Sunday, 13 September 2015

Grass of Parnassus

The name 'grass of Parnassus' seems a very unlikely name for a small plant that is common in Scotland's damp places. It's hardly a native name - something like starry bogwort might have been more appropriate - and it's obviously not a 'grass'. A moment's research on the internet finds that the name came from ancient Greece: the cattle on Mount Parnassus developed a taste for the plant so it became an ‘honorary grass'.

Usually it is sparing in its presence, with a single stalk with a flower on top, but this year we're finding multiple specimens like this one.

The plant works hard to attract insects: the white, bulbous structures in the centre of the flower are false nectaries which draw the insects to the pollen, assisted by a scent and the veining on the petals. The insects we found in its flowers in a single day included this wasp....

....a number of species of small fly - this might be a house fly - as well as....

....slightly more exotic flies, like this one on his stilt-like legs.

Then there were some tiny insects which hadn't flown in but must have known what they were looking for and climbed up the stalk - like this tiny ant.

But my favourite find of the day was a pink caterpillar which might have come out of a children's storybook. It was feeding so greedily that it had buried its head in the developing seed head.

No comments:

Post a Comment