Saturday, April 21, 2018

April reflections

We are having an April heatwave: plants are growing fast, the ground is drying.  A white butterfly, probably a small white, flew round and over M3 before disappearing into the trees.  Two white flowers are out on herb robert and there are several hairy bittercress plants in bloom (below).

The wood dock at the eastern end of Mice&Red (see below) has enlarged very quickly.  It is as good as a Hosta.

There was a visit from a comma butterfly.  It fluttered carefully between various leaves, seemingly testing them to see if they were nettles and suitable for egg laying and the subsequent sustenance of her caterpillars.

The sorrel plants (Rumex acetosa) have flowering stalks surging upwards.  The tops look like red and green hard roe. Several wasp-like nomad bees (Nomada sp.) were present flying low over the ground among the grasses and herbs, searching no doubt for the nests of mining bees in which to deposit their eggs.  They are cuckoo bees, cleptoparasites with larvae that eat the food that was intended for the larvae of the host.

Today's butterfly was a speckled wood that settled on a red campion leaf.  With its head pointed directly towards me and its wings held over its back, it was remarkably hard to see.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A new log seat

With the help of our granddaughter, I stacked a couple of large rounds of wood to make a place where I could sit and contemplate The Square Metre.  The lower log is an old round of sweet chestnut and the upper is from the incense cedar that blew down last year.  It has acquired a bloom of green algae in its top and I vaguely wondered how I might identify this (our native trees do not seem to develop algal blooms like this). Note also the dandelions flowering on Troy Track in front of the logs.  They appear to prefer to grow on trodden ground.

The birch tree in M3 is full of catkins, but you have to look upwards to see them well.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Flies, ferns and trees

Now spring is advancing rapidly there is a large variety of bees and flies sunning themselves on the trunk of the birch tree.  For example, the hoverfly below.

Over the last few days there have been several male sallow catkins (Salix caprea) on the ground in or near M3.  They must have come from the large example some twenty metres to the south which has flowered well this year and I suppose they must have been blown across, though I do not recall seeing this before.  They may be just fallen flowers but there is enough left in them to support and protect the sallow fly larvae (Egle spp.) that live inside them: a good example of a symbiosis where both species benefit and no harm is done.

In Planet Terracotta a leaf of the wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) has appeared as it usually does.  It has now survived in this rather hostile environment for ten years, but shows no sign of flowering or spreading.

In contrast to the wood anemone, the broad buckler-fern (Dryopteris dilatata) continues to enlarge and now has seven fronds. They grow very rapidly once they start, but I wonder why they don't all develop at the same rate.  It has an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society and is a very common wild plant in our area.

Another fast developer is the sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus).  This year at least six seedlings have appeared, more than at any time before.  As seedlings the species is very attractive but, if left, I fear they would come to dominate the whole of M3.  Considered by most to be an introduction, there are relatively few insects that eat the leaves and, with its fast growth, it can quickly become a dominant or the only species where it flourishes.  As I said when I found a sycamore seed in M3 last autumn, I do not know the source of this species as there are no trees nearby that I know of that are large enough to bear fruit.