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Wednesday, 29 October 2014


I expect it happens to you. You are pottering along and something catches your eye. So you take its picture. You potter further, begin a project and it starts to rain. You notice this. You snap at that. It's all beautiful but it doesn't amount to a post.

But these are memories which can't be lost. The world wasn't created blog-sized. It's both bigger and smaller than that; bigger and smaller than anything that can be expressed.

So this post is a bundle of pretty things.

Close up of blue and purple passion flower
First up a Passion Flower.

Where I live, passion flowers are not wild plants but this one has bunged its way through a fence, tangled itself with burdock, bramble and teasel - escaped! There are other plants round here which have done the same thing - honeysuckle, crocosmia, Spanish bluebells.

Next up, a Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus). I'm so bowled over by its wings I have this little creature as my desktop picture.

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus) with wings shut across its back on a dandelion type flower. (Maybe even a dandelion!)
Clicking to enlarge recommended!
And it's very little - a little less than a centimetre and ever so thin. Much thinner than, say, the Batman Hoverfly (Myathropa florea) or the bright and substantial Eristalis tenax. (While I'm going on about hoverflies - remember this one a Sphaerophoria scripta? - Oddly long instead of strangely small and thin.) (The usual caveat - I don't know what I'm talking about and rely heavily on fellow iSpot members for IDs.)

The same Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus) walking across the flower

The trouble with the picture above though is that it obscures the white in the stripes. Here's the same little creature prancing around on the same flower. Because it's moving, the picture of it is blurred. But I like its elegance as well as its stripes.

And now to the beach where the sea has been chucking up red seaweeds.

A red seaweed with long fleshy strings for leaves (well, I know they're not actually leaves but . . . )
There's a kind you can find here and hardly anywhere else in the UK. It's called 'Solieria's Red String Weed'. Isn't that a wonderful name? (Solieria chordalis.) When I first came across it in a book I misread it and for ages thought it was called 'Soldier's Red String Weed' and constructed a complete image of a soldier tying his boots with red laces.
I'd quite like to find out this is what this one is - but it's more likely to be Gracilaria bursa-pastoris. (It's amazing how wise one can seem when spouting Latin possibilities.)

A dead white pole of a branch with lichen in front of blue sky
So we'll finish with the prosaic. Sticking up above the brambles and framed by ivy is a dead branch of . . . oh! bother! What is it a dead branch of? Elderberry? It's got lichen on it, whatever it is.

Isn't ignorance wonderful?
The less you know, the more possibilities there are.

Do you know my other blog, 'Message in a Milk Bottle'?
A photo a day. Mostly plants and trees but not exclusively so.
And you can have the pictures sent directly to your inbox if you wish.
How's that for a bargain?

Friday, 17 October 2014


Usually I show you plants. I'm going to show you plants now.

Usually the pictures are silent. You don't know what I hear. What you may not realise is that in one of my favourite spots for plants, if I pop up below hedge level the sea is what I see. Often it's silent because this bit of sea is contained within a massive harbour. But today it was noisy. So were the birds. But the birds were boring. They were taking it in turns to sing or croak or caw. There were Dunnocks. (Pretty.) I think there were Robins. (The best singers of all.) There were magpies squabbling and crows shouting randomly in what they may have thought was a chorus. So I decided that in terms of a sound-scape the sea was best of all. After a couple of minutes of magpies I want to ask in an irritated way if that's all they have to say. Click, click, shriek, click. But I never tire of the sea.

Here, then is a sound track to go with the pictures. I'll not say much about the plants in thm. They're the kind you are familiar with on Loose and Leafy. So I'll leave you to listen to the sea while you scroll down the page. If you don't have the kind of computer which can cope with video clips I apologise. You'll have to imagine a gentle but persistent hum rising and falling with the wind interfering every now and then.

Skeleton of umbrel against a dark sky

This is one of those plants one forgets what they are once the flowers have gone. At least I do. I find white umbeliferous plants hard to identify even in the summer.

(To see what this seed head looked like in September, click here. You'll see some seeds are still hanging on.)

Two fallen haws on muddy ground

Haws are falling.

Quite a lot of them are still on the trees. They are crinkling up and going brown and waggling around on their branches because they are camera shy and the wind is rising.

Ivy flowers and Common Orange Lichen (Xanthoria parietina)
The round things are ivy flowers. Another mystery.

Lichen which is orange (I'd say yellow but it's called Common Orange Lichen - Xanthoria parietina) is changing to green as it gets wet in the rain and general autumn dampness. When the weather is dry, it reverts to yellow. If you look carefully you'll see the lichen on the upper part of the branch is greener than the lower part. In the summer all of this was a mixture of bright orange and yellow. (Here's a picture I took of the same lichen on a nearby branch on a dry day in January last year.)

Do I understand what lichen is? No. To me it's a science fiction creature (I say this every time because I don't get much further forward it's sort of unbelievable - a combination of algae and fungus. When it's damp the algae element (green) shows through the fungal element which contains a chemical (xanthorin) which protects it against the UV rays in sunshine. 

Shrivlled remains from which blackberries have fallen
This is what flowers come to!

Blackberries are falling, leaving brown whirls behind. They look rubbish from a distance but are beautiful close to. (You might want to click the picture to enlarge it.)

Sycamore tree growing under ground in a kerbside drain

And on the way home, out of the way of the sea, the sycamore in a drain we've been following for the last couple of years. It looks a bit tatty but autumn hasn't reached underground just yet.

* * *

Xantharia parietina on Nature Spot
Xanthoria parietina on Wikipedia (if you're in the mood for really, really concentrating).