Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The dragon and the admirals

I was in York yesterday and called in on an elderly cousin in a very nice care home whose walls are mantled in ivy and Virginia creeper. The latter was ablaze with different reds, pinks and greens and it was a glorious day - the sort on which national newspaper editors forbid photographers to ttake pictures of the supposedly 'grim' north.

This mantle of foliage also had great appeal to all sorts of insects, including the dragonfly at the top and more than a dozen Red Admirals like the one I managed to snap with my iPad Mini (which still works in spite of its cracked glass; I dropped it, the very first time I took a photo back in April, because I trusted the natty green magnetic cover to stay fixed.)

One of our very best UK butterflies - and York has many more than Oxford at the moment

The house was built by a wealthy local brewer for his wife and sister but he made the mistake of not consulting them and they disliked it from the first - far too big and fake-baronial for those in charge of keeping it clean. Alas, the creeping plants would not have grown into their current rampant state at the time. I think the women might soften a little, were they to see the place today.

Thinking of American readers - and the sudden new army of Canadians who are warmly welcome - I just Googled Virginia creeper and found that it is indeed one of the New World's gifts to us in the old. In the States it's known as Woodbine or Five-finger, according to Wikipedia; the latter name is a straight and apt tweak of its Linnean name Parthenocissus quinquefolia. Saying 'Parthenocissus' out loud reminds me of another random fact: saucy entomologists in the 19th century named a series of insects after young women through variations on the theme Pollycisme, Katicisme, Emmicisme. You get the idea... 


Countryside Tales said...

The Red Admiral is lovely- they all seem to have gone from here :-(

And what kind of foolish man would ever think he could get away with building a house without first consulting his wife?!

Martin Wainwright said...

Quite so!

Yes, we only get the occasional Red Admiral in the sunshine, though lots of Speckled Woods

Hooray for the North!

all v best