After a difficult year for most of us, today will be an even more difficult day for many, unable to see their loved ones and friends. But, Christmas will come again and things will eventually get better so, please, be merry safely today!
I find leaf skeletons fascinating. The structure of a leaf, in particular its veins and midrib, are usually hidden, or at least made less obvious by the tissue of the leaf. But, when the leaf has detached from its tree and the tissue has disintegrated, the structure that remains is wonderfully sculptural, like this Holly leaf I discovered in a local park.
You’d think with the shortest day fast approaching that the landscape would be dull and grey and completely lacking in colour. But it’s not! If you look around, you’ll find the cotoneaster trees loaded with red berries, and holly trees, too, bursting with shiny red fruit. In my local park, the Mahonia bushes are flowering in brilliant yellow starbursts, and the Callicarpa shrubs are covered in stunning lilac berries that seem almost unreal and man-made, rather than something Ma Nature created. I thought I’d put some of Nature’s beautiful baubles together to make my very own ‘unreal’ Christmas tree!
Following on from yesterday’s post where I (hopefully) sent you all on a quest to find the Holly parachute fungus, I thought I’d kill two biological records with one outing, and also get you to look for another species related specifically to holly.
This is the Holly leaf-miner (Phytomyza ilicis), a small fly that lays its eggs inside the leaves of holly. ‘Inside’ may sound strange, but holly leaves are relatively thick and leathery so, once the eggs hatch, they make the perfect home for the fly’s larvae, which live out their lives feeding on the flesh of the leaves and making a little home for themselves in the process. Their feeding creates multi-coloured blotches on the leaves so, although you’ll probably never see the fly and probably not even the larvae (unless you slice open a leaf at the right time of year), you can always tell where they’ve been. Once they’ve eaten their fill, the larvae pupate inside their leafy homes, then open a small escape hole once their transformation is complete and fly away to start the process all over again.
Co-incidentally, the Holly leaf-miner is species of the month (really, two months – November and December) with SEWBReC, the South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre. Like yesterday’s Holly parachute fungus, there are few biological records of the leaf-miner but it is almost certainly just under-recorded because, once you start looking for those tell-tale blotches, you quickly discover it’s almost everywhere. So, get looking and recording!