Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Very unusual fungus

This was a very unusual find in a field that we use for making and composting woodchips. Never seen before on the farm, it's a 'red cage' fungus, Clathrus ruber

The fruiting body is a really strange looking thing that has a lattice structure like a cage or basket, but is red and appears slightly slimy. 

Apparently it's not edible, but also quite rare. Whatever, it was a pleasure to look at and I hope it returns (or rather appears) again next year.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

A tale of black caterpillars

One field on the farm is not for growing vegetables, it's for storing machinery, chipping up branches and making compost. In this field, the weeds...well let's say they don't get managed quite as much as in other fields!

However this is a good thing for wildlife. As a rule of thumb, less disturbance equals higher biodiversity, and in this field this is true. It grows fine crops of nettles, the first burst in March and April, which then go to seed and die back. Then a second burst come through in August and peak in September.

The nettle is a plant that gives us humans a nasty sting,but it's incredibly useful both for us and for insects. You can find any number of aphids and other small flying insects on nettle plants. It makes great soup, is an important medicinal herb and the Nazis even made uniforms from nettles in WW2.

But what could be a more pleasing sight than these black caterpillars devouring nettles? It's a plant I feel happy for them to attack as much as they like (there were plenty more plants, nettle lovers...), but look at the colour of the insects - beautiful.

Furthermore these are destined to become, I think, one of the most beautiful butterflies, the Red Admiral.

So next time you see a patch of nettles just look out for those black caterpillars.