Hogweeds good and bad

The one about the banquet for pollinators offered by Hogweed



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Hogweed gets a bad name sometimes because of the notoriety of the invasive, non native thug of our riversides, Giant Hogweed Heracleum mantegazzianum. This not only spreads prolifically where it takes hold but causes a public health hazard due to its photo-toxic sap. This means that if the juice of the plant on your skin is exposed to sunlight it reacts and causes nasty blistering.

Common Hogweed however, Heracleum sphondylium is a much gentler and altogether more benign wildflower. Quite butch perhaps next to its fellow umbellifer of woodlands and hedgerows the Cow Parsley but umbellifers in general are superb for pollinating insects, particularly for hover flies, beetles and butterflies. At this time of year, when these flat topped umbels of creamy white abound in our countryside an even the smallest of urban and suburban green spaces, on a warm fine day you may see dozens of insects upon a single flower head.

I took some photos on Tuesday of one such example, by the old railway trail in Stamford Bridge. I don’t profess to be an expert on identifying myriad small flies and beetles but feast your eyes on the images, and then go find your own Hogweed patch to watch closely. Some beautifully coloured beetles and hover flies may come along and being atop a metre tall stem and presenting a flat disc of flowers, they are superbly easy to inspect and photograph closely.

incidentally, Giant Hogweed is pretty unmistakeable in flower by its sheer size. Several metres tall and individual flower heads can be up to a metre across. If you find them on your local river or public space, make sure that your local environment agency office or local authority are aware, as I have done for the locations by The Derwent in Stamford Bridge.


Bramble is the Bees Knees

The one about the tree bumblebees nest and a bounty of bramble flowers.

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On Monday I got a lift from a colleague to a meeting and he picked me up from Station Car park in Stamford Bridge. I made sure to be there 10 minute early so I could check out the wildflower bank we showed last autumn at the edge of the Old Station Club patio and they are really looking a picture.

What took me by surprise and it was a delightful one, was the quantity of blushing pink flowers on the brambles adjacent to the Sports Hall (former railway good shed – the railway heritage is now featured on smashing interpretation board by the aforesaid wildflower bank). The brambles seemed to be at their peak of flowering and there were bees galore. Furthermore, just opposite in the fabric of the sports hall building itself there must be a substantial social bumblebee nest, probably Tree Bumblebee I’m thinking (Bombus hypnorum). They were ‘dancing’ around the ventilation ports in the fascia board, just like I’ve seen tree bumblebees do around an old birds nest box.

I would like to share a video of the bees; which I will post on The 30 Days Wild Facebook group. This blog site, being the free version of WordPress doesn’t support video unless I pay the premium version, which I’m not ready to do yet. I am a Yorkshireman don’t forget. Anyway my pics are only hurried as my lift turned up and I had a great conversation on the way to our meeting about bees, pollinators, community gardening and ‘Bloom group’ projects.