Wild West Yorkshire nature diary
bufftailed bumble beehoverfly

Pavement Plants

Monday 3rd July 2000
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privet blossom privet
ANOTHER BROODING DAY, not what you'd normally associate with July. It feels more like October.

Privet, the garden variety, is in blossom. Its sweet, dusty, decadent smell reminds me of the long summer holidays of my school days. It attracts what I identify as Buff-tailed Humblebee, bufftailed bumble beeBombus terrestris to give its old name, a bumblebee which has also been described as a 'two-banded white-tail'. They have a white rather than buff coloured tail on the continent. As the Latin name, which Linnaeus gave it, suggests, this bumblebee makes her nest in the ground, sometimes in a a mouse hole or in a mole's burrow. It is one of the commonest European bumblebees.

small hoverflyhoverfly Two varieties of Hoverfly are visiting the same blossoms.

For wildflowers that can resist the trampling, pavements provide a kind of desert habitat where competition from other plants is limited. As in a desert, there's plenty of light and, thanks to the regular contributions from the dog population, there are plenty of nutrients in the small pockets of soil that are available. But the pockets of soil are isolated. Plants can't scurry about like animals to reach such places, but they find their way there one way or another.

knotgrassbindweed Knotgrass (left) is one of the commonest weeds of cultivated ground. Like its bigger cousins, such as the Japanese Knotgrass, it is very efficient at spreading its fast-growing zig-zag stems. It has tiny white flowers growing from each 'knot' on its stem.

The most streetwise of these pavement weeds is Field Bindweed, (right) which unfortunately is well established under the tarmac in front of our house. It's a perennial. You gouge out the tough radiating stems from their crevice and within days they're starting to spread again. It continues to spread underground and actually has the power, Dracula style, to push its way up out of the darkness, forcing the pavement up into a pustule. It's even something of a mugger, twining anti-clockwise up grasses and flowers to grab a share of the light.

bufftailed bumble bee Am I being a little hard on this particular weed? It does have at least one redeeming feature; it has attractive pink trumpet-shaped flowers. Like most weeds it needs plenty of light (except, apparently, when it is burrowing under the pavement) and what does seem to be controlling it is that we've now got some low-growing shrubs established in the bed by the pavement. I'm afraid that digging probably helps it to spread. Inevitably little sections of stem get left in the ground and the bindweed soon gets established again, spreading over the bare earth.

small hoverflyhoverfly

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

E-mail; 'richard@daelnet.co.uk'

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