Friday, August 07, 2020

Enchanter's nighshade

Enchanter's nightshade (Circaea lutetiana) is once again flowering here and there in our garden and local woods.  It is a small and modest plant with delicate pink and white flowers followed by  small burrs, each containing a seed, which cling to one's trouser legs.

It appears to have very few virtues as an edible or medicinal plant but most people wonder how it came by its mysterious English name.  This has been much discussed in various online places but generally it seems to have originated in the 16th and 17th century when many of the great European herbalists were writing about the medicinal and magical properties of plants.  Among other things they explored the works of classical authors like Dioscorides (De materia medica, AD 50 -70).  He wrote of a plant called 'kirkaia' in Greek which becomes 'Circaea' in Latin and can be translated as Circe's (plant).  Quite what this was seems uncertain but enchanter's nightshade is one candidate.

The French name for Enchanter's nightshade was, at the time of the 16th and 17th C herbalists, 'circée' and this is still current in France, Italy and French-speaking Switzerland.  The herbalists assumed this associated the plant with Circe, the enchantress of Homer's Odyssey who attracted Ulysses's men with her siren song then used a magic potion to turn them into pigs.  The derivation of circée as a plant name may be correct but I have not seen any direct evidence that this was so.  There are, however, some accounts of the plant being used by women to arouse men, though this may not pre-date the 16th century.

When the French herbalists were writing they often called Enchanter's nightshade 'circée de Paris'.  This was not only because the plant grew commonly in the Paris area (and elsewhere in most of France) but to distinguish it from upland enchanter's nightshade (Circaea alpina) known in French as 'circée des Alpes'.  Circée de Paris was written in Latin as 'circaea lutetiana', the second word deriving from 'lutetia' a Roman name for Paris, and Linnaeus used this when formally describing the plant in his Species Plantarum.

All that more or less explains the enchanter's part of the name, but why 'nightshade'?  This is quite simply because the plant was thought to be a nightshade due to the shape of its leaves resembling woody nightshade (Solanum dulcamara).  Gaspard Bauhin the 17th C Swiss botanist  called it Solanifolia Circaea (nightshade-leaved circée) for example. 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Things on hornbeam leaves

I seem to have been doing well with hornbeam leaves this year, especially as they do not normally seem to produce anything very exciting.  My first discovery was the tiny galls of the mite Aceria tenellus in the axils of veins in several leaves of the hornbeam cordon in my Square Metre, as well as on the edge of Killingan Wood up the lane.  There are only a few records of this species from Sussex and I expect it has been overlooked rather than being generally scarce.


My next discovery was of quite a few empty mines of the small purple hazel moth Paracrania chrysolepidella (it also feeds on hazel), an attractive, Nationally Notable class B, early flying micro.


While examining these I noticed a strange corkscrew  like gall on a leaf edge (see below) which turned out to be that of another mite, Aceria macrotrichus.  According to the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) there is only one British record of this (from the Midlands).  There were no Sussex records in the databases of the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre.  As well as the corkscrew-like structure there are vermiform swellings along the veins in the underside of the leaf and slits on the upperside from which the mites can leave



The next day I was looking to see if there were any more of these galls.  There were not, but I found the considerable mass of eggs (see below) that some insect had laid on the underside of a hornbeam leaf.  After arrival at home they started to hatch into tiny caterpillars, so I have put them on the hornbeam cordon down the garden in my Square Metre project.



Sunday, April 05, 2020

Two comfreys

Part of our garden is carpeted with creeping comfrey, Symphytum grandiflorum.


The white, tubular flowers are very attractive to bumblebees and must be nectar rich.  This picture was taken on 5th April and the plant had been in flower for well over a month, helping the bumbles to get off to a good start.

Most species of comfrey have had many medical applications in the past, but these are best avoided as plants in the Symphytum genus have been shown to be somewhat toxic.

