Saturday, 10 July 2010

Too Darn Hot

As Cole Porter wrote, it's just 'Too darn hot'. Malcolm and I avoided the weekend cyclists, joggers and screaming children around Shipley Park this morning, by going to Tesco instead! We must be mad. So, here are some more pics from our walks of the last few days.
Firstly, one of the most common plants around the area has to be the Timothy Grass (Phleum pratense). One of the family of grasses known as Cat's-tails, this is an important fodder crop in many parts of the world, indeed it is probably named after an American farmer called Timothy Hanson, who introduced the grass to the Southern states from New England in the 18th century. The flowers are borne in spikes atop tall stems and produce hundreds of pollen-producing anthers, purple in colour. The pollen is particularly hazardous to hay-fever sufferers. It contains several flavonol-glycosides, among them dactylin (isorhamnetin-31,4-diglucoside), so now you know!
Far more showy, but just as common, is the Great Willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum). Well known to us all, it has the most wonderful, deep pink flowers with a curious, four-lobed stigma in the middle. A statuesque plant, it regularly tops 6ft tall and rewards anyone who has a closer look.
One for Malcolm next (he doesn't like anything remotely wasp-like). This large and imposing insect was found buzzing around the Pyracantha in our garden. Indeed, it has been flying around the garden for a few days now. It looks a lot more scary than it is. The Ichneumon Wasp (Amblyteles armatorius), about 2" long and a good Wasp-mimic. The adult actually only feeds on the nectar from the flowers of various members of the carrot family (hedge parsley, Hogweed, etc). The females are bad news to caterpillars as they lay their eggs inside the caterpillar's body. When these hatch, the Ichneumon larva eats it's host from the inside out until they cause the death of the host. They then pupate inside the shell of the demised host, before emerging as a new adult. What a delightful life cycle!
The most impressive flower to be seen in the hedgerows at the moment has to be that of the Large Bindweed (Calystegia sepium). Again, a familiar plant, the flowers of which are huge by British standards. These, growing in the hedgerows of Shipley Park were a good 4" across. Simple beauty at it's very best.
Finishing today with another black and yellow insect, although nowhere near as scary as the last one. This is a Mirid Bug (Grypocoris sexguttatus), a friend of the gardener as one of it's favourite foods is other insects, particularly those pesky aphids which give us all a headache in the Summer. They predate these by piercing them with their needle-like mouth parts and sucking out the juice therein...... I hope you are not eating while reading this, it might put you off! But, what a lovely-looking little bug it is.
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