Saturday, 4 July 2009

Nipplewort beetle

The leaves on the nipplewort are fading and browning now, but the flowers are at their best.

They are much visited by Meligethes pollen beetles.

20090703 KWR nipplewort & pollen beetle

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Nipplewort (Lapsana communis)

This is now coming into flower in KWR.

20090623 Nipplewort South View 008

The name is supposed to derive from the fact that the plant was used for cracked and sore nipples, though this seems to be an idea imported by early botanist Parkinson from Prussia.

Apart from this the plant seems largely to have been ignored in UK, though the leaves are eaten in a variety of dishes in Italy.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Badger sighting

At 23:00 last night the grey shape of a badger like a shadowy submarine slid along the path through the Kitchen Window Reserve.  I expect this happens every night: it reminds me of Kipling's line "Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!"  Enjoy in full here:

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Baggesen's Gold in flower

Our shrubby honeysuckle Lonicera nitida 'Baggesen's Gold' that forms much of the hedge bordering the Kitchen Window Reserve has produced quite a few of its tiny flowers.

20090501 Baggesen's Gold 030

The golden plant was selected from the green form of L. nitida at Niels Baggesen's nursery in Pembury, Kent in the 1960s and was given an Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993.

The wild green form comes from south west China where the first Westerner to come across it was the celebrated plant hunter Ernest Henry Wilson.  It has been introduced to cultivation twice, in 1908 and in 1939, and apparently flowers are only borne on plants originating from the second introduction.

I have written a much fuller account of Baggesen's Gold and the man who introduced it here.

20090501 Baggesen's Gold 035

Monday, 6 April 2009

At its best?

The reserve is, perhaps, visually at its best just now.  The early dog-violets (Viola reichenbachiana) are like a patch of pale mauve-blue mist and contrast well with the rising stalks of Mrs Robb's spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides robbiae).

20090405 KWR early dog-violet 020

Most of the dead leaves seem to have settled back into a flattish carpet and the grass is rising fresh and green through those in front of the limestone rock.

The nipplewort (Lapsana communis) is spreading its basal leaves and makes an attractive contrasting feature.  It is not the sort of plant that would be recommended for ornamental gardens but, like many wild things, it has a special grace, needs no attention and seems to be proof against the depredations of slug and caterpillar.  The leaves, apparently, can be used as salad or cooked like spinach and there was a time when it was cultivated for this purpose.  I prefer to leave mine to grow unmolested.

As it is spring I did a vascular plant audit of the reserve and, to date, 28 species have bee recorded in this small area.

Monday, 16 March 2009

First flowers of the year

Two flowers are properly out now, the spurge known as Mrs Robb's bonnet (Euphorbia amygdaloides subsp. robbiae) and the native early dog-violet (Viola reichenbachiana).     20090316 KWR 007 20090316 KWR 001

The violet can be distinguished not only by its early flowering, but from the paler, more mauve tinged blossoms with a dark spur behind.

The violet is a British native and both were introduced to the reserve some years back, but persist happily and without asking too many questions.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Why The Satellite?

A noctuid moth turned up on the kitchen window yesterday that was identified (after some difficulty) as a satellite (Eupsilia transversa).

The English name comes from the small spot on each forewing which has usually two satellite spots beside it.  In this close up picture one satellite is quite clear, but the other, to the south west of the orange main spot, is very faint.

20090224 South View 009

The moth is quite common in the British Isles and overwinters as an adult.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Spurge wood

The sudden heavy fall of snow has highlighted the young spurge plants that came up last year.  They are an exotic species that has appeared around the garden for many years and, when they flower, I shall have to make a concerted effort to work out their identity.  Clearly, their leaves are quite efficient at shedding snow.

20090203 Kwr snow 015

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Early moths

Two moths have appeared in KWR so far this year - a male winter moth and, yesterday, a cow-parsnip flat-body (Agonopterix heracliana), a species I have not come across before that must have been tempted out of hibernation in the mild weather that followed an extremely cold spell.  It is, however, a common species, though there are few records on the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre's database.