Fly feast

DAY 135 (18 AUGUST) – Canadian goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)(Farnham)

Been feeling quite itchy ever since I took these pictures. This Canadian goldenrod, growing wild beside a path today, seems to be so popular with flies. I haven’t managed to identify them, but I’m struck by their red eyes and multi-coloured metallic bodies.

Canadian goldenrod fact: In Fukushima, Japan, it has colonised the rice fields which are temporarily abandoned since the nuclear power plant disaster in 2011.

Ancient and deadly

DAY 134 (17 AUGUST) – Yew (Taxus baccata) (Farnham)

I learnt a new word today: aril. I would have called these berries but they aren’t. Though we are firmly in berry (or berry-look-a-like) season now. All parts of the yew tree are poisonous except the arils (the red fleshy parts) that surround the very toxic seeds. But birds cleverly feed on the arils and pass the seeds out again in their droppings.

Apart from their toxicity, yews are well known in other ways. They live a very long time: the Fortingall Yew in Perthshire is thought to be 2000-3000 years old. They are often planted in churchyards (this one is close by but not in) and the wood was used to make longbows and lutes.

Surrey’s Limpopo

DAY 133 (16 AUGUST) – European alder (Alnus glutinosa) (Guildford)

Looking down at the River Wey in Guildford today in the pouring rain, I could only think of Rudyard Kipling’s “Great, grey-green greasy Limpopo” from the Just So Stories.

But wrapped around this European alder, with its black berry pods overhanging the water, was a lot of ivy – rather than the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake from the story.

Upmarket hedge

DAY 132 (15 AUGUST) – Common briar berries (Rosa canina) (Farnham)

There was a time when a hedge meant privet or box. Not now. Our local Waitrose has planted a seriously posh hedge around its car park. It has all sorts (watch out for future samples). And you could be forgiven for thinking these were tomatoes, were it not for the alien tentacles reaching out from their mouth end.

Hard to believe this is the same plant as the dog rose with delicate flowers I snapped on 7 June on the edge of the water meadows. But it certainly ain’t any old hedge…

Ballerina flower

DAY 131 (14 AUGUST) – Japanese anemone (Anemone hupehensis) (Farnham)

It was one of those drippy days again. But although the sky was grimly grey, my camera seemed to find enough light to paint an image that didn’t seem possible to the naked eye.

The Japanese anemone is one of my favourite flowers. Tall, delicate and understated. These rain-soaked petals remind me of a ballerina’s skirt during one of those tippy-toed traverses of the stage. Gorgeous.

River bank fingers

DAY 130 (13 AUGUST) – European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) (Farnham)

Anything with ‘European’ in its name brings me comfort during these dark days…

But looking closely at this tree today I felt a bit uneasy. It was a cooler evening. The tree was twisted and gnarled – with little crevices where unblinking owls might live. And it had those roots which, if they were in a children’s book, would suddenly become fingers clutching at the river bank. It was full of magpies too.

So interesting to know, finally, what a hornbeam looks like. And to learn that they account for most of the trees in Epping Forest – that mythical place at the end of the Central Line.

Drama unveiled

DAY 129 (12 AUGUST) – Etruscan honeysuckle (Lonicera etrusca Santi) (Greater London)

Some men with chainsaws came to strim away unwanted ivy, brambles and bindweed from my mother’s garden today. And so uncovered her beautiful plants again.

I love that this flamboyant honeysuckle is called Etruscan, though have no idea why. But anything to do with Italian civilisation should be at least a bit showy. Which reminds me of a horrifying but riveting (sorry for the pun) documentary this evening about the collapse of the Polcevera Bridge in Genoa…