Autumn Leaves – London Plane

We can’t fail to note the progress of autumn as we exit the Greenwood House car park or walk up to the village shop. The leaves on the London Planes outside Herrison Hall, and up the slope where we duck the low branches, are fast changing colour and falling.

Hedgerow Wayfarer Berries

Various stages of development and ripening of the berries borne by the Wayfarer or Wayfaring tree (Viburnum lantana) seen in hedgerows around the village, notably in Olympic Park and the CD Nature Reserve – although they are rapidly stripped by the birds.

Pale Tussock Moth

Thanks again to Marilyn for this picture of a pale Tussock Moth caterpillar (Calliteara or Dasychira pudibunda) on the path near Greenwood House. The adult moth is less colourful. I think I saw a very old and worn female moth on the grass in the CD Nature Reserve in August. The scales had almost entirely disappeared from the wings, leaving only faint markings, so my identification might be wrong.

White Spider

My neighbour Marilyn found this white spider on a pink anemone flower. I have seen them around the village too. They are inconspicuous as they lay in wait to pounce on unsuspecting prey innocently visiting flowers to collect nectar or pollen, or to eat the flower itself. They have no need of webs to trap their victims. I think it is possibly a Flower Crab Spider. This must be the creature that Robert Frost was describing in his poem “Design” where he says:


I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth—
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth—
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.


What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?—
If design govern in a thing so small.

Robert Frost
Complete Poems of Robert Frost, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1949

Magpie Moth

This attractive Magpie Moth (Abraxus grossulariata) was photographed the other day by Marilyn, one of my fellow Greenwood House residents. It was resting quietly on the path, making it easier to get up close and take the picture. It is lovely to see what other people spot as they are out walking and enjoying the nature we have around us here in Charlton Down.

Autumn Leaves – Brambles

Small and ordinary can be beautiful and delight the eye. I have been watching the Bramble leaves turning red in this early autmn as the berries are in various stages of ripening.

Horse Chestnut Leaf Miners

The foliage on the village horse chestnut trees may seem to have been changing to autumn colours for many months already. Look closely and there is a sort of pattern to the dying patches on the leaves. These patches are where a small caterpillar has been eating its way to fatness and maturity between the inner and outer layers of the leaf, following paths between the veins. The small moth that lays its eggs on the leaves is a native of the continent but warmer weather has enabled it to extend its range further north to Britain where it now flourishes. The infestation has an effect on the tree but only in a general way because the tree does not die and can still produce conkers. At this time of year the damage inflicted on the leaves is made more dramatic in appearance because of the dying back of the leaves. I have written in greater detail about this on earlier posts over on Jessica’s Nature Blog if you want to click the links below to read them:

Hedgerow Hawthorn Berries

Hawthorn berries or haws (Crataegus monogyna) are so common in the local Charlton Down hedgerows that I almost forgot to mention them.

Hedgerow Bryony Berries

I love the way that bright juicy Bryony berries are festooning the hedgerows. I am not certain whether they are White Bryony (Bryonia dioica) or Black Bryony (Tamus communis) because the leaves have mostly shrivelled away. I tend to think these are Black bryony from what is left of the foliage. I particularly like it when the fruit is carried on the looping strands of the dying vines so that they look like necklaces or fairy lights in the hedges.

Ladybird Life Stages

The leaves on the lime trees in the village are providing a natural platform on which red and black ladybird larvae can pupate and eventually hatch out. Here are some pictures from the other day (22 September 2021) showing the various life stages. I think the final-stage yellow and black winged adult may have recently emerged from one of the pupae (or are they late-stage instars?). There are still lots of these intriguing small creatures around if you want to look for yourself. Try the leaves on the lime trees that border the tarmacked road between Olympic Park playing field and the cricket pitch.

I think these bugs may be Harlequin ladybirds (Harmonia axyridis) which are an invasive species that entered the UK in 2004 and have rapidly become widespread. They are considered to be a great pest because they eat all sorts of other native insects and do not restrict themselves to feeding on aphids like our local ladybirds.