Another changeable day with squalls, clouds playing tag and fabulous light. Aside from the odd cow parsley stalk snapped by the wind these conditions fuel the verges’ tropical rates of growth. Below the parsley, and in places almost as tall, hogweed, nettles of all persuasions, garlic mustard, Herb Robert and several varieties of grass elbow each other aside. Lower down the dirty, exhausted leaves of daffodil poke through the crush like victims of a stampede. Bedstraw, almost unnoticed now that everything else is green, reaches a height of six feet or more using the hedgerows for support. Does this allow a final decision to be reached as to which variety it is? Unexpectedly the greatest length, usually straggling but here perhaps able to climb, is awarded by field guides to marsh bedstraw, a species I have ruled out on account of its preference for ditches. And it is earlier to flower than other contenders but there are no signs of colour yet. As with many of my attempts to identify things the jury is still out. Perhaps it is time to accept a balance of likelihood, a majority verdict as it were.
Looking up into one of the great trees I see an oak apple and then another nearby, both of them of a size fully meriting their name. A little further on a sprig like Thursday’s has fallen onto the road and a first glance reveals several galls, most clinging to leaves but one appearing to be fastened onto the wood. On closer examination, however, there is a leaf, so tiny it is dwarfed by the parasite, a piggy backer larger than its pig. Scattered on the ground are many more of the same which have become detached from their moorings to resemble windfalls of currants or berries. The first specimens I found and took home have resisted all attempts to keep them alive so this is another opportunity for a spot of kitchen-worktop dissection. The same fruit-like consistency is exposed but this time a white maggot emerges at the centre. At first sight repulsive, as I might have imagined, like any egg it makes an appeal for protection, our nurturing instincts inherited, ungovernable.