Why are some young leaves red?

Mark Cocker’s Country diary piece in the Guardian this week, 1 June 2021 (‘the most seductive shade of green‘) got me thinking about leaves, trees and colours. As Mark reminded us, leaves look green because chlorophyll molecules absorb the red end of the visible light spectrum in photosynthesis, and the unused green light is reflected. Counterintuitively perhaps, they are green…

Flies and flowers

Bees get a lot of good press these days, especially for their role as pollinators. And let’s face it, they deserve it! Hard working, unassuming, attractive and useful! They are almost supplanting those poster boys and girls of the insect world: butterflies! But what about flies? Their press is a mixed bag. To some people…

Bog asphodel and toxic saponins

Bog Asphodel, Narthecium ossifragum,is a perennial herb (5 -40 cm tall) which typically grows on short wet grasslands on acid soils. It occurs in the British isles, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Northern Spain and East Portugal. I first got to know it in the form shown below, when it is in fruit, at…

Spiders and mites on gorse

Gorse is beautiful plant, although best viewed from a distance, rather than walked through, as it is incredibly spiny and prickly. The sharp spines are, however, a tremendous advantage if you are small enough to live within their protection. It is also a plant that is remarkably variable in terms of its flowering period and…

Small, brown and moving north!

Just as you think the butterfly season is coming to an end, some second generation individuals appear. I was very happy to come across these second brood Brown Argus (Aricia agestis) butterflies in Bedfordshire on 13 Aug 2019. In 1993, the Brown Argus was described as a scarce or local species, which had declined by…

Images of Spring

Spring is a lovely time. Things start growing again. Buds, flowers, delicate green leaves, new shoots. Life renewing itself. A good time to get out and take some pictures. Photograph something that catches your eye. Maybe you don’t know what it is. Go home look it up. That’s what I did! Here is a bramble…

Asian honey bees on Calla lilies

The Eastern honey bee, or Asian honey bee (Apis cerana), is endemic to much of Asia where has been cultivated for honey production for millenia. It is fairly similar to the European, or Western honey bee (Apis mellifera), but is slightly smaller and its flight is faster and more erratic. They are less domesticated and produce less…

Oak apple galls

The leaves have only just started to open on this oak tree, a Sessile oak I think, yet it is already covered by many galls. These rounded disfigurations – called Oak apples – are caused by a tiny (5-6 mm) wasp in the family Cynipidae, called Biorhiza pallida.  It is known that the galls are caused…