Winter

Why do they call you Long John Silver?

It’s because of my pirate ancestry, innit?

So, it’s not the underpants then?

Everybody wears long johns in the winter, it’s cold!

That’s not what you told Andrew.

I may have embellished things a little bit.

Ah well, it will soon be spring.

I can’t do much today, I can’t get lovely photographs it is too dark. So let’s look at some insects instead. Dragons and Damsels Okay?

This is the female of one species, Common Blue Damselfly, lovely?

Common Blue DamselflyThis is the male. He is a bit shy.

Common Blue DamselflyI am sure that if you just go over and say hello then she will be pleased to say hello back.

Common Blue DamselflyΒ I forgot, the odonata are a bit carnivorous.

I think she liked you.

Common blue DamselflyBurp!

It is great that they are carnivorous πŸ˜€ The things they eat need eating.

MosquitoesCome into my world little Dragonflies.

Southern HawkerThis one is a Southern Hawker.

Southern HawkerThis next one is a Migrant Hawker.

Migrant Hawker

Migrant HawkerThis is a Hairy Dragonfly, sometimes known as a Spring Hawker it is the earliest of the big blue dragonflies to appear but it is not that early, it arrives in May.

Hairy Dragonfly

Hairy DragonflyThe Hawkers above all belong to the same family (Aeshnidae) They are the largest and fastest of our Dragonflies. They hunt by patrolling the skies and swooping down on their prey like Hawks.

We also get a lot of Darters, Skimmers and Chasers, these belong to the familyΒ Libellulidae, the largest family of Dragonflies. These Dragonflies tend to be ambush predators rather than Hawks.

Common Darter.

Common Darter

Common DarterBlack-tailed Skimmer.

Black-tailed Skimmer

Black-tailed SkimmerBroad-bodied Chaser

Broad-bodied Chaser

Broad-bodied ChaserWell that’s enough Dragonflies. I know that you would rather have news from the farm and pictures of Fizz but it is just horrible outside. (I would stay in HK if I were you πŸ™‚ )

Horrible FizzI was talking to a friend in Vancouver recently about lime green flowers and I got inspired to add Wood Spurge to EW. Thank you David.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeEuphorbia is a genus of plants commonly known as Spurge. There are about 2000 species in this genus including the familiar Christmas Poinsettias and the Rubber Tree. In South Africa some Euphorbia have developed characteristics very similar to Cacti and are often incorrectly referred to as such. All Euphorbia species contain a milky white, toxic sap in the stem and leaves which can severely irritate the skin on contact.

The Wood Spurge is a species native to Europe and to Southern England. It grows in woodland and shaded hedgerow. It is an evergreen perennial and the small plants are a common sight in winter.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeΒ Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeΒ  Β Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeΒ  Β Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeΒ Wood Spurge spreads by underground rhizomes so you will often find plants growing close together in a group.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeSpring growth.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood Spurge

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeThe Wood Spurge has a complex and very unusual flower. The green buds that you see in these pictures are not really flower buds, they are a pair of modified leaves that contain an unusual flower head.

The “Bud” is called a cyathium (plural, cyathia) sometimes referred to as a “false flower” and it contains the inflorescence of the Spurge.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeThere is quite a lot going on inside each cyathium. There are four small “horse shoe” shaped glands, called “Involucral glands”, these glands are not part of the flowers themselves but part of the cyathium, they produce nectar.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeThe flowers themselves are the small two lobed yellow anthers in the centre of the horse shoes. There is nothing more to the flowers than a single stamen with two yellow anthers at the top. The anthers produce pollen.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeThe two large bud like objects beside the flowers are in fact further cyathia. So there are flower heads growing out of each flower head as well as flowers and nectar producing glands.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeThe cyathium also produces a female flower. It consists of nothing more than a three lobed stigma (pollen receiving organ) leading down to an ovary. The female flower is produced before the male flowers that I have shown you and drops down out of the way when the male flowers arrive to avoid self pollination. I don’t have photographs of the stigma at this time.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeIt sounds complex but it is not that difficult to understand. The horse shoes are producing nectar, the flowers are just the stamens in the middle and the buds are new flower heads with all the same stuff inside them.

It is a lime green flower and it is beautiful.

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeTaxonomy

Kingdom: Plantae

Order:Β Malpighiales

Family:Β Euphorbiaceae

Genus:Β Euphorbia

Species:Β EuphorbiaΒ amygdaloides

Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeΒ Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeΒ  Β Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeΒ  Β Euphorbia amygdaloides, The Wood SpurgeWildflowers in winter.

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46 thoughts on “Winter”

  1. You’re right about the weather! How comforting to know you have the rain, sleet and snow too! Dragonflies are my absolute favourite and I have been trying to learn more about them. I will be making a page for my blog about the dragonflies I see in my garden. When it is up and running I would appreciate a visit from you to check that I have identified them correctly. But only if you have the time and inclination. No Wood Spurge here but the map in my flower book says they could be found in East Anglia a little to the west of me. I will have to go on a field trip. Thank-you for the link to Andrew’s blog. I always enjoy the comments he makes on your posts.

