The budding brambles on Blackberry Way are increasingly interwoven with the counterpoint of twisting con volvulus. Amongst this bind weed abides the white plume moth, which I observed for a few moments before releasing it into the warm evening air.
The tamarisk trees on the outer bank are beginning to blossom and as with other plants on the foreshore, I am collecting a small sample to ‘preserve’ in alcohol. The pink blossom, red of the stem and fresh green foliage will soon be leached out. More ghostly reminders of transience in a changing place.
The flags are flowering along many marsh edges and I have preserved a small sample plant in alcohol as part of a collection of local flora. The colour of the petals is quickly leached out, leaving them beautifully transparent, yet pale ghosts of their former selves.
Land argues with the risen tide all about its borders. Delicate sea pink threatened by the advances of grey brine on a cold May day.
Nick recently watched an episode of QI where the difference between thorns and prickles was explained. The Egg is surrounded by bushes protected in one of these ways or the other. Prickles grow from the skin of the plant and are found on the tangle of impenetrable blackberries. Thorns derived from shoots, arise from a bud to guard the blackthorn. Interestingly the rose bush growing in the former Bofors Gun battery is protected by prickles and not as commonly supposed by thorns.
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.
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 blackthorn thicket is filled with thousands of tiny buds which will soon produce cascades of bright flowers to whiten the wintery greyness surrounding the Egg. These blooms are thought to symbolise both life and death together, as they appear on the tree before any leaves; symbolising both an ending (of winter) and a new beginning (of spring).
A handful of gorse flowers were painfully picked from the parish bush, then washed and dried. Rehydrating a few flowers with boiling water made a tea for breakfast. It has a bitter aftertaste with some sweet notes, but I could not detect the accents of cocoanut that some have written about.