Wednesday, 2 April 2014

smog over north nottingham

Weather presenters today showed our country covered by what appeared to be an ugly cold sore. The cold sore was their graphical representation of the heavy pollution hanging over us due to atmospheric conditions.

A mist has hung over the garden all morning contrasting sharply with yesterday's clear blue sky of early spring. Peacock butterflies were showing well and the first and most recognisable of our butterflies - the brimstone - was on the wing. Big and butter yellow. And giving its name 'the butterfly'.

Brimstone always have a sense of urgency in these parts, searching for a place to lay their eggs. And they're very picky - they must lay on buckthorn or occasionally on alder buckthorn.

this insignificant twig is a baby buckthorn plant
Buckthorn will only establish on moist soils and so I understand why the brimstone is a butterfly in a hurry around here. Our dry, sandy soils are not suited to establishing buckthorn and so they must travel far and wide to find their larval food plant.

My mission is biodiversity here at Cordwood and hence my order for 10 small buckthorn plants last week. Now, you have to be a bit careful with buckthorn as their country name is Purging Buckthorn. If you fancy a bit of laxity, eat their berries. Their latin name 'cathartica' is there to remind us that they have a reputation for having a powerful purgative effect. Make a tart from buckthorn berries and give it your OFSTED inspectors when they arrive.

But the birds thrive on them and I just have to get the little plants established for their first year. I can dig spadefuls of compost into their planting holes; keep them well watered in their first year and give them a good mulching of bark chippings.

Then you won't need a postcode to find us next spring
because the optimist here predicts a butter yellow* smog of brimstones lingering around the place as they seek out the Cordwood buckthorns for their precious little eggs.

* There may be a dappling within the smog because green hairstreak butterflies and dark umber moths are also attracted to buckthorn.

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