Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Woody

Two, very different living things this morning, but with one common denominator. They both have names to do with 'wood'. Firstly a Butterfly called the Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria).
Sadly, this specimen was rather 'past-it's-best' as the small tear in it's hind wing demonstrates. Speckled Woods are rather common in Britain, but because of their overall brown colouration, they are easily overlooked. With a 2" wingspan, they can be seen flitting between the flowers throughout the Summer. They have been recorded feeding on 'honeydew' secreted by aphids as well as flower nectar, a practice more often seen in ants. Adult males can become very territorial and will frequently fight other butterflies with clashing wings - very rarely does a contender wrest a territory from the incumbent butterfly.
Next, a flower I have mentioned before, the Woody Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara).
The colourful flowers of this clambering plant, brighten the green hedgerows as do the red berries which follow the flowers at this time of year. The berries are poisonous to humans as any parent will take delight in telling their children. They are not 'deadly' as we are often told as youngsters, but will still make you rather ill. They are supposedly not poisonous to sheep and goats, but can poison cattle if they are allowed to eat it for a period of several days containing toxic glycoalkaloids, alkamines and solanines.
The berries can also be poisonous to horses inducing vomiting, diarrhoea, nervous excitement and a rapid pulse. It seems that the longer the intestinal tract of an animal, the more damage it will do. Birds for example, with their very short intestines, can eat the berries without any problem.
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