Saturday, 14 July 2018

Ranscombe Farm, Kent - 13/05/18

Ranscombe Farm is always worth a visit to lift the soul and I have been there many times. It is full of wildflowers of all descriptions and well recorded. However, as this day proved, you might find something new and never recorded there before. However, I'll start with the more usual species to be found.

Barbarea vulgaris

The shape and form of the upper stem leaves differentiate the Wintercresses, so always have a look at them.

White Hellebroine are a Kent RPR species, but there are plenty of them at Ranscombe (in a few places). Look in heavy shade on the chalk but under Beech trees to find them. 

Cephalanthera damasonium

Just North of Ranscombe in Cobham Great Wood was a small patch of Lily of the Valley. I'd looked for this last year and failed to find it, yet it's right by the main path running East/West through the wood. It's another rare plant in Kent.

 Convallaria majalis

Fly Orchids are also present at Ranscombe, in the same place as the White Helleborines.

Ophrys insectifera

There are several species of orchid here with Man Orchid being another known species.

Orchis anthropophora

On another part of the reserve were a few of the rare Lady Orchids, which with great management should hopefully increase in number over the next few years.

Orchis purpurea

All of the above orchids are well known on the reserve. However, as I left the location of the Lady Orchids, a pale yellow spike caught my eye in a newly coppiced area. I went over for a look thinking it was a Broomrape.

I was very surprised to find 3 Bird's Nest Orchids, with one just coming into flower. These had not been found on the reserve before and I let Ranscombe Farm know about them when I got home. The news even made it into Plantlife's magazine. It just goes to show how new rare species can be found even in heavily recorded areas.

The blue of the flowering Bugle (Ajuga reptans) sets off the orchid nicely.

Neotia nidus-avis

Not the most exciting photo of one of one of its flowers, but I was so excited at finding a new wild orchid on the reserve.

Another Kent RPR species is Sanicle which grows in shady wood on alkaline soils.

Sanicula europaea

A Cardinal Beetle, one of many beetles, bees and butterflies seen. 

My final flower that I photographed at Ranscombe was the humble Bush Vetch. If conditions are right, it will carry on flowerinf until the frosts arrive. Though as I write this (mid July) everything's been burned off by the drought and heat, so it will be interesting to see if it regrows when the rains come back - or will we have to wait until next year?

Vicia sepium

I would have taken more photos here but my battery went flat and I'd left the spare in the car.
I still had plenty of time left, so made my way to Kent Wildlife Trust's Holborough reserve to see what was of interest there. 
See my next blog for some more amazing plants.

Regards Dave

Friday, 13 July 2018

Longfield, Kent - 09/05/18

Longfield is a small unremarkable town a few miles South East of Dartford on the edge of the urban fringe. As such I am fortunate that within a few minutes I can walk into arable field, Beech woodland or chalk grassland. Here's a few species I found on this walk, culminating in a first record of a nationally rare and endangered plant for Longfield itself.

This is the uncommon Field Mouse-ear, which is in decline.

There is plenty of it in a disused meadow close to the town, but I fear it will be built on within a few years.

Cerastium arvense

There were also large stands of Crosswort with its bright yellow flowers, another Kent RPR species due to habitat loss.

Cruciata laevipes

Lots of flowers means insects and seeds and this Corn Bunting was one of several I saw.

Hawthorn was now in flower, though this pink tinged tree was not what it seemed at first to be. It was a Midland Hawthorn with all its flowers having 2 styles. The leaves look different and simpler as well, compared to the usual Hawthorn most seen.

Crataegus laevigata

Euphorbias or Spurges that have escaped form cultivation are on the increase. I see them all over the place, usually near habitation, either seeding nearby or arising from fly tipped soils.

This one is Caper Spurge with its flowers shown above.

Euphorbia lathyris

This Spurge had me baffled for a while, as it looked very much like Wood Spurge in form, but the leaves weren't right.

