Wednesday 3 May 2017

Say It With Flowers

Following on from last week's walk I thought we'd cross the road, stroll up past the Remembrance garden and explore the meadow and hillside beyond. I call this track Recreation Road on account of this small fenced in sports pitch on our left here. There are quite a few wild flowers to the right of the track which we'll stop and photograph as we're going to use them later but first let's get down in the grass and see what's happening.

These pendulous grasses, looking like culottes hanging out to dry, are wild oats from which we've been cultivating oats for ourselves and our livestock for thousands of years. I see that the 7 spot ladybirds are out in force in all their disguises. Being beetles they undergo complete metamorphosis (see In The Arms of Giants) and here we have an adult, a pupa and a larva. The only thing missing from the life cycle is the egg. OK, now we have a hill to climb. Keep photographing the flowers (there are plenty of them) and we'll have a look at them when we get to the top.

This looks like a nice flat rock with a view, now let's have a look at your flower photos. A nice selection but you can do a lot more with flowers than just admire their beauty and put a name to them. In the days before mass electronic communications lovers used to exchange flowers, often in secret, to send messages. The first one is a bit confusing because it is called a Corn Marigold although it isn't a marigold. Scientifically it is a Glebionis segetum but only since 1999. Before that it was Chrysanthemum segetum (the name was changed because of the confusion with the florists' Chrysanthemum). For our purposes though we will treat it as a yellow Chrysanthemum which, in the language of flowers, signifies slighted love. The second one, the wild gladiolus, means 'give me another chance' and the Star-of-Bethlehem in the middle requests a reconciliation. The blue hyacinth followed by the white chrysanthemum affirms that I will be constant and true. So much more romantic than a text message isn't it?

Have you noticed something odd about this rock on which we are sitting? There are strange markings upon it. That one by my hat looks like a paw print. There are no claw marks which would suggest a member of the cat family (as only they have retractable claws) but the fourth toe imprint requires a bit of imagination. It could, of course, just be a coincidental arrangement of pebbles that have now been washed away. The other one though is surely a fossilized imprint. If those streaks emanating lower right could be interpreted as legs one would think in terms of a giant millipede but if not some sort of large cane grass springs to mind. All of which is pure speculation so I'll send a couple of photographs to some palaeontologist friends of mine and see what they make of them.

There's a track up here that leads to an abandoned hotel with a lane that will take us back down to the main road. Now, here's a lady that you may not have noticed before as she's rather small. Down here at the base of this concrete balustrade. She's an ichneumon wasp and you can tell it's a she by that long pole sticking out of her backside. That's her egg laying tube or ovipositor. She'll use that to pierce the skin of some poor insect larva and lay her egg inside. That larva, such as the ladybird larva that we saw earlier, then becomes a live-in larder for the wasp's own offspring. The wasp will target a particular insect in which to lay her eggs. I think that this particular species lays her eggs in gall wasps (see Where Mary Sleeps).

I've just remembered; I've got a little something for you. As we're wandering around the village I thought that you might like a map of the main walking tracks. I'll be adding the blog posts to our Interactive Hiking and Nature Map as we go along which you can access from your mobile phone or whatever but you may find this handy to refer to in the meantime. At the moment we're standing in the middle of the big white star.

The Extra Bit

If you'd like to revive the art of flower messaging this is a great little site to get you started:

As you can see I am still relying on my little Nikon Coolpix S33 so the pictures aren't quite as sharp as normal. A new camera is on order.

Share your nature thoughts, photos and comments on Naturalists (the facebook page that accompanies this blog)
See detailed pictures on Flickr
Read more about the flora and flora of the island in The Nature of Crete (Flipboard Magazine)
Explore the region with the #CreteNature interactive Hiking and Nature Map

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