We also have a colony of Hidcote comfreyS. x hidcotense, with blue and white flowers but the same creeping habit.  I think this must have been the plant Kenneth Grahame wrote about in Wind-in-the-Willows: "Comfrey, the purple hand-in-hand with the white, crept forth to take its place in the line."


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Onion loops

One of the most delicately beautiful phenomenon of this rising spring are these arching leaves of wild onion (Allium vineale).  It seems to me an uncommon shape in our British flora.  These are just outside my Square Metre project and I think they may produce heads of bulbils this year.  The first wild onions appeared under the medlar tree a short distance away many years ago where their bulbils were probably dropped by birds. They are slowly advancing eastwards towards the Square Metre itself but have never 'flowered'.


A relaxing half hour can be had by contemplating these onion loops and listening to John Adams Shaker Loops at the same time.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Churchland

Churchland is roughly the area I can reach on foot from my home.  Further details will follow but my general intent is to make it a series of searchable notes on the small part of the High Weald lying to the north of Sedlescombe Street.  My house, South View, is close to the centre of a rough pentagon of tarmac roads at OS grid reference TQ782188.  It is on Churchland Lane which runs as a unmade road towards the village, then a footpath, then a made road through Balcombe Green and finally down to the main road through the village via Long Lane.  It more or less cuts the area I call Churchland in half while to the west there is a series of fields known generally as Churchland Fields and a wood to the east of our garden called Churchland Wood.

Plants (Plantae)

Flowering plants, conifers and ferns

In this flora of Churchland plants are arranged in alphabetical order in their groups by scientific name.  I have included wild plants and the cultivated plants that can, in most instances, be seen from the roads or the footpaths.  I will add to it from time to time but it will be ages (or never) before all the species that grow in Churchland are listed.  All a bit like train spotting.  Nomenclature follows Stace (2019).  The New Flora of the British Isles, 4th edition.

Aquilegia vulgaris - Columbine.  Occasional as a garden escape.  Along 90 metre footpath TQ78371938, in gateway on Hurst Lane TQ78211943.

Arum italicum - Italian lords-and-ladies.  There are two species of  Arum in Churchland.  This one and A. maculatum (see below).  A. italicum with plain leaves (often knows as subspecies neglectum) is found wild in Britain only in the southern counties, usually near the coast..  Unlike A. maculatum the leaves emerge in autumn.  There is also a variety with whitish veins in the leaves (often known as subspecies italicum).  Plants with both plain and veined leaves occur here and there in Churchland, often originating as garden throw-outs.  There is a patch outside Jessmond in Churchland Lane with both plain and veined leaves.

Anemone nemorosa - Wood anemone.  Common in many woodlands, especially on clay soils.

Arum maculatum - Lords-and-ladies.  Also known as cuckoo-pint and wild arum.  Unlike the above the leaves appear in late winter or early spring and often have purple spots.  It occurs in woods and hedgerows across the area.

Asplenium adiantum-nigrum - Black spleenwort

Athyrium filix-femina - Lady-fern

Asplenium scolopendrium - Hart's-tongue fern

Buxus sempervirens - Box.  Widely planted in gardens for hedging and topiary.

Chrysosplenium oppositifolium - Opposite-leaved golden-saxifrage.  Occasional in ditches and damp places.

Cupressus lawsoniana - Lawson's cypress

Cupressus x leylandii - Leyland cypress.  Common as a hedgerow shrub and sometimes allowed to grow tall, e.g. by the car port at Woodstock in Churchland Lane.  There is a variegated example with some creamy white shoots among the green in the hedge at Dino's in Churchland Lane close to the junction with Hurst Lane

Equisetum arvense - Field horsetail

Berberis - Barberries

Bergenia sp. - Elephant ears.  One plant on the edge of Killingan Wood.  Probably B. crassifolia from Siberia.

Blechnum spicant - Hard-fern

Calocedrus decurrens - Incense cedar

Caltha palustris - Marsh marigold.  Scattered in the wild in Sedlescombe.  Occurs in the pond in Tresco, Churchland Lane and the pond in Red Barn Field.

