With this month’s Keepers Corner theme being ‘journeys’ I was reminded of two long, related journeys, one made by a tree and the other by a moth.
The tree is the Horse Chestnut, or ‘conker tree’ – a familiar sight on village greens, parks and roadsides. However, we only encounter this tree today because of the 2,000 mile journey its conkers made all the way from Greece 400 years ago in the hands of plant collectors. In recent years, Horse Chestnut leaves have started to show unusual markings in summer (see photo). These are caused by caterpillars of the Horse-Chestnut Leaf Miner moth that eat the leaves from the inside. But where did this moth suddenly appear from? Back in Greece the tree and the moth have always lived together. It is just that it has taken the moth 400 years to catch up with the tree in Britain! This has been possible due to improved transport routes to remote mountainous areas of Greece and the increasing number of chestnuts planted across Europe, allowing the moth to slowly make its way to Britain. Despite appearances the caterpillar does not harm the tree.
Next week’s Keepers’ Corner is about an amazing set of finds from a Roman cremation burial, found near Creslow.