-red seeds.
Byfield Pocket Park, 23 October, 2019

By now the sun was shining brightly and I could happily have spent further time there but I had other matters to attend to. I was about to leave when I noticed a clump of lovely toadstools in a flower bed. The species was Stropharia caerulea,  known as the Blue Roundhead. It was growing in a common situation, viz. soil to which a mulch of wood chippings had been applied. This species contains psilocybin/psilocin, Class A drugs which have hallucinogenic properties.

Blue Roundheads, lovely (but inedible) toadstools in wood chippings.
Byfield Pocket Park, 23 October, 2019
It was a fungus new to the pocket park so I departed well pleased with the morning.

I arrived home in sunny conditions to find that a Pasque Flower, Pulsatilla vulgaris, was in flower in our garden. Again, a case of a plant that has failed to read the books and in consequence is way out of season!
What on earth was this Pasque Flower thinking of! Blooming six months out
of season. Stefen Hill, Daventry. 23 October, 2019

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