Tuesday 20 May 2014

Lime Hawks and Nightingales

The lime - or linden or line - is a fine and noble tree, but it could hardly be more ill suited to urban planting. Its growth is far too vigorous - the lime strives continually to be a really big tree - and it attracts aphids that drop sticky secretions onto any cars parked below. However, the lime trees that line many urban and suburban streets do play host to the beautiful Lime Hawk Moth. At this time of year, if you keep your eyes open and have luck on your side, you might well find a newly-emerged Lime Hawk spreading its wings on a lime tree trunk. Last night, as I was trudging home along my local high street, I glanced - as I always do, more out of habit than expectation - at the trunks of the deeply unpromising row of asphalt-embedded limes that line the pavement. And there was a splendid Lime Hawk Moth! My first of the year, and my first ever on those particular trees. It's a sight that always lifts the spirits - and, in my case, takes me straight back to boyhood, when my father taught me about the Lime Hawk and the other unexpected natural wonders that lie about us, even in suburbia, if we only look.

Later, in bed, I caught a short Radio 4 programme celebrating the 90th anniversary of the first of the famous outside broadcasts in which Beatrice Harrison played her cello to the nightingales in her Surrey garden - if nightingales they were... We heard a little of Beatrice (Elgar's favourite cellist) talking about the occasion in her fabulous pre-war posh tones, and bits of the recordings, but much of the programme was taken up with the presenter, a folk singer called Sam Lee, singing in a rather dirge-like way to the (genuine) nightingales, who didn't seem too inspired by his efforts. Happily, however, there was room for some of Keats's great Ode - and, less obviously, of John Clare's The Nightingale. A nice way to end the day.


  1. Lime hawk moths are one of the most amazing shades of green of anything in nature I think, like a victorian green velvet sofa

  2. I agree with your comment about finding natural wonders in town. In our city centre residential garden we see pairs of jays and a fox is often asleep on our flat shed roofing the morning.

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