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  2. Too late Colin, I am on my way tomorrow night. No going back but you have shown me what I can look forward to. I always enjoyed Odd Odes (Cyril Fletcher) and chasing a broad body is good sport. I have plenty of warm and dry clothing packed but no shorts. I’ll bring those next time. Stay inside with Fizz until it is light and warmer.

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    1. Thanks Andrew πŸ™‚ By the time you get here winter will be over. I hope that you have a good flight and it is not too tedious. Lulu seems to have the better deal with a direct flight and I hope that you don’t have cause to envy her in her own crate (plenty of leg room) in a heated hold, taking the fast route.

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  3. Colin what great photos. what camera are you using (and lens) for those super dragonfly close ups?

    Also are you taking them in the early morning before they become fully active?

    I’m toying with the possibility of a Macro lens on my Canon, but a good one costs Β£700.

    I’ve heard good reports about a Sony, and I’m more concerned with results (and cost) than the camera brand/image.

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    1. Thank you very much Stephen πŸ™‚ The bad news is that my current camera is a Panasonic FZ200 bridge camera. Worse, these are old pictures and were taken with my old Panny FZ50 and FZ38. It is mostly luck and having good light and a willing insect. I still think that the FZ200 would make a good second camera, even for serious photographers. It is small and light, very versatile (24 times optical with f. 2.8 at that range to macro) and it only costs about Β£300. Not as good as good DSLR but an awful lot cheaper πŸ™‚

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  4. This Blog is one of the most wondrous yet! The beautifully marked Dragonflies and the cyathium ….we learn so much. … the green flower is one I have never seen before and I find it lovely. Another great read.
    Fizz was enjoying snow. Do you receive a great amount of snow? The NE is all but snowed under right now. Our area has, fortunately escaped much of it…so far.
    Thanks for a good morning at my computer.

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    1. Thank you so much Ettel πŸ™‚ We don’t really get any snow at all here, well not very often. It sometimes gets cold and wet in the winter but it is mild compared to most of the world. Stay warm πŸ™‚

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  5. Ah ha, so you do get some snow on occasion, it wasn’t much, but it was that much more than we’ve had this year here on the flats, and (unfortunately for the skiers) almost as much as in the lower mountains. Darn that Global Warming anyway. Thank-you for the kind mention, and for another view of some lovely green flowers. When I was reading your page before, I somehow missed the part about the irritating substance contained within. I’m glad I caught it this time. So thanks again, and I hope your weather warms up a little for you, or at least dries up. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank you David πŸ™‚ A little snow but it hasn’t laid at all this year. There is no skiing around here but we have good mud slides. Strangely the apres-mud is not so popular as the apres-ski πŸ™‚

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  6. Ugh the weather looks awful. We have some large dragonflies here commonly called ‘the devil’s darning needle’ but I haven’t seen any of them up here in the north. We saw quite a few when we lived further south though.

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  7. We’ve had heaps of snow πŸ™‚ it makes for a much cleaner dog! I once gave myself a very nasty reaction,from Euphorbia, back in the day when I a florist, I’d made a bouquet for a member of the royal family, I think I must have faffed about a lot with it and then touched my face I woke up in the night looking like a gerbil, and then spent rest of the night worrying I was going to get sent to the tower for making a royal look like a gerbil too! Just as well they wear gloves πŸ™‚

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  8. Another enjoyable post, Colin. Always fond of Fizz antics, and then we get dragonflies (who doesn’t love them?) – great capture of the Migrant Hawker on the tree trunk. I too, love the lime green of spurge, that spring burst of color early on. Impressive photography and botanical details – great stuff! You make learning fun. πŸ™‚

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  9. I never realised the Male and Female Blue Damselfly’s were different colours. Thanks for sharing, Colin. I see them all the time in summer and always assumed only the blue coloured ones were that variety. I shall have to look more closely in the same vicinity and see if I can spot the females.

    It cold, wintery and looks like rain all day here in Melbourne, Aust. I know I should be glad for the garden, but I was all set to go outdoors for some photography. Hrmmph!

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  10. We haven’t gotten any snow yet. Of course, North Carolina doesn’t know what season it’s in. One day it’s Spring, the next day it’s Fall, the next day it just might be Winter. Now that we don’t have to drag out to work, I’d love seeing it snow. Happy Trails!!

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    1. Thank you Emily πŸ™‚ Dragonflies are pretty easy if you catch them at the right time. When they are basking in the sun they don’t like to move and some of the little Darters positively love being photographed and will pose for the camera. It is very different from those busy little Bees who won’t take their heads out of the flower or sit still for one moment. It is a good job that Bees get drunk or I would never get any photos πŸ™‚

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