Chelidonium majus - Greater celandine.  Has occurred as a casual in Churchland Lane.

Clematis vitalba - Traveller's joy, Old man's beard.  Churchland Lane in the hedge where South View meets Little Oaks.  There are many garden Clematis species, hybrids and varieties grown in the area.
.
Dryopteris affinis - Golden-scaled male-fern

Dryopteris carthusiana - Narrow buckler-fern

Dryopteris dilatata - Broad buckler-fern

Dryopteris filix-mas - Male-fern.

Ervilia hirsuta (formerly Vicia hirsuta) - Hairy tare.  I have only seen this in the garden at South View where it is a persistent weed in flower-pots.

Ervum tetraspermum - Smooth Tare.  Common in gardens and along hedgerow bottoms as well as in tough open ground.

Eschscholzia californica - Californian poppy.  Widespread in gardens.

Ficaria verna - Lesser celandine (formerly Ranunculus ficaria).  Common along waysides, hedgerows and field edges as well in more open parts of woodland where it can flower as early as mid-January.  There are four subspecies recorded in Britain.

Griselinia littoralis - New Zealand broadleaf, New Zealand privet.or kapuka in Maori.  An evergreen shrub often used for hedging, especially near the sea.  There is a mature hedge of this species (with some beech mixed in) by Churchland Lane along the front fence of The Pantiles.

Helleborus argutifolius - Corsican hellebore.  Only in gardens in Churchland.

Helleborus foetidus - Stinking hellebore.  Cultivated in gardens but not recorded in the wild in Churchland.

Helleborus orientalis - Lenten-rose.  Only in gardens in Churchland.

Hyacinthoides x massartiana.  This is the 'Spanish bluebell' commonly encountered as an escape in and around gardens.  It is a hybrid between the true Spanish bluebell, H. hispanica, and our native species.  Distinguishing the Spanish bluebell from x massartiana needs care.

Hyacinthoides non-scripta, bluebell.  A widespread and common species in most woodland in the area.  Its scientific name has changed several times over the years and there is also much confusion with the Spanish bluebell with which it hybridises (see above). Stories are frequently published about the danger to our native bluebells from this hybridisation but this does not appear to be a threat in Churchland.

Hylotelephium telephium ssp. fabaria - Orpine.  (Formerly Sedum telephium).  Grown in gardens but also quite widespread in local woods and hedge banks.  In Churchland it occurs in one place on the eastern bank of Hurst Lane.

Ilex x altaclerensis - Highclere holly.  Frequent in gardens, usually as one of the variegated forms.  A plant of the variety 'Golden King' (in fact a berry-bearing female plant) occurs in a hedge at Cherry Croft on the eastern side of Churchland Lane.

Ilex aquifolium - Holly 

Juniperus communis - Common juniper

Larix decidua - European larch

Mahonia - Oregon grapes.  Various species and varieties of Mahonia from North America are grown in Churchland gardens.  Their yellow flowers in autumn, winter and spring provide important nectar and pollen for the bumble bees that fly in milder weather in the winter months.

Lotus corniculatus - Common bird's-foot-trefoil.  Common in pastures and often on old lawns.

Lotus pedunculatus. Greater bird's-foot-trefoil.  Common in longer vegetation and damper ground than L. corniculatus.

Myriophyllum aquaticum - Parrot's-feather.  An aquatic plant from South America found in the wild in many ponds where it can suppress native plants.  Pond at Tresco, Churchland Lane (needs checking).

Osmunda regalis - Royal fern

Paeonia officinalis - Garden peony.  Several plants along Churchland Lane opposite Little Oaks gateway.  Widely grown in gardens.

Papaver somniferum - Opium poppy.  One plant occurred on a heap of brick rubble in the garden of Acorn Chalet in the early 21st century.  It did not persist.

