This old art of mine

, 06 February 2012

Author Michael Blencowe

bramble leaf mine

Last week I gave a talk at Graffham’s historic Empire Hall. Just before the talk I was presented with a gift by Isabel (aged 11), Barty (aged 7) and Gemma (aged 5). I was so impressed by the present that I was speechless (which isn’t good just before you are about to give a talk).

Before I explain more we need to rewind back to a walk which I led along with Living Landscape Officer Jane Willmott at our Graffham Common nature reserve

in the January.

It was a lovely walk with a great crowd of people under blue skies. Aside from spotting plenty of other winter wildlife I drew everyone’s attention to some bramble leaves.

If you look closely at your local bramble I guarantee that you’ll find a few leaves which have been etched with a strange wiggly line.

This pattern is a leaf mine – the result of something eating the leaf from the inside. In this case that something is the larva of a tiny orange-headed moth called Stigmella aurella. The adult moth would have laid its egg on the leaf last summer and the larva would have started to feed between the upper and lower surfaces of the leaf. You can follow its route along the leaf – notice how the mine widens as the larvae inside gets fatter.

During the walk I showed the children these bizarre bramble patterns and it obviously inspired them to go out and do something rather creative. After the walk they scoured their local brambles and found an assortment of bramble leaf mines. They then cleverly cut and arranged the patterns to spell the name of the tiny artist that lives inside the leaf – Stigmella aurella.

Stigmella aurella leaf mine art by Isabel, Barty and Gemma

Thank-you to Isabel, Barty and Gemma; your leaf mine art is now framed and hanging above my desk! There are hundreds of species of moth, fly, sawfly and beetle which mine inside a variety of leaves. Look out for their leaf art throughout the year.

Leave a comment


  • Most excellent – I’m very impressed with this show of natural creative flair. In case anyone wants to learn more about leaf miners, I thought that I would share this excellent website on the topic. It contains a key that helps to identify the wee beast that is making the pattern:

    A Guide to leaf mines made by Lepidoptera

    06 Feb 2012 15:44:45

  • That’s brilliant! Never seen that done before, very original, very creative and a lovely way to celebrate the moth.

    07 Feb 2012 00:04:16