Saturday, 14 August 2010

Fruit

After the dreadful weather yesterday which prevented us from taking our usual walk around the parkland and forced us, instead to take an afternoon walk into town (not a pleasant experience), it was nice to get out again this morning, despite the threatening clouds. We did manage to get a walk around the old Theme Park site, gathering more Blackberries on the way. And quite a 'haul' of blackberries there were too! It seems the rain of the last few days has really swollen the fruits and the warmth has ripened them nicely.
The Blackberries were not the only plants to be in fruit. Amongst the undergrowth of the trees around the area, are a number of Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum), ripening into bright red, beacons in the darkness under the trees.
You may remember I mentioned these plants earlier in the year when they were starting to open their flowers (HERE). Well, the fruits of their labours are now clear to see. The berries are very poisonous, although they are so unpleasant to taste, that it is very rare for anyone to eat enough of them to do much harm. They contain sharp, needle-shaped chrystals of 'saponins', which irritate the skin of the mouth, tongue and throat, causing swelling and resultant difficulty in breathing, pain and stomach upset. All that, from such a beautiful plant..
Growing on some of the wild roses which line the paths of Shipley Park, are a few strange-looking, 'fluffy' structures. Known as Robin's Pincushions', they are a gall formed by a tiny gall-wasp called Diplolepis rosae.
The insect lays up to 60 eggs in an unopened leaf bud and this leads to a chemical irritation within the shrub. as a result, the rose starts to grow in a deformed manner, making these attractive, red-tinged balls of feathery material instead of the leaf it should have become. The growth serves to protect the larvae, growing within, which, by late October have stopped growing and prepares to overwinter. In the middle of the winter, the larvae pupates within the 'pincushion' and starts to emerge as adult 'wasps' from May onwards.
Returning home with a bag full of Blackberries, we started to climb the path back around Shipley Hill. Difficult to imagine that this area was like a scene from hell only about 60 years ago, when it was the site of extensive, open-cast mining works. It looks a lot better now, even in the dull weather.
Now.....
...and then...
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