Petasites pyrenaicus - Winter heliotrope (formerly Petasites fragrans).  A plant from the Mediterranean area with scented flowers in winter.  Only the male plant is known in Britain but it spreads vegetatively and causes problems on roadside verges and elsewhere as its large, round leaves suppress smaller native plants.  It is difficult to eradicate other than by using weedkillers.  Occurs in various places in Churchland and usually flowers well at the point where Hurst Lane joins the A2244.

Picea abies - Norway spruce

Pinus sylvestris - Scots pine

Pittosporum tenuifolium. Known as kohuhu, black matipo and tawhiwhi in Maori, but there does not appear to be an English name apart from New Zealand pittosporum.  There is a plant in the mixed hedge of Glendale in Churchland Lane. easily distinguished by the undulate margins of the bright green leaves.

Polystichum aculeatum - Hard shield-fern 

Polypodium vulgare - Polypody fern

Polystichum setiferum - Soft shield-fern

Pteridium aquilinum - Bracken

Ranunculus acris - Meadow buttercup.  Widespread in Churchland in open places.

Ranunculus auricomus - Goldilocks buttercup.  Scattered in woodland in Churchland.  This plant is apomictic and has a large number of agamospecies of which around 60 have been described but many more await description.

Ranunculus repens - Creeping buttercup.  Common everywhere often in dam open places.  A persistent weed in gardens.

Ribes nigrum - Black currant.  One plant recorded from Killingan Wood.  Widely grown in gardens

Ribes rubrum - Red currant.  Frequent in woods and widely grown in gardens.

Ribes sanguineum - Flowering currant.  One plant in Churchland Wood.  Widely grown in gardens.

Ribes uva-crispa - Gooseberry.  Recorded as a wild plant in Churchland Wood.  Widely grown in gardens.

Sedum album - White stonecrop.  A frequent escape from gardens on walls and gravelly paths.  Sometimes used on green roofs.

Sempervivum tectorum - Houseleek.  This and its varieties plus some other houseleek species are widely grown in Churchland gardens.

Symphoricarpos albus ssp. laevigatus - Snowberry.  Introduced from western North America.  The plant naturalised in Britain is ssp. laevigatus.  There is a vigorous plant in a garden at TQ78351927 to the west of the footpath.

Symphytum grandiflorum - Creeping comfrey.  Occurs in gardens and sometimes escapes.  Can start to flower in January and is very attractive to bees.

Symphytum x hidcotense - Hidcote comfrey.  Occurs in gardens.

Tellima grandiflora - Fringecups.  From North America.  Has sown itself for many years in the garden at South View in Churchland Lane.

Taxus baccata - Yew.  Widely self-sown into local woodlands and frequently planted both as a free-standing tree and for a hedge, or topiary.  There is an Irish yew, Taxus baccata 'fastigiata' by Churchland Lane on the boundary between South View and Little Oaks.

Viburnum tinus - Laurustinus.  An introduced evergreen shrub from the Mediterranean area that has pink or white flowers in the colder months of the year.  Itr is often ravaged by the viburnum leaf beetle beetle Pyrrhalta viburni. Laurustinus leaves have things called ‘domatia’ in some of the underside axils of some of the leaves.  These domatia consist of clumps of small white hairs and act as shelter for a species of mite called Metaseiulus occidentalis.  Apparently these mites eat the eggs of the red spider mite, Tetranychus urticae, which are very damaging to plants and laurustinus can therefore be of value to gardeners for control of this pest.

Viburnum x bodnantense.  A group of hybrids between Viburnum farreri and V . grandiflorum.  The first to be propagated was raised at Bodnant gardens in North Wales in 1935.  The pink and white flowers appear on bare branches in midwinter and have a strong perfume.  There is an example on the south west corner of The Pantiles' garden by Churchland Lane and also one in the garden of South View..

Vicia sativa ssp. nigra - Narrow-leaved vetch.  Common in hedgerows and rough grassland.

Vicia sativa ssp. segetalis - Common vetch.  Occasional in hedges and rough places.