Out with the ID books and with some help by confirming my ID from Twitter, it turned out to be a garden variant of Wood Spurge called Turkish Spurge

Euphorbia amygdaloides subsp robbiae

Wild Strawberries dotted the chalk turf of this meadow along with the Field Mouse-ears.
In the photo above are the hairy leaaves of Mouse-ear Hawkweed, it's flowers when out, resembling a small Dandelion.

Fragaria vesca

Fumitories are often found on arable land and numeorus young plants were just coming into flower. I didn't have time to firmly identify this one, though given the flowers were less than 11mm long, the colouring and form and the tiny sepal, I'd say it's most likely Common Fumitory.

There are several different species which can be hard to separate, so if interested I'd recommend buying the BSBI handbook on them at:
I use this book now to firmly ID fumitories down to subspecies level if needed.

Fumaria officinalis

 In this field I then found the Beauty and the Beast!

Here's the Beast, a Spanish x Native Bluebell hybrid, no doubt chucked over a nearby garden fence into the field. Not only did it survive, but it's spread for some distance along the field edge. It really is a thug and in woodland will crowd out the native Bluebells, eventually leaving none left.

Hyacinthoides non-scripta x hispanica = H x massartiana

And here is the Beauty. The small, but almost fluorescent pink and upright flowers of the Henbit Dead-Nettle.

It's an arable plant but of late, I've mostly found it in towns in pavement cracks and kerb edges, so keep an eye out for this attractive little plant.

Lamium amplexicaule 

There were many many more wildflowers that I saw and photographed as well, but most I have covered before here. Species included Common Poppy, Cleavers, Wild Mignonette, Scarlet Pimpernel, Cornsalads and Clovers to name a few. I could go on a long time!

The following species has also been featured in my blogs before, but it is a very special plant.

I was very pleased to have found a first record for Longfield for Man Orchid (TQ5969), in the same meadow as originally described (likely to be built on). Unfortunately there was just the one flowering spike, but if one has established, I am sure that next year more will come up. A delight to see.

Orchis anthropophora

This really does drive home the point that it's always worth looking back over areas you know well, something new may and often does pop up from time to time.

I've surveyed and enjoyed this small meadow for the last 5 years and this is the first time one has appeared. By now (mid July) it should be full or Wild Marjoram and a few Basil Thyme as well.

Until next time

KBRG Field Trip - Cutlers Wood, Kent. 17/05/18

This belated blog will show some of the amazing plants that we discovered on a Kent Botanical Recording Group field trip to a a private woodland in East Kent. Permission had been given to survey the flora which in turn will assist the landowner in managing his land for the wildlife.

This trip occurred at the end of Spring when it was warm with rain every few days, unlike now (mid July) where it has been dry for over a month with roasting temperatures.

As such, I was pleased to find a very late flowering Wood Anemone at the edge of the above clearing.

Anemone nemorosa

Another straggler from the Spring were several clumps of Cuckooflower, with their delicately veined pink petals.

Cardamine pratensis

Crosswort and Bugle made attractive contrasting stands in a field at the woodland edge.

Cruciata laevipes and Ajuga reptans

In the same field were numerous Houndstongue plants in flower. They are quite frequent on chalk and also in coastal areas, though declining substanitally in recent years.

Cynoglossum officinale

Sometimes one forgets to look up off the ground when botanising. These small yellow flowers of the Spindle Tree are actually very easy to miss - unlike their bright pink and orange fruits later in the year.

Euonymus europaeus

Golden Archangel were at their peak now in the shady woods.

Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp montanum

In a way Common Gromwell is similar to Houndstongue in that it is a tall, large plant with small insignificant flowers.

Lithospermum officinale

Yellow Pimpernels were a frequent sight on the woodland paths.

Lysimachia nemorum

On the same woodland path, the group found some perplexing leaves which some thought were Adder's Tongue (a fern) and others were not so sure.

However, eventually we found one with the "adder's tongue" obviously prominent, thus settling the argument