Yellow Rattle

yellow rattle69°F, 20°C, 10.25 a.m.: At the lower end of the walled garden at Nostell Priory there are two squares of wild flower meadow. Amongst the grasses, buttercups and dog daisies there are small drifts of yellow rattle, Rhinanthus minor, a plant that is semi-parasitic on the roots of grasses.

Despite a superficial resemblance, it isn’t related to yellow archangel, which I photographed in Stoneycliffe Woods at the beginning of the month: yellow archangel is a relative of the dead-nettles, one of the Lamiacea (mint) family, while yellow flyrattle is a member of the Scrophulariaceae (figwort) family, related to louseworts, cow-wheats, speedwells and foxglove.

Male Fern

male fernmale fern stemA tall shuttlecock tuft of fronds of male fern, Dryopteris filix-mas, grows by the woodland path near the Menagerie. It has pale brown scales on its stems, which helps distinguish it from another tufted fern, the broad-buckler, which has a dark stripe running down the centre of each scale. The broad-buckler doesn’t form such a robust looking shuttlecock of fronds.


Curry Plant


curry plantThe curry plant growing in the stone trough in the courtyard of the stable block at Nostell Priory is just about to come into flower. As its name suggests, it gives off a convincing aroma of curry if you brush against it or rub its leaves. If this is designed to deter insects, it isn’t working in the case of these black aphids that are sap-sucking along its stems.

aphidsant and aphidSurplus sap excreted by the aphids is collected by ants, which have been observed to defend and sometimes to move the aphids, like farmers herding cattle. I spotted just one ant in the macro photographs that I took.


Spittle Bug

cuckoo spitAlso sap-sucking, a spittle bug. The nymph of the spittle bug produces a protective covering of ‘cuckoo spit’ by blowing bubbles in the surplus sap that it excretes.