Friday, November 19, 2010

A crop of toadstools

In the pouring rain of a grey mid-November day I noticed, through our French windows, some toadstools growing in Wbx.  On closer inspection in better weather conditions next day, they were clearly one of the smaller Coprinus but overnight had started to autodigest around the edges into the inky black liquid characteristic of this genus.

20101119 WBX Coprinus 001

In all I counted about ten fruiting bodies in different places, so the mycelium must spread widely through the window box soil.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Fifth birthday for this project

The window box has now been going for five years and all the plants appear to be doing remarkably well.  This is particularly surprising as I have given the soil no fertiliser and it must be getting some extra punch from the nitrogen fixing clover and tares and maybe from nitrogen in the rain water or tap water which I apply to the box in dry weather.

Today I coppiced back all the woody species - the sallows, the Himalayan honeysuckle and the tutsan.  The goat willow (Salix caprea) had one stem that had grown exactly five feet (1.52 metres) from the stool since it started this spring.

The two pictures below show the before and after situation.

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20101104 Wbx 008

Some of the leaves on the goat willow had some small, tent-like leaf mines between the veins and I am pretty sure these are made by the larvae of a micro moth, the long-streaked midget (Phyllonorycter salicicolella), though I may have to wait for a spring hatching of the adult moths to be absolutely sure.

20101104 Wbx 009

As well as a new insect record, I found a new plant for the window box - a young goosegrass (Galium aparine).  There's life in the old box yet, although the plastic gets increasingly fragile.

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My final picture is of berries on the Himalayan honeysuckle, appropriate for this "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness."

20101029 BHW SV & more 016

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

New flower, new spider-hunting wasp

The plant of Himalayan honeysuckle (Leycesteria formosa)  first recorded in the window box in 2006 is carrying its first flowers.

20100804 Wbx & South View 013

These flowers dangling from red bracts are followed by berries that, by all accounts, are edible so I might be able to harvest my first Wbx crop in a few weeks time.

While photographing this I noticed a small, black spider-hunting wasp sitting on a Wbx tutsan leaf.

20100804 Wbx & South View 021

This is Anoplius nigerrimus, a common species here but one that scarcely ever stays still long enough to get a decent photo.  This one was very obliging and seemed to be taking an unusually long rest on the leaf.  Later though I saw it restlessly hunting for spiders with its usual agitated, questing character.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Different sallows

There are four self-sown sallow willows in the window box, all of which have been there for several years and are coppiced each winter.

They all differ quite markedly in leaf size and shape.

Wbx Sallow leaves 20100802

Top left is, I think, undoubtedly rusty sallow (Salix cinerea ssp. oleifolia), a common and widespread species in Britain, while the large leaf beneath is goat willow (Salix caprea), also common.  The two on the right are probably Salix x reichardtii, hybrids between the first two species, also common.

Detailed accounts of all these species are given in BSBI Handbook No 4, Willows and Poplars of Great Britain and Ireland by R. D. Meikle (1984).

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Tutsan caterpillars

Some of the leaves of the Wbx tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum) have been rolled up by small green caterpillars.

20100626 Wbx tutsan caterpillar 006

I suspect they are one of the omnivorous micromoths, but they could be the  greater purple flat-body (Agonopterix liturosa),an Oecophorid moth .  I'll have to see if I can rear one to adulthood.

In the picture above you can just see the tail of the caterpillar sticking out at the stem end of the leaf.  Below, looking down the tube, you can see its head.

20100626 Wbx tutsan caterpillar 003

Monday, June 21, 2010

Midsummer box

Today is the formal start of summer and the box is looking quite pleased with itself.

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For some time it has been against the east wall of the house from where my wife, Cynthia, can see it, hence the grape vine leaves in the background.

The white clover now covers most of the ground and is flowering.  The tutsan on the right is doing well as is the Leycesteria towards the left.  The reddish leaves are of herb robert which is now coming towards the end of its annual cycle.

It is good to see the box doing so well after last winter when it was frozen solid for weeks.