Thursday, June 28, 2007

Perforate St Johnswort (Hypericum peforatum)

The new hypericum plant that appeared by Butterfly Rock came into flower this morning and its identity is confirmed as perforate St. Johnswort.

Characteristic features are two ridges along the stems, black glandular dots on the leaves and petals, translucent dots on the leaves and pointed sepals.

Long revered as a herb that could drive off evil spirits, especially around midsummer and St. John's Eve, perforate St John'swort is now widely sold in health shops as an anti-depressant and a medicine for various other afflictions, the main active ingredient being hypericin.

Emthree's other St. Johnswort, the square-stalked, is generally sulking, perhaps because of the attentions of the S J beetle, and the plants are rather stunted, flowerless so far and with distorted leaves.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tiles for a pond

I have lined the small pond I dug at the north west end of Troy Track last year with black butyl and have been wondering for some days about how to design a suitable edging.
I thought handmade tiles might be a good idea so I went to see Aldershaw, a small tile-making business on the road to Hastings. Here I found some beautiful six inch squares made out of our local Wadhurst Clay from a pit in a nearby wood and have used some for the edging (see photo). They are only loosely arranged at present and will try to work out how to settle them better. At the back of the pond where the ground rises almost vertically I have laid an Ailanthus log.

The top picture shows a close up of one of the hand made tiles: very shibusa.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Yellow shell moth (Camptogramma bilineata)

I was scanning the birch sapling this evening and what appeared to be a dead leaf turned into a yellow shell moth. Though a new record for the project, this is a common species whose caterpillars feed on docks, chickweed and other low-growing plants, so it may have grown up in Emthree.

The yellow birch leaves have been attacked the microfungus Asteroma microspermum and, as the top picture shows, the moth has quite a good resemblance to these and is easily overlooked.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A passing toad (Bufo bufo)

This afternoon, while working on a small pond to the west of Emthree, a large toad (above) emerged from the Meadow and crawled on to Troy Track then westward into Medlar Wood following very much the same route as Elly's mouse the other day.

Is something going on here?

This was the first toad I have seen in the garden for some time and, sadly, it seems to have been injured under the eye and on one of its hind legs. However, these injuries do not appear to be life threating and the amphibian was active and seemed otherwise in good health.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Elly and the mystery mouse

Evening brings a kind of pallor to the square. The last of the narrow-leaved vetch flowers are closed and only the white marsh thistle and the bramble flowers shine out.

There is colour showing now on the buds of the as yet unidentified St. Johnswort and the greater bird’s-foot trefoil will not be far behind in sending its yellow slipper flowers from Our Lady’s pincushions in which they lie.

There are still a few pale blue forget-me-nots, but they will fade soon. They seem particularly appropriate for the day on which our much loved granddaughter Elly has gone to stay with an aunt and will no longer be a constant spirit of joy and delight around our house. Almost every day she came with me to Emthree and wondered at the magical world of woodlice and snails under the stones and stumps. Once again I will have to make my visits alone, but they will be full of memories. Fare well little girl.

But an enchantment of hope brightened my reflections. As I stood on Troy Track a tiny wood mouse peeped out from under the yew log Elly loved to roll back. She pottered across Submespilus Assart, her sleek coat shining with movement like bright brown water. Then she was on Troy Track and climbed first on one of my shoes, then on the other before carrying on with her journey into the depths of the long grass.

I am, of course, much too sensible to believe that our magic granddaughter has learned to shape shift, but I have never before had a mouse explore both my shoes like that, and the route she took was very much over the ground where Elly is sitting in the picture above.

Friday, June 15, 2007

A few days ahead

First flowers out on smooth hawksbeard, Crepis capillaris and the first meadow brown butterfly flopping sideways across Emthree (though they have been on the wing locally for a couple of weeks).

In past years the hawksbeard came out on 17 June 2004, 23 June 2005 and 15 June 2006 and meadow browns crossed Emthree on 20 June 2004, 21 June 2005 and 24 June 2006, so things seem to be just a day or two ahead, though I would not have thought this was particularly significant. Elsewhere locally the Crepis has been very obviously in flower for many days.

Monday, June 11, 2007

England's haymaking

Today, 11 June, was the tradional day for haymaking in old England.

I have part of my project, Submespilus Assart North, which I intend to cut (as for hay) every 11 June. And so I did today.
The area was only cleared late last summer for a parallel project but today I counted 14 species in this small area: smooth hawksbeard, Yorkshire fog, hogweed, rough meadow grass, black bryony, cocksfoot, scaly male fern, herb-robert, prickly sow thistle, wood dock, bramble, creeping buttercup, stinking iris and hedge woundwort. There are probably a few others.
This speaks of hedge bank rather than hay meadow, but cutting and removing the arisings will reduce the present lushness and I shall selectively hand graze the aftermath to achieve a more meadowy effect.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Capsid bugs and dolis

Now that the 'hay' crop is reaching its highest, there are many small insects prowling about in the canopy layer.
The tiny Dolichpodid flies perch on leaves looking for even smaller prey. The one pictured here is, perhaps, a Medetera species. Note the small, brilliant white patch on its head above the antennae - some sort of signal to others of its species no doubt.
The capsid bug is Calocoris stysi and apparently those occuring in Britain are subspecies insularis. The adults are often found in patches of nettles (though there are none of these in Emthree) and they feed on fruit, unripe seeds and small insects. The example here is on our narrow-leaved vetch, a great value-for-money plant that attracts a wide range of insect species.

Friday, June 08, 2007

A ghost moth (Hepialus humuli)

I was with a friend at Emthree early this evening when I noticed something sticking out of the ground near the heather plant in The Waste. It was a pupal case (see top picture) and my friend almost immediately spotted the impressive moth that had hatched out of it.

It is a ghost moth (Hepialus humuli) and said to be common, though it is some years since I have seen one here.

The females ase a patterned orange colour and only the males white. They are indeed a ghostly sight as they hover the meadow grass at dusk.

One thing puzzles me: the pupal case was in a rather bare part of Great Plantain Desert and I wonder where on earth the underground larva found enough roots to eat. It certainly did not seem to kill or weaken anything.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Flowers of the bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.)

The brambles are now at their best in terms of flower with crumpled white petals opening their arms to passing insect visitors.

When I was young I remember places where these flowers were alive with butterflies: white admirals, silver-washed fritillaries and others but, in East Sussex at any rate, this now seems a thing of the past, though these butterflies still occur in small numbers.

Brambles are good value and Emthree's two plants up against North Wall now have four manifestations: the dead brown canes from 2004, the dying canes from 2005 that fruited last year, the floricanes currently in bloom, and the rising primocanes that will flower and fruit next year.

Although they may not be crowded with butterflies, I do get a number of insect visitors, particularly honey bees that scramble about enthusiastically among the stamens.

Outside Troy Track to the south I have turned the bramble growth into a low hedge. This is a very simple process with shears and I wonder if woody plants will work their way up through the prickly thicket and make a proper hedge in due course. If it works it seems an easy and inexpensive way to establish a natural barrier that gives some protection from wind to Emthree.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A white marsh thistle (Cirsium palustre)

The solitary marsh thistle in The Waste, a plant I have been watching since last autumn, came into flower today and, rather surprisingly, it is white.

Emthree and The Waste have had several plants of this biennial species in the past and they have all been the usual red-purple. White-flowered marsh thistles are not uncommon in the wider countryside, but I do not recall seeing them in the garden here.

Purple flowers are particularly attractive to certain insects such as carder bees and it will be interesting to see which species visit this white one.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Welcome to Springwatch viewers

If you have dropped by following the appreance of the Square Metre on BBC TV's Springwatch programme today, greetings and I hope you enjoy this weblog.

To find out more about the project, follow the links above and to the right, or just browse through the entries.

Even better, why not set up a square metre of your own then maybe some day we can compare results from different places in the United Kingdom or worldwide.