Vicia sepium - Bush vetch. Common in hedgerows and rough places.
-

Friday, August 30, 2019

The Square Metre 19 July to 22 August 2019

The photo below shows many of the features in the Second Meadow that are mention in this post.  The stone row  just to the left of centre is Cynthia's Ridge. Travelling clockwise the flat area to the right is the Dust Bowl. The dark circle at 3 o'clock is Second Meadow Pond.  Just below this is the singled Eastern Dandelion just above the ragwort plant both growing in what I call Conservation Lawn.  At about 7 o'clock there is the cardboard Amazon square and at about 8 the western dandelion between two non-interference grass tufts.  The grey brown area to the left of these is where the woodchip from the entrance path encroaches.  At about 11 o'clock past the fern and the irises the black bryony climbs up into the darkness and already has a few yellow autumnal leaves.
                            
                            In the top right hand corner the trunk of the mature birch tree growing in the original Square Metre can be seen



19 July 2019                Quite cool with rain approaching: its first intrusions could be felt in the wind.  A muscid and an ichneumon sat each on its own rock in Cynthia’s Ridge, presumably enjoying the stored warmth.  There was also a fragment of snail shell on one of the rocks indicating a thrush had been in action.  Second Meadow Pond was half empty again.  Many of the sorrel seedlings are marked with red to a greater or lesser degree.

20 July 2019                Heavy overnight rain has wetted the Dust Bowl and given the seedlings a better chance of survival.  There were two springtails on thePost settings pond and a cream spot ladybird, Calvia quattuordecimguttata, on a hogweed leaf.  One living feeler of ivy has reached Second Meadow Pond.




21 July 2019                Warm again – good growing weather.  Three Rhagonycha fulva, red soldier beetles, and a male social wasp on hogweed flowers.  A red blood worm tumbling through the water in Second Meadow Pond plus a dead burying beetle (Nicrophorus sp.) in the grass. I wonder what it had been burying.

22 July 2019                There are green aphids on some hogweed stems and a potter wasp on the flowers.  I am letting a few grass clumps develop naturally in the Second Meadow in the hopes that they will grow into an interesting feature.  The first harvestman of the year appeared in the vegetation north of Troy Track.

23 July 2019                It is getting very hot and the hogweed is drooping slightly.  Noted some worm casts in the Second Meadow.

24 July 2019                The hottest day on record in Great Britain.  Here it reached 32.5° in the shade.

26 July 2019                Thunderstorms overnight and heavy rain that refreshed Emthree after the heat.  Politics has been as lively as the weather with Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister and appointing what looks like a very right-wing cabinet.

28 July 2019                Much cooler and showery, irrigating much of Emthree.  There are busy gatherings of insects on the hogweed flowers now.

29 July 2019                Windy and rather cool.  The first knapweed is in flower.  There was a visit from a meadow brown butterfly.  The grass tufts in Second Meadow are now starting to differentiate but I do not think they will anthesise this year. 

30 July 2019                We have moved my little gardening seat back further into the Brambly Hedge area so I can get more into focus with my close-focus binoculars (now essential equipment).  There are many solitary wasps among the hogweed flower visitors and a scorpion fly put in an appearance.

1 August 2019             Light rain today. A large black beetle in the pond.  Creeping buttercup in flower.  I surveyed the area with my old Zeiss monocular which allows very close focus.  I selected a few more  plants of grass to be given a kind of zen landscape treatment.

2 August 2019             I have three square metres now: the original, what I call ‘The Waste’ to the south of it, and the Second Meadow to the west of these.  There are many insects jostling on the hogweed flowers and male and female Gasteruption seem more abundant than usual. I noted a marmalade fly, Episyrphus balteatus drinking from Second Meadow Pond.  The eastern dandelion leaves are being attacked by the rust fungus Puccinia hieracii but so far it does not look too debilitating.




3 August 2019             The seed pods of the gladdon irises in Medlar Wood hang like green hand grenades.  There was a visit from a speckled wood butterfly.  An ivy shoot has started to climb the trunk of the birch up a rough patch of bark.
  
A small hedge woundwort plant on the western edge of the Second Meadow has had most of its leaves eaten during the night.

4 August 2019             This would have been (and was) our 60th wedding anniversary.  There was an orange rowan berry like a punctuation mark on the Conservation Lawn in the Second Meadow.  Meadow Pond was only half full.  The black bryony up its iron pole is quite splendid: a bright green column of leaves hiding still green berries.  Some of the leaves have dark brown blotches, probably caused by the fungus Cercospora scandens.

5 August 2019             Honeybees quite frequent visitors to knapweed flowers.  A large white butterfly made a visit.  The spindle suckers are heavily infested on their lower leavers by the yellow spots caused by the scale insect Unaspis euonymi.  There has been a small amount of rain and the eastern dandelion has, perhaps as a consequence, cocked up its leaves at an angle of about 45°.

6 Aug 2019                 Cool and showery but much action on the American willow-herb, Epilobium ciliatum with some aphids attended by a wrinkled ant.  The aphid is, I suspect, Macrosiphum tinctum.  There are a few yellow spots on some of the hornbeam cordon leaves, maybe a fungus – I will have to wait and see if they develop.

7 August 2019             The western and eastern dandelions in the Second Meadow are quite different in character.  The eastern has more shiny leaves that often stand up at 45°, whereas the western one has nearly matt leaves of slightly paler green that lie flat.  The eastern also has markedly red streaks on the midribs of the leaves, but there is little red in the case of the western one.  Cooler and showery.

8 August 2019             Still cool with mist and rain on the way.  I weeded out sorrel seedlings from the Dust Bowl and cleared round the self-heal plant near my seat.  Found another small ragwort plant near here.  This really is gardening with wildlife – but why not?  Co-operating with nature.

9 August 2019             Just before 3pm and earthworm emerged on Troy Track into the full sunshine of a warm afternoon.  It did not seem to like it much and hid most of its body under a low grass tussock.  Overnight there had been heavy rain which might have flooded the worm holes or otherwise tempted it out.  Shortly afterwards a young grass snake poked its head out, tongue flickering, from the bottom of Brambly Hedge and after it had tasted the air slithered back again.

10 Aug 2019               A summer gale with winds of around 50mph.  More sound than fury.  The tutsan berries are turning from orange-red to black.  With the continuing wet there are many small seedlings appearing in the Dust Bowl.

11 August 2019           The tallest stem of the American willow-herb has decided to lay flat on the ground but still looks healthy.  Troy Track is also developing a surprisingly g=rich flora despite regular trampling.  Calm after yesterday’s high winds but much leaf and twiggy litter.  The dead ash sapling must have broken at the base and is leaning westwards with its burden of small-flowered sweetbriar in the upper branches.  There was a black and scarlet Necrophorus burying beetle drowned in Second Meadow Pond (I would not have thought it had much to bury) and a 4th instar green shield bug on one of the small ashes.

12 August 2019           Frequent overnight showers.  Ground quite wet.  Many hogweed flowers but little else.  None of the vast quantity of birch seeds on the ground seems to have germinated.

13 August 2019           Grass clipping across Conservation Lawn today.  I thought about taking up drawing and painting but decided the next day I would not be good enough.  The eastern dandelion I have named ‘Shuttlecock’ and the western one ‘Green Star’, this latter has the shorter leaves of the two and today a perfect white fluff feather was caught under one of the leaves.

14 August 2019           Heavy rain all day and very cool for August.  I stayed indoors.

15 August 2019           The Rosa sp. hip has turned greenish orange as it begins to ripen.  There are also some glandular hairs on the hip pedicel.  Sammy saw a grass snake in the garden to the west of Emthree and also reported a frog from the nearby tortoise pen potato patch.  The two dandelions continue to differ: the easterly is losing some of its leaves to the rust fungus (Puccinia hieracii): the western specimen has none of the fungal speckles and its leaves still lie quite flat on the ground.  Very mysterious the ways of dandelions.

16 August 2019           Incoming rain from the west.  The figwort in M3 is flowering again and another ’Lammas’ shoot has appeared on the cordon oak.  This particular oak branchlet has extended three times so far this season.

17 August 2019           At Emthree I am fishing for thoughts and like the sun on my back.  The eastern dandelion leaves are standing up even more proudly now, perhaps because of the wet weather.  Another difference from the western plant is that the eastern has slightly undulating lead surfaces whereas in the western they are completely flat.  The plant with shuttlecock leaves will direct rainwater to the centre of the crown more efficiently than the plants whose leaves lie flat.  There was a dead worm beside one if the self-heal plants.

18 August 2019           Emthree is getting more like an arboretum every year.  The hornbeam is still growing strongly and is over 2 metres tall (it will be cut back to 1 metre in autumn).  One of the hazels has extended nearly as much.  The rose hip has lost all but one of its sepals and a green shield bug is still about.  One of the hogweed  umbels attracted a congregation of solitary wasps.

19 August 2019           A small female sawfly, black with a yellow body, busily explored every leaf of the easterly dandelion.  Black muscid flies pursued their various dispositions on the stones of Cynthia’s Ridge – an ever-changing drill.  I caught glimpses of something blue beside the red stone.  It proved to be a chewed-up petal of some nearby flower.

20 August 2019           Flowers out: hogweed, knapweed, self-heal, Epilobium montanum, E. ciliatum, herb robert.  The rust fungus continues to pull down the easterly dandelion.  There was a small shining copper orange beetle on a knapweed leaf.  A flesh fly drank from Second Meadow Pond. Fifteen years ago the area was much busier and on 20 August 2004 I spoke of the grasshopper and ground hoppers that were abundant that summer.  There are none so far this year.

21 August 2019           A scarce snout-faced hoverfly Rhingia rostrata and a bumble bee hoverfly Volucella bombylans on knapweed flower (and another on 22nd) and a black spider hunting wasp Anoplius nigerrimus resting (they are usually in perpetual motion) on a stone on Cynthia’s Ridge.  Warm and summery again.

                                    I have started a new experiment by placing a rectangle of cardboard 35 x 27cm (used to send me a book by Amazon) on the ground on the south west edge of the Second Meadow and where I can easily see it from my seat.  The idea is to study what happens to it.  Today a kite-tailed robber fly Machimus atricapillus rested for a while on the rectangle – a new record for Emthree.  I also noted some bright blue glittery thing in the grass nearby and discovered it was part of the thorax and body shell of, I think, some kind of fly, like an empty, blue crab shell on a much smaller scale..  I reflected, as I often have, on the large quantity of dead insects that must rain down to the ground every day to be hoovered up by flesh eating scavengers – birds, shrews, spiders and other invertebrates.

22 August 2019           Warm wind from the south-east.  There are many butterfly species about in the wider garden.  Emthree was visited by an exploring-for-hibernation-place peacock and there was a ragged large white on Brambly Hedge.  The first Lammas shoots on the oak cordon have been quite severely damaged by the  powdery mildew Erysiphe alphitoides

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Highlights from June 2019

Despite the dry weather the fungus season seems to be starting with species like this petticoat mottlegill Panaeolus papilionaceus (the pair on the right) popping up in Churchland Fields, Sedlescombe (TQ7818).


It has been an exceptionally good year for flowers on the gladdon (aka stinking iris) Iris foetidissima that is becoming increasingly abundant in our garden.  Such a rich flowering should produce many splitting pods of bright orange seeds to enliven the winter garden.


There are two plants of  great mullein, Verbascum thapsus, by our front hedge and for a few weeks one supported about a dozen mullein moth, Cucullia verbasci, larvae.  These have a warning colouration so that birds don't go for them and feed openly in daytime.  They pretty well shredded the one plant of the two out there, but it recovered and flowered well after the caterpillars had gone to ground to pupate thereby ensuring a good supply of seed and plants for future moths to lay their eggs on.  When I see caterpillars like this it always makes me wonder how the moths find the right plants, especially when they are not very common..