Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ambush


Saxifrages tend to be associated with mountains - after all their Latin name refers to their habit in growing in rocky crevices - but this species, meadow saxifrage Saxifraga granulata, thrives in grass. It's a declining wild flower but it still has some strongholds up here in North East England, in Teesdale in particular.


Meadow saxifrage has its own distinctive technique for growing and flowering before being shaded out by other vegetation. If it just reproduced from seed it would struggle to compete with grasses but at the end of flowing dozens of tiny buds called bulbils (the 'granules' of granulata), form at the junction of the leaves and stem and when the rest of the plant withers away these sit on the soil surface over the winter. When spring comes they sprout leaves and flowers quickly, stealing a march on the grasses. The flowers still produce large numbers of tiny, widely dispersed seeds and for this they need pollinators, but this particular flower was a potential death trap for an unwary hoverfly visitor.....


... with a spider lurking under the petals, waiting to ambush visitors.

4 comments:

  1. I'm just so glad that I found your blog - amazing stuff, and just aimed at the right level as far as I'm concerned. Thank you, and keep up the good work!!

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  2. Thanks Richard, I realy enjoy your blog too. Those were great pictures of goosander and brimstones recently...

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  3. We live on the South Downs (chalk hills running from Winchester to Eastbourne) and have a wonderful carpet of them in our orchard.

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    1. That most look wonderful. I grew up in Sussex and spent a very happy youth wandering the South Downs. Some wonderful places - Kingley Vale was a favourite.

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