Linden blossom time
Any day now, the Lime trees (Common Lime or Linden, Tilia Europea) will come into bloom. They perfume the air with one of the most delightful scents of summer. Walk along the main avenue by the tennis courts, especially in the evening and enjoy. This tree wants to attract bees and moths to pollinate it, so gives off most scent in the evening. The flowers are not showy, but worth examination as they are grow directly out of a leaf-like structure; this acts like a helicopter later on in the year when it separates from the tree and floats away to spread the seeds.
Lime blossom produces lovely honey and bees also collect honey dew to add to their honey. Honey dew – that sticky stuff on car windows is what the greenfly pass, they eat enormous quantities of sap to gain small amounts of protein and excrete the surplus sap.
Many types of moth and their caterpillars also feed on the heart shaped leaves and the nectar, Lime Hawk Moth being the most spectacular. May and June are the time to find them on a warm evening. It’s worth looking in lime trees outside the park as the park trees are kept trimmed at the base, look for a tree with arisings (Twigs growing from the base.) and you may spot a caterpillar with a spine on its tail. You may also find some strange red things on the tops of the leaves, lime nails which are produced by tiny mites.
As a child, I used to place a leaf over my pinched index finger and thumb, then pop it with the palm of my other hand – goes off like a paper bag.
Lime blossom is made into many perfumes, cosmetics and medicines. You can easily make a tea from them to treat a cold but the flowers must be freshly opened or they become narcotic. You preserve them by drying them so that they are available to use all year.
The inner bark layer is very fibrous and is used to make paper and fabric in Japan. The timber is soft and almost grainless so easy to carve. The Cravat by Grinling Gibbons will be on display at the Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill in Twickenham, 20 October 2018 – 24 February 2019.
Butterflies and bogs
The nearby mounds are a good place to spot butterflies at this time of the year. There are several small blue butterflies which are difficult to distinguish, the one called ‘Small Blue’ has a sooty, dusty blue appearance, so I didn’t spot that one, there were either common blue or holly blue. The mounds are not mown, so the clover is able to bloom and provide food for butterflies and other pollinators.
See how the vegetation changes on the mounds. At the base, the plants are bigger and you will find clumps of sedge. This plant seeds itself all over the area and tells us about the soil and terrain. It is a plant that likes poorly drained or even boggy soil and Burgess Park can get quite boggy. if it were not for the Thames Barrier, it would be subject to flooding as it is quite low lying and used to be on the banks of The Earl’s Sluice (One of London’s lost rivers). This ran from Ruskin Park to Rotherhithe cutting across a corner of the park by the junction of Albany Road with Camberwell Road. It now feeds into the sewer system, what a shame!
Pendulous Sedge (Carex Pendula) looks like a grass, but feel the stem. It is a most unusual triangular shape with sharp edges, almost like something engineered. Find some grass to feel the difference.
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