A cedar of Lebanon in Exbury Gardens gifted me the branch I needed for a ‘Christmas tree’ and has now laid a candelabrum at my feet. On a walk yesterday morning I found this weathered branch whose six eroded cones have become the spikes required to attach candles to illuminate the Egg.
The crescent of a waning moon reached out to Venus with open arms this morning, lit bright in light from a sun still lingering below the horizon and reflected in the calm water of a falling tide. The ‘two-horned queen of the stars’* embracing love, fertility and prosperity above an expectant Egg.
* In the Carmen Saeculare, performed in 17 BC, Horace invokes Luna as the “two-horned queen of the stars” (siderum regina bicornis). Ref. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luna_(goddess)
I spent all morning studying Andricus Kollari, the tiny parasitic wasp whose eggs cause the marble oak galls on both scrubby oaks growing beside my own Egg. The life cycle of the wasp requires the presence of a Turkey oak which first grew in the UK before the last glacial period around 110,000 years ago and was reintroduced in 1735 as an ornamental tree. Nearby Exbury Gardens has its own mature examples.
‘The developing spherical galls mature in August and each has a central chamber, with a single female wasp larva of an asexual generation, which emerges through a ‘woodworm-like’ hole as an adult winged gall-wasp in September. These asexual females lay unfertilized eggs in the embryonic bud leaves of the Turkey oak, with galls slowly developing during winter, and visible in March and April as small oval structures between the bud scales, looking like ant’s eggs. The emerging adult gall-wasps in spring are the sexual generation, producing both males and females, which fly to the common oaks to initiate the formation of the summer marble gall.’
By 1830 the galls were a concern in the new Forest, where it was thought that they reduced acorn production sufficiently to have an adverse effect on Pannage* This year there was a huge crop of both galls and acorns. Beadle drawings use ink made from the galls. *ref. my blog of January 22nd.
The Gall is more often seen than its wasp, which is just 1.5 – 2mm in length.
The northern edges of the sinewy outer bank I call Snake Island, were rich in strands of unravelled polyester rope of many bright colours, twisted around the branches of tamarisk bushes and out across the river bed; little reminders of our poor and tangled relationship with all things natural. All being well, the pink flush of the tamarisk blossom will add its own distinctive hue to the scene in just a few weeks time.