I couldn’t resist sharing the floral delights from my various wanders in the local woodlands during April. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have – the wildflowers have been simply gorgeous!
The sunshine yellow flowers of gorse always draw my eye and I can seldom resist a quick sniff of their delicious scent (does gorse smell of coconuts or do coconuts smell like gorse?). This time, as I drew close to the flowers, I noticed a Gorse shieldbug (Piezodorus lituratus) enjoying the Spring sunshine.
And then, of course, I had to have a quick search for more. I didn’t spot any further adult bugs but I did find two lots of their distinctive black-and-white barrel-shaped eggs. Apparently, the eggs hatch within a week so I’ll have to revisit this plant soon to see if I can find the nymphs.
Sedges are new territory for me, a tentative step into the vast myriad of grasses, rushes and sedges I have yet to identify and recognise. This first, Pendulous sedge (Carex pendula), lines the rides in a local ancient woodland, where it thrives on the heavy clay soil. It’s quite a tall plant, growing up to five feet, and its flower spikes drape gracefully along the track edges.
I think this second plant is Glaucous sedge (Carex flacca), though there are a number of smaller sedges and they can be tricky to identify. This plant is much smaller than its stately cousin, though it also prefers the damp, living in ditches and moist meadows.
I was admiring the glorious display of Primrose in a local wood when I noticed that many of the plants’ leaves had yellowish spots on their upper leaves. Rust, I thought, and, sure enough, on turning the leaves over, I could see the tiny cup-shaped aecia on the undersides, which confirmed this as Primrose rust (Puccinia primulae).
I found this second rust during today’s woodland meander. It’s Melampsora populnea on Dog’s mercury (Mercurialis perennis). Once again, there are yellowish marks on the upper leaves and, this time, rather than cups, there are minuscule splodges of yellow underneath. Neither of these rusts seems to do much harm to the plants.
During my wander through a local woodland earlier this week, while admiring the golden carpets of Lesser celandine, I noticed small spots on some of the leaves. Closer examination and some photos showed that this was the rust Uromyces dactylidis, also known as Celandine clustercup fungus for the clusters of tiny orange cup-shaped aecia on the undersides of the leaves.
Once I had my ‘rust eye’ in, I then noticed more on other plants. Many, like Bluebell rust (Uromyces muscari) I have covered here before but this one, Melampsora epitea on Spindle (Euonymus europaeus), was a new one for me.
I really should look down more often. I mean to say: how could I never have noticed before the miniature forest landscape that is Common liverwort (Marchantia polymorpha)?
According to the Naturespot website, the ‘umbrella-like reproductive structures [are] known as gametophores. Those of female plants consist of a stalk with star-like rays at the top. These contain the organs which produce the ova. Male gametophores are topped by a flattened disc and produce the sperm.’
This is a personal learning journey that I thought I would share, and some of you can probably help along the way. Call me mad if you want, but I’m trying to work out what plants will become from looking at their early growth. This may be a very short journey as I may get so frustrated that I quickly give up, particularly as I’m already uncertain about one of today’s examples, but here goes…. Working from left to right, I think these are Creeping thistle (Cirsium arvensis) and Daisy (Bellis perennis), then Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) and today’s head-scratcher. It may be Prickly sow-thistle (Sonchus asper). It may be I’m biting off far more than I can chew trying to identify this plant at this early stage. Any ideas anyone?
When reviewing my leafmine records yesterday and comparing them to those I’ve blogged, I realised there are several I’ve yet to cover here. Most are spring- and summer-time finds so I’ll post about them at the appropriate time but this is one I found in December – I didn’t cover it then as I was in the middle of my A-to-Z end-of-year countdown.
These are the leafmines of the sawfly Fenella nigrita. Its larval mines can be found on Agrimony and on the various cinquefoils – I found these on Creeping cinquefoil (Potentilla reptans). Though the British Leafminers website reports that the mines are normally seen in summer and autumn, I found these on 3 December and the mines are occupied (I’ve added a pointer to one of the larvae in the photo below right). Presumably the mild weather meant a longer breeding season for these sawflies, as with many other creatures.
I’ve never looked inside a Teasel seed head before but I’m glad I braved the spines for a peek because each of the three I pulled open were occupied and, judging by the amount of frass, they’d been occupied for some time.
I think these are the larvae of one of the Endothenia species of moth, either E. marginana or E. gentianaeana, the former presumably being the more likely as there are more records of that species in south Wales. However, to be sure which is which you need to check each larva’s rear end to see if it has an anal comb. Not knowing this, I didn’t.
If you want to learn more about that anal comb, there’s a very detailed description, and clear photos, of the larvae of these two Endothenia species on the UK Moths website (E. marginana here and E. gentianaeana here). And, just to reassure you, I was able to close the seed heads (and wound stems of long grass around them, which should hopefully keep them closed so the larvae can complete their lifecycles) (I read later of someone who uses small rubber bands for the same purpose).