Derek – Thursday 9th May 2019

A rainy day, on and off. More on than off. Few visitors. Between showers, I look around the garden.

There are lots of birds going to our feeders. I see a blue tit coming out of the bird box by the sycamore and almost at once another going in. They are probably incubating eggs.

In the raised bed, near the front of the container, in a stony matrix, are various succulents. Succulents are plants that in the wild grow in areas of low rainfall. They have thick leaves to conserve moisture. In the bed are three genera: sempervivums, echeveria and sedums.

Sempervivums are low, slow growing plants with rosette clusters made up of thick, green leaves. Sempervivums means always living, which is another way of saying they live a long time. Related to them are the echeveria, both are in the crassulaceae family, also having rosettes of leaves, but the leaves are thicker than in sempervivums. If you still can’t distinguish them, it comes down to the flowers, but they don’t flower often, just to make life difficult.

Sedums are more spread out, often with stubby leaves. They are not symmetrical like the sempervirens and echeveria. One has been in flower for a few weeks with rims of yellow florets.

The wildflower bed is coming to the fore with blue borage and phacelia. The bed has a scattering of orange yellow Californian poppies (Eschscholtzia californica). The genus is the only word I know with six consonants in a row.

I go to the large sycamore near the middle gate, and with a magnifying glass, and look at the green lichens I found last week. I can’t see the green, I think I saw. Did I imagine it?


But what I do see is a small, yellow patch of lichen, about a quarter of the size of my small fingertip. Lichens are very sensitive to pollution, and you won’t find many different species in Forest Gate. This one is xanthoria, with its orange-yellow colouration. At magnification, I can see it consists of about 20 cylindrical fingers, each just a couple of millimetres in diameter. The cylinders are, I think, isidia. A lichen is made up of a fungus and a photobiont (either an algae or cyanobacteria) in a symbiotic relationship. The isidia which have developed contain both fungus and the photobiont. They blow away in wind and rain, or are brushed off by animals, and, if fortunate, settle somewhere to form more xanthoria.

Forget most of the last paragraph. There is certainly a lot of xanthoria growing in Forest Gate, on trees, walls and fences. But this patch isn’t it. At home, on the internet, I try to find similar pictures of xanthoria with isidia. But there aren’t any like this. Not a single one. This puzzles me, as xanthoria is common. And then it occurs to me that maybe this isn’t xanthoria at all. How about insect eggs? Lia and I look this up. And we track our ‘xanthoria’ down as ladybird eggs. Yes, ladybird eggs.

Be wary, reader, of amateur naturalists. Some no doubt are excellent. Some aren’t. I hope I mostly am correct, but I have no doubt I have made a few errors in my weekly blogging. But I’ve caught this one. We shall watch the ladybird eggs and hope we can see them hatching.

There’s actual lichen on the back table under the staging. Little patches of Hypogymnia physoides. The patches are greyish green, and under a magnifying glass reveal many branches ending in glove like fingers. I look at all the other tables in the garden, but don’t see any lichens. But at the front, near the gate, round the rim of a ceramic pot, we find xanthoria. The real thing, no fake isidia this time round.


Comments 1

  1. Amazing Derek, stuff under my nose I don’t notice. Thanks for the lichen tour this morning, and the ladybird eggs are fascinating.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.