Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November novelties

Despite the now decidedly autumnal weather, there is still plenty to enjoy in Emthree.  After a bit of sifting among dead leaves and general detritus, I found a few fallen box leaves colonised by the microfungus Sesquicillium buxi, a whitish powdering on the underside of the leaf:

IMG_9502 So far as I know, this has not been recorded from Sussex before.  Though it is probably quite common where box trees grow, I supposed it does not quite have the charisma of a snow leopard (though I fancy I can see an image of a snow leopard in the pattern).  Is it of equal worth I wonder?

20111116 (8)The ash tree in Emthree, now nearly seven years old, has been bitten off again about half a metre from the ground.  It seems quite high for a rabbit and not very appetising, so I suspect it might have been one of the visiting deer.  I am sure the plant will recover.

The St. John's Wort plants have many mines of the tiny hypericum pigmy moth (Ectoedemia septembrella).  It seems quite common in Emthree, and practically every leaf in the picture below appears to occupied.

20111116 (9)

Although it has turned quite cold and grey, there is still plenty to stimulate the imagination and I cannot agree with Thomas Hood:

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member--
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,

I am warm and cheerful; at least some of my members are comfortable; insect life is at a low ebb but there are plenty of fruits, birds and even a few flowers.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Leaf miners and fungi

Yesterday I was gazing (for no good reason) at the bilateral chains of heath speedwell (Veronica officinalis) leaves that spread across the Square Metre.  They seem to stand out at this time of year as the grass dies back.

Then on one leaf I noticed a dark track along the left hand edge.  This turned out to be a mine made by a larva of the fly Phytomyza crassiseta.  I once found an adult of this species in Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, but this would appear to be a first record for the species in East Sussex.

20111107  (13) Metre Phytomyza crassiseta mineSince the heath speedwell arrived in the square in September 2005 it has attracted the scarce flea beetle Longitarsus lycopi, and now this fly.  In the picture above the shot holes in the leaf may have been made by the beetle.

The JNC  database list 11 species associated with this plant, but it is extremely unlikely that all of those would occur in Emthree.  I'll keep looking though, in case I can find some more and there is also a microfungus associated with this plant.

I also gathered up some of the medlars and have put them in a flower pot to see if they attract anything, animal or vegetable.  Today there was one female winter gnat (Trichocera) resting inside the pot, possibly interested in the fruit.

20111107 Metre medlars in flowerpot The other fruits that are very distinctive at the moment are the those of the black bryony (Tamus communis), high up in the medlar tree.

20111107  (14) Metre Tamus communis fruit


So much of each day is taken up with small things. 

I watch a pen gliding over paper leaving its black, twisted trails like drawings of leaf mines.  These word trails represent some sort of reality but only a partial account of what goes on in the brain.

The luminous multichrome internal fantasia that never ceases while we are awake cannot be replicated, or even approximated, in words.  Words are a faint music heard from the distant mountains of the nervous system, the Sierra Nervosa.  So much of what we feel and experience will never be expressed.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

November reflections

Emthree is scattered with fallen leaves: yellow hornbeam, brown oak and sallow, pink spindle.  I am starting to visit more regularly and have been looking for microfungi, mines and galls on the dead leaves, but have not found much yet.

Still, I can tidy the area by picking up a small boxful of leaves and then have the pleasure of sorting through them, lens in hand, in the warmth of the sitting room.

20111105 Metre Butterfly Rock Butterfly Rock is very colourful just now and the fairy cup lichen is covering a greater area than ever before.  It looks to me like Cladonia fimbriata,  from their golf-tee shape, perhaps mixed with another Cladonia.  Simon Davey, in 2008, said that Cladonia on this sandstone rock were C. pyxidata, but that was on the basis that they were not golf-tee shape.  Maybe we have had three Cladonia spp. here.  The grey patches are another lichen, supposedly Lecanora campestris, but I am not too happy with that determination.

I have just read (at one sitting) Peter Medawar's The Limitations of Science published in 1984.  He ends with the famous line from Voltaire's Candide: "We must cultivate our garden." (Il faut cultiver notre jardin.).  I suppose my long involvement with Emthree has been one kind of example of that.  It is my 'garden', though whether what I do can be construed as cultivation or not is a question.

My aim is not to generate produce to feed or clothe the body, or to manufacture artefacts (though I am currently using medlars from the area for some recipes) but material to feed the mind.  It is a privilege to watch the ebb and flow of this small area's teeming life with all its beauty and wonder, from neatly coiled snails with their regularly etched shells under bits of dead wood, to the fluttering yellow leaves hanging on the sky-bound top of the seven year old birch tree.

Emthree is a vortex of life and sometimes I fancy I can see through the kind of glass St. Paul saw through darkly that Emthree is in a sense the entire universe enfolded, with myself in its loving embrace, into a small flake of biosphere on the surface of Planet Earth.