buff-tailed bumblebee, bumblebee, calystegia sepium, greater bindweed, grey heron in a tree, leicester botanical gardens, potter wasp, sculptures of flowers and leaves
When I was last in Rhos-on-Sea birds were just getting going with raising this year’s families; arriving back at the beginning of July, I was pleased to see that all seems to have gone well and the numbers of House Sparrows and Starlings in particular have swelled considerably. The House Sparrows were still sticking together in a large flock of adults and young and although I did see the Starling family together, the juveniles from around the whole area also gathered together into sizable flocks in the evenings.
As a very novice gardener, my daughter was thrilled at the appearance of the lovely white flowers of bindweed clambering through the hedge, blissfully unaware that most people spend hours trying to eradicate this invasive plant from their territory.( I always left a patch in the wilder part of my garden in South Wales too, as bumblebees love them, so she probably just assumed they were ‘proper’ flowers.) Happily, bumblebees find them very attractive here too, so I won’t be hacking the plants down till they’ve finished flowering either.
Calystegia sepium (formerly Convolvulus sepium) –Larger Bindweed, Hedge Bindweed, or Rutland beauty is a species of bindweed, with a subcosmopolitan distribution throughout the temperate Northern Hemisphere in Europe, Asia, northwestern Africa, and North America, and in the temperate Southern Hemisphere inAustralia, and Argentina in South America.
It is a herbaceous perennial that twines around other plants, in a counter-clockwise direction, to a height of up to 2-4 m, rarely 5 m. The leaves are arranged spirally, simple, pointed at the tip and arrowhead shaped, 5-10 cm long and 3-7 cm broad.
The showy flowers are produced from late spring to the end of summer. In the bud, they are covered by large bracts which remain and continue to cover sepals. The open flowers are trumpet-shaped, 3-7 cm diameter, white, or pale pink with white stripes. After flowering the fruit develops as an almost spherical capsule 1 cm diameter containing two to four large, black seeds that are shaped like quartered oranges. The seeds disperse and thrive in fields, borders, roadsides and open woods.
Despite the beauty of its flowers, the quick growth and clinging vines of the plant can overwhelm and pull down cultivated plants including shrubs and small trees. Its aggressive self-seeding (seeds can remain viable as long as 30 years) and the success of its creeping roots (they can be as long as 3-4 m) cause it to be a persistent weed and have led to its classification as a noxious weed. The suggested method of eradicating Calystegia sepiumis is by vigilant hand weeding.
Privet blossom is also out and providing nectar for bees and hoverflies. There are two or three species of bumblebee around, small red-tailed ones are the most numerous and larger white-tailed ones slightly less so. As I have said before, I am very fond of bumblebees and during this trip I will be working on my bumblebee identification skills, so there may be quite a few mentions of these lovely little insects in the weeks to come, and hopefully I will be adding to my id guide.
I’ve been using the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s excellent website for information and identification http://www.bumblebeeconservation.org.uk
There are a few different species of wasps and hoverflies around too, including the one below, a Potter Wasp – Ancistrocerus parietum
There were no butterflies on the wing here – I didn’t see a single one.
Botanical Garden, Leicester
The University of Leicester Harold Martin Botanic Garden is a botanic garden close to the halls of residence for the University of Leicester in Oadby, Leicestershire, England. Founded in 1921, the garden was established on the present 16-acre (65,000 m2) site in 1947. The garden is used for research purposes by the university’s Biology Department and features events such as sculpture and art exhibitions, music performances and plant sales. It is open to the public.
The gardens have been a favourite place of mine since I was a teenager when a friend working there introduced me to them. My dad then moved to within walking distance of them and it has become one of his favourite places too, although he doesn’t get around as well as he used to and hadn’t been for a good while.
A sunny Sunday afternoon presented a perfect opportunity to persuade him to take a leisurely stroll around the lovely landscaped grounds. Always immaculately kept, all parts of the garden are lovely, but presently the herb gardens and long herbaceous borders are glorious and buzzing with more bumblebees than I can ever remember seeing in one place. We were also fascinated to watch a little brown mouse climbing through plant stems to reach ripe seeds in the flower border.
There has been a sculpture exhibition in the gardens each summer for around a decade now, I believe this year’s may be the tenth, which added another dimension to the visit – here are a couple of appropriate ones that caught my eye:
The mature gardens and large trees are a haven for all kinds of wildlife, but we were quite surprised to watch a Grey Heron fly in and land quite high up in a pine tree. It clearly had its sights set on the inhabitants of the large fishpond that we were also admiring at the time.