Last week I was reading a blog post by “Bug Woman” all about the Alder Tree. I really enjoy her posts and this one got me thinking and it inspired me to finally put pen to paper again, as it were. So thank you Bug Woman!
The Woodland Trust describe the alder as a “Swamp dweller, water lover”. Consequently, it grows very well in our gardens, as the hospice is built on clay with very shallow soil and poor drainage. When it rains hard, as it has almost continuously for several weeks, we get puddles and boggy areas all over the grounds. Unlike Bug Woman, who has always liked the native alder, I am not so keen! I find them rather unkempt and uninspiring. They seem to be often growing at strange angles, maybe due to the shallow soil. And when it has been windy (ie Storm Ciara and Dennis) I find dozens of snapped branches scattered around and thousands of the small cones that they bear. The alder creates extra work for me!
For the last couple of weeks I have been clearing an area that I have not touched in the last 4 years. It has always been overgrown and the brambles were encroaching into the wildflower garden.
I have been putting it off for far too long, so I decided to go for it. The job has been very unpleasant, with hundreds of brambles to be removed. I also thinned out the alder and willow saplings that were growing all over the place. I’m pleased with the result.
When tidying around one of the alders I noticed a small beetle, hiding under some moss at the base of the tree.
I had seen this beetle before, for the last two summers, and I have even photographed it. But despite looking, I couldn’t identify it. After reading Bug Woman’s blog on the alder tree, I decides to google ‘alder beetle’, and low and behold there it was – the Alder Leaf Beetle (Agelastica alni). What really surprised me was that the Alder Leaf Beetle was considered to be extinct in the UK for 60 years, between 1946 and 2003. Then in 2004 it was found in Manchester and is now on the increase in the NW of England.
The beetle itself is about 7mm long and dark blue in colour. As its name suggests, it feeds on the leaves of the alder tree from the end of spring and all through the summer, often causing quite a lot of damage. It overwinters in the soil at the base of the tree before emerging in spring when it produces new larvae that also feed on the leaves. Here are the beetles last summer, eating some leaves…
So despite it causing quite a lot of unsightly, but harmless, damage, I am excited about having this rare species in our garden. And for this reason I am glad that we have lots of alder trees.
It has been a long time since I have blogged, for which I am sorry. But shortly after my last post on the kingfisher sighting (which I saw again only last week), my wife, Sam, was diagnosed with bowel cancer. This was a huge shock for us, and completely unexpected. Thankfully it has not spread, and thanks to the wonderful NHS, the tumour has been fully removed. Sam is now receiving some precautionary chemotherapy, but is considered cancer free and is expected to make a full recovery.
Just after Sam’s operation was the annual NW in Bloom Awards Ceremony. I am pleased to announce that we received an “Outstanding” award – the highest you can get. I was really chuffed and grateful to all my regular volunteers.
The crocuses and daffodils are now out and I am about to plant lots of snowdrops for next year. I am just hoping and praying for some better weather!
Until next time,