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Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Life In The Uplands

That nice little mountain road that we found last week soon petered out into a dirt track but what the heck, we’ll see more by cutting across country anyway. Now that autumn is getting underway and there’s a bit more moisture about a few more flowers are starting to appear. They’re usually small up here remember so keep your eyes peeled and look in the nooks and crannies of the rocks.


Autumn Flowers of the Uplands
We seem to have a nice little collection: firstly the shade loving Friar’s Cowl, Arisarum vulgare; some Spiny Restharrow, Ononis spinosa,in a damp hollow; a type of Dandelion with inward rolling florets, Taraxacum bithynicum; a stemless Thistle keeping out of the wind, Carlina gummifera; and a beautiful little crocus-like flower called Sternbergia greuteriana which is a bit of a rarity that requires a CITES permit to export so we won’t tell everyone exactly where we found it or those insidious bulb collectors will be up here with their trowels.



The two faces of Euphorbia dimorphocaulon
Now how did you miss this little beauty? Because it looks green and boring and hasn’t got any flowers. Not so my friend, this little lady is Euphorbia dimorphocaulon. I know I said that the little brown job we found last week was called that but they’re the same plant. He was male. The clue is in the ‘dimorph’ part of the name which means two shapes. Although most plants are hermaphrodite (both male and female) about six percent, including this one, are dioecious,  having distinct male and female types. This is just one of the ruses that plants use to get the most out of their pollinators.



The robust cerci of the Calliptamus grasshopper
Take a look at this little fellow a second. When I first picked him up I thought his rear end was being attacked by a louse or something. Not an unreasonable supposition seeing as how something has already had one of his back legs but it is actually a part of the grasshopper called the cerci, pincer like attachments like those you see on earwigs. This particular grasshopper belongs to the Calliptamus genus (either C. italicus or C. barbarus – you have to examine his penis in minute detail to tell them apart and I think that he’s suffered enough indignities for one day) and they are noted for their robust cerci. They are primarily sensory organs although they may be used to assist copulation as well. I’ll put him back, I expect he’s beginning to wish he hadn’t bothered getting up this morning.

Bees, Butterflies and Hornets on Ivy

I make no apologies for banging on about Ivy again this week. I mean, just look, have you ever seen such an effusive expanse of flowers? A couple of weeks back (see Where Mary Sleeps ) I said how useful this plant was at this time of year to insects and now you can see the evidence with your own eyes. It’s absolutely buzzing with Honey Bees, Apis melifera, and Oriental Hornets, Vespa orientalis and also a goodly number of Painted Lady butterflies, Vanessa cardui, which have been particularly prolific in Crete this year.



Church of the Holy Cross with Scorpion
Well, here we are at the Church of the Holy Cross, thus dedicated to many churches at high locations in remembrance of the Universal Elevation of the cross. This is the most sacred symbol of the Orthodox Church, as it guards the entire universe. Remember to take your headgear off when you get inside and not before. This is not a religious ritual as such but in these remote churches you never know who you might dislodge as you open the door. That Scorpion for instance, Euscorpia sp. is much better appreciated having bounced off my hat and onto the floor rather than blundering about in what's left of my hair. The venom in that stinger may not be fatal but I’m assured that it packs one heck of a punch. We've got a big climb ahead of us next week so if you fancy saying a quick prayer for fortitude now is your chance. 

Until next week then.

The Extra Bit


I’m not usually given to taking selfies but I seem to have photo bombed myself  whilst taking this picture of the interior of the church. If you look at the right hand panel of the Templon (the screen dividing the sanctuary from the nave) you can clearly see me reflected in the glass. Does this mean that I am now an icon?




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Contrary to popular opinion this blog is not just thrown together but is actually researched. I’d particularly like to thank Ralf Jahn at Cretan Flora for species identification of the flowers this week as well as Josip Skejo and Ammar Azil at The Orthoptera Group for details regarding the cerci of the Calliptamus genus of Grasshoppers.

LINKS:
Naturalists (the facebook page that accompanies this blog)
See detailed pictures at http://www.inaturalist.org/login  (search - people-stevedaniels-observations)

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