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N O T E S AND OBSERVATIONS

Blankets for Blue Tits Here is one housewife who is pleased to see sheep returning to the fields of Suffolk. Blue Tits, perhaps because they cannot find natural wool to line their nests, have found a Substitute on the washing-line - blankets! In recent years I have seen as many as five or six at a time perched on the top of a blanket, busily pecking off the fluff and carrying it away. Last year I watched one pair make continual direct flights to my neighbour's nesting-box. Later in the year she found the unmistakeable remains of my blanket in the nest. Unfortunately, a Blue Tit can soon make a hole in a blanket. What I at first put down to 'clothes moths' is undoubtedly Blue Tit damage. Perhaps I should postpone the spring-cleaning and provide the Blue Tits with a suitably ancient blanket in the spring. E. M. Hyde Cherry or 'Myrobalan' Plum, (Prunus cerasifera Ehrh.) There has rarely been a year like 1985 for the fruiting of the wild, naturalised and ornamental varieties of Cherry Plums. Conditions during flowering must have been unusually favourable. Some trees and bushes were laden with fruit in September and October, and even into November. At Martlesham many colonies fruited for the first time during the many years in which I have kept them under Observation. The colours and sizes of the fruit varied considerably. On a few bushes the fruit were very similar to those of some varieties of cherries in size and colour, with long pedicels, and growing in small bunches. However, the majority, especially those bearing the heaviest crops, had much larger, yellow fruits. The varieties 'atropurpurea' and 'nigra' which are planted in gardens and on roadsides, and which have dark foliage, had plum or red-coloured fruits. Except for a few varieties, the fruits are good to eat and I was able to gather large quantities to make jam. Bullaces (Prunus domestica L., ssp. insititia (L.) C. K. Schneid.) also fruited well and some bushes were damaged by fruit-gatherers. The Wild Greengage (P. domestica ssp. ilalica (Borkh.) Hegi) is a rare tree in Suffolk which has fruit similar to that of the Bullace, but larger and rounder. I found one at Campsey Ash. For several years there has been a thicket of what I considered to be a hybrid between the Blackthorn or Sloe (Prunus spinosa L.) and a garden Plum (P. domestica) on the railway embankment near Derby Road Station, Ipswich. In 1985 there were fruit which confirmed this identification. They were dark in colour like a Sloe with the shape of a 'Victoria' Plum, although about half their usual size. Believing they would make good jam I gathered some fruit, but it was wasted effort. The jam was exceedingly sour and I threw it on the compost heap; the garden birds seemed to like it. The plums might have made better wine or gin. Francis Simpson


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Worries of a Photographer T h e taking of photographs of wild flowers can result in their being picked or destroyed. I have found it necessary to be very discreet when photographing even c o m m o n species, which is not always possible when they are growing beside footpaths, on road verges, or other habitats frequented by the public, especially if a tripod has to be used or if there is a long wait before the sun emerges f r o m the clouds. I will relate a few instances of damage to wild flowers resulting f r o m my photography, in the hope that others will try and avoid attracting the unwelcome attention of the public in this way. Early in the year I was photographing a colony of flowering Winter Heliotrope (Pelasiles fragrans (Vill.) C. Presl) on a roadside bank at Burstall when some children, just out of Sunday School, came along. They watched in silence, and when I had finished, picked all the flowers and threw t h e m away. Similarly, at Aldeburgh when I photographed some poppies (Papaver dubium L. and P. somniferum L.) on a rubbish tip watched by some boys, they afterwards pulled u p all the specimens. Again, some men, who had been working on allotments nearby, cut down the Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum Somm. & Lev.) which I had p h o t o g r a p h e d . Some people who speak to me assume that the particular flowers I am photographing must be rare and therefore valuable, and it was probably this mistaken idea which led to the specimen of Catmint (Nepeta cataria L . ) that I photographed at Dalham for the Suffolk Flora being picked shortly afterwards, whereas other specimens nearby remained untouched. A t times I take 'evasive action' if people approach me when I am photographing flowers, by covering the camera and pretending to be resting, in an attempt to protect the plants. Francis Simpson

Dormice in SufTolk Since the 1930's there appears to have been a considerable contraction in the ränge of the dormouse in Suffolk. Yet because of its secretive nature very little is known about the causes of this decline. T h e revival of woodland management makes it essential that we understand more about the dormouse's habitat requirements. Until then it will not be possible to take any positive conservation measures to ensure the survival of dormice in the woods where they still remain. This s u m m e r the Suffolk Trust for N a t u r e Conservation is undertaking an intensive survey of Bradfield Woods to study the dormouse population in relation to different types and ages of coppice. Besides this, we would be interested in receiving any record - past or present - of dormice in Suffolk. T h e data will be used to obtain a better picture of the dormouse locally. T h e survey will also have a wider significance as it is o n e of several local studies being coordinated by Pat Morris of Royal Holloway College. If anyone has any information on dormice, or would like to help with the

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Nat. Soc. 22


NOTES A N D OBSERVATIONS

71

survey, please contact me at Bradfield Woods, Bradfield St G e o r g e , Bury St Edmunds. Julian Roughton

The Lizard Orchid - A Correction In a note added to Mr M. G. R u t t e r f o r d ' s history of the Lizard Orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum) near Lakenheath (Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 21, p. 50) I stated that Mr A . L. Bull had found this orchid at Tattingstone in 1959. H o w e v e r , Mr Bull never saw the orchid there. In some botanical notes by Miss J. C. N. Willis confusion arose between two species of orchids found by Mr Bull and, although a correction was published later, I failed to take account of this (Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 12, p. 257; 13, pp. 25 & 105). All that is known of the Lizard Orchid at Tattingstone is Miss E. S. Rowling's find 'in a low m e a d o w at Tattingstone, which was badly flooded in 1932'. She never found it there again. This record is included in her 'Some interesting Suffolk wild flowers' (Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 10 (1956) p. 72). Editor

An Early Record of Stranded Whales Occasionally some very early biological records c o m e to light. T h e following note f r o m an old chronicle (No. 2334) was republished by the East Anglian Daily Times in 1907: '1568. - T h e xi of D e c e m b e r were taken in Suffolk at D o w n h a m bridge, 17 monstrous fishes, some of them 27 foote in length.' ' D o w n h a m bridge' will be the part of the River Orwell known as Downham Reach, between Woolverstone on the west bank and Bridge Wood on the right bank. T h e 'monstrous fishes' were almost certainly Pilot whales, Globicephalus melaena (Traill), which reach about 28 Vi ft in length. Howard Mendel

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Nat. Soc. 22


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Suffolk Natural History, Vol. 22

Three Generations in One The very wet weather, or perhaps a virus infection, had a Strange effect on a colony of Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata L.) growing on a grassy bank near the A45 at Tostock in September, 1985. Some dozen plants had had their seeds germinate while still in the flower head. This led to a complex rosette of leaves at the top of the original flower stalk, with up to nine second generation flowers - on fĂźll length stalks - growing f r o m this aerial base. In an extreme case the seeds of the second generation flower heads seemed to have germinated, producing more leaves at this second storey level. This Strange growth may have been due to disease. Viruses can cause what are known as 'witches' broom p h e n o m e n a ' in many different plants (though these are now increasingly being attributed to mycoplasma-like organisms (Bos, 1978)). It seems that plantains are particularly prone to growth abnormalities. Plantains may produce galls, which are caused by a moth (Tortrix paleana), and often show strap-like growth of the flowering stems ('fasciation') which can be caused by eelworm infestation (Darlington, 1968). I am grateful to Dr G . D. Heathcote for these observations.

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It was not possible to photograph or draw the Tostock specimens but the flower head of a less extreme specimen collected by Mrs E. M. Hyde on 11 July 1979 is illustrated. A photograph by Mr S. Beaufoy of a fasciated plantain (P. major L.) from Bury St Edmunds appeared as the frontispiece of Vol. 9 (1955) of the Transactions, together with a comment (p. 272) by th finder, Mr H. J. Boreham, on what in dialect he called 'ther owd Broad Laved Planten'.

References Bos, L. (1978). Symptoms of virus diseases in plants. Wagening Netherlands. Darlington, A. (1968). The pocket encyclopaedia of plant galls in Blandford Press, London. Rev. R. Addington, The Vicarage, Pakenham, Bury St Edmunds, IP31 2LN

Agricultura) Chemicals Can Make 'Weeds' Flourish The Excursion Flora uses a leaf width of about 5mm as one of the k features for Couch-grass (Elymus repens (L.) Gould), though other books suggest a ränge up to 10mm. But a plant growing in com at Tostock in 1985 had leaves of up to 12mm wide, and none much narrower. Similarly, the largest leaves of a plant of Sun Spurge (Euphorbia helioscopis L.), which had somehow survived the passing of the combine harvester in 1985, were 60mm x 30mm, which are twice the usual dimensions. I am told that this marked increase in leaf size is probably due to abundant fertilizer applied by the farmer, but other agricultural chemicals might have had an effect. For example, extremely low doses of synthetic plant growth regulators, such as the herbicide 2,4-D, can actually increase the uptake of nitrogen and phosphorus by plants (Nickell, 1982).

References Clapham, A. R., Tutin, T. G. & Warburg, E. F. (1981). Excursion Flora o the British Isles. (3rd. Edition). Cambridge University Press. Nickell, L. G. (1982). Plant growth regulators. Agricultural uses Verlag, New York. Rev. R. Addington Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 22


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Mutant Green-winged Orchid Whilst surveying a m e a d o w at H a s k e t o n in May 19851 f o u n d an u n u s u a l f o r m of t h e G r e e n - w i n g e d O r c h i d (Orchis morio L.). T h i s was a peloric m u t a n t ( ' m o n s t e r ' ) in which t h e t w o lateral, inner p e r i a n t h s e g m e n t s w e r e replaced by additional labella, thus f o r m i n g a stränge but attractive flower with t h r e e frilly labella. T h e r e w e r e also two extra spurs at t h e back of these labella. A recent article in W a t s o n i a ( B a t e m a n , 1985) cites only t w o published references to this type of m u t a t i o n in Orchis morio\ if a n y o n e has any r e c o r d s of unusual orchids in Suffolk I would b e glad to h e a r f r o m t h e m .

normal flower

peloric form

References B a t e m a n , R . M . (1985). Peloria a n d p s e u d o p e l o r i a in British O r c h i d s . Watsonia, 15, 357. M. N. Sanford Suffolk Biological R e c o r d s C e n t r e

Notes and Observations 22  
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