Derek – Friday 15th May 2020
As we have no visitors, we have gone easy on tidying the garden. This non-activity is friendly to wildlife as a very tidy garden denies habitats. In town gardens, one of the biggest enemies of frogs, once they have left the pond, are the mower and strimmer.
Another bonus to our laxity are wild flowers. I have found the following: wild mustard by the greenhouse, white clover in the small bed by the pond, vetch on the edge of the wild flower bed along with borage, scentless mayweed and white campion, herb robert near the container entrance, purple toadflax here and there, herb bennet at the front of the buddleia, hedge mustard near the back stage entrance, and in the dandelion family: dandelion, sow thistle and hawkweed.
A wild flower we have, which I especially like, is black medick (Medicago lupulina). The botanic name is so poetic with all those syllables. It is a low-growing plant, with small yellow heads, each a cluster of tight florets, a bit like a grape hyacinth but smaller and yellow. Black medick is in the clover family, but more interestingly it is closely related to alfalfa, a plant of the Argentinian pampas which is also in the genus medicago. From its name, I first thought the name was because of some medical usage, but it isn’t. The names medick and Medicago are thought to relate to its origin in Media (now in Iran). The ‘black’ part in the folk name is because the seeds are in black clusters. It is a gentle plant, hurting no one, but I am sure someone with a more tidy bent than I have will strim it away.
The building site next door gets closer by the week as the builders get back to work. Today, one of the cranes was in use, the first time I have seen that since lockdown began. The enormous digger has gone, and with it all the greenery along the boundary wall/fence. By the container there had been a sycamore with Russian vine running through it, great cover for sparrows and tits. All gone in the roar of the digger. We have removed everything from inside our pergola as we know its life is short. It’s a sad, empty corridor with no seat, plants or pots. The builders have come and looked it over. I doubt it’ll last a fortnight.
Many of the leaves of the large sycamore by the middle gate have clusters of tiny red pimples, each about the size of a pinhead. They are caused by the sycamore gall mite (*Aceria macrorhyncha*). The mite itself is tiny, as its name implies, the size of a full stop. In spring, they come out of bark crevices, where they have wintered, and feed on the leaves. The leaf reacts by throwing up the pimples, as we might respond to a nettle. In May, the mites lay eggs in the galls which hatch out in a few weeks. The new generation feed on the leaves, causing more galls and so on. There can be several generations from late spring to early autumn, but the galls do the sycamore no harm, beyond the appearance.
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