Saturday, August 19, 2006

Horned leaf hopper, Ledra aurita

On a visit to the Sussex Wildlife Trust's offices in Henfield, I was shown an unmistakable horned leaf hopper, Ledra aurita, that one of the members had brought in for identification.

One of the largest British Homoptera, these insects are so well-camouflaged on the tree trunks and branches where they are normally found that they are seldom seen, though maybe they are quite common. In our area I think I have only come across them twice in the last 35 years.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

More flowers in more meadows

Once again I have taken a walk around the meadows in the Marline Valley west of Hastings and been surprised by the colourfulness of the flowers. In places there is a purple haze of knapweed, Centaurea nigra: elsewhere yellow fleabane, Pulicaria dysenterica, mingles with pink marsh woundwort, Stachys palustris or bluish mauve water mint, Mentha aquatica.

I was struck by the fact that fleabane seems to comprise about 50% of some of these colourful patches and there are very few other plants involved. What prevents a monoculture from developing and why are the two major constituent plants so evenly mixed?

Another dimension is the smell. Walking through meadows like this delivers a complex, constantly changing olfactory experience quite lost in modern grass fields. And of course, there are the proverbial clouds of butterflies and bees all enjoying the experience too and adding sound as well as movement. A meadow for all senses.