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Small IS beautiful: Lichens in Bute Park

It was a very chilly day in Cardiff yesterday but, ignoring the temptation to stay indoors, I went instead to Bute Park to meet Alan Orange who works as the Curator of Lichens at the National Museum of Wales. After a comprehensive, illustrated slideshow, we trooped outside and didn’t have to walk too far before finding our first lichen. These composite organisms, part fungus part alga, cover many of the trees in Bute and can look yellow, green or grey to the naked eye. I’d not given lichens as much attention as they clearly deserve because, apart from being fascinating, some are really beautiful when examined through a hand lens or the eye of a camera. Here are photographs of some of the specimens that we saw; I’ve done my best to label them accurately but, if there any inaccuracies then, as always, I’m happy to be corrected! Here’s a Wiki on the subject.

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Treegazing in Bute Park

Tony Titchen in Bute Park

I spent this afternoon, in the company of at least a couple of dozen other people, being led around Bute Park by a dendrologist of some repute, Tony Titchen. Tony told us that in Bute we have one of the best tree collections in the whole of the United Kingdom with a record number of ‘Champions’; these are the tallest or broadest trees of their kind in the UK and likely to be the oldest too!

Although it was a rather cold and wet day, the mood of our group remained bright as we squelched our way from tree to tree learning interesting facts about each specimen. Although Tony’s knowledge was encyclopaedic, he pitched his presentation just right for those us us who were not nearly so knowledgeable and he held our attention from beginning to end. By the time we got back to our starting point, my hands were so cold I could barely hold my camera, although they proved more adept at holding a hot cup of coffee. Here are a few of the many photos I took – I’ve done my best to remember the names but, as usual, there are some as yet unidentified species in amongst the ones labelled. Also, I couldn’t resist slipping in another couple of fungi photos for good measure.

Fungal Foray: Bute Park in autumn

I’m off to Bute Park tomorrow to learn about the role of fungi in our world, take a walk and see how many we spot. To get me in the swing of things, we went to the park last Sunday (14th October) to see what we could see. After three hours of very damp foraging these are the best specimens we could find. Although I am interested in seeing fungal fruit bodies I can name very few so, if you know any of them, perhaps you could tell me? Failing that I’ll just have to fill the names in over time. The last five photos were taken on the day – we saw the same species as we had seen previously but also these new ones. The guided walk, with expert Olly Carter, lasted three hours but the time flew by and we all had a great time.

Flying beauties of Bute Park

Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi)

Yesterday I had a very enjoyable morning watching George from Butterfly Conservation open three moth traps set the night before in Bute Park. This Poplar Hawk-moth sat obligingly on my hand whilst I took a photo. These are some more of the many beauties that I saw…

Summer flowers. Bute Park 2011

Flowers from the formal bed. Bute Park, summer 2011

Green Dock Leaf Beetle Larvae

These larvae are of a rather pretty, iridescent green beetle. The green dock beetle’s breeding season is from March to October when the female lays over 1,000 eggs in clusters on the underside of the food plant’s leaves. The eggs are oval and cream to yellow in colour, turning orange prior to hatching 3-6 days later. After three instars, the larvae pupate in a burrow about 2cm underground and the adult emerges 6-9 days later. The larvae feed exclusively on dock leaves or green sorrel.

Marmalade Hover Fly, Bute Park

Marmalade Hover Fly (Episyrphus balteatus)

Bute Park Bug Hunt June 2012

Today I went on a walk through Bute Park, looking for butterflies and bugs preparatory to a full blown ramble tomorrow, weather permitting. In my ignorance, a bee is usually ‘a bee’ and a fly is quite often ‘a fly’ so I haven’t identified all the species as yet, but I will, given time. Not surprisingly, most of the flying insects were seen drinking nectar on the colourful, cultivated flower beds within the formal area of the Park. But, in the Arboretum, I saw beetles and grubs hiding in the leaf litter and rotten tree stumps whilst the damsel flies were flitting amongst the wild flowers alongside the rapidly flowing Feeder. Bute Park is like a giant wildlife-friendly garden with its sunny flower beds, shaded areas and fresh water; different environments that provide ideal conditions for a great variety of insects.

Empress Tree, Bute Park

Looking into a flower of the Empress (or Foxglove) Tree (Paulownia tomentosa) in Bute Park’s arboretum. May 2012

Field Scabious, Bute Park

Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis). Bute Park, July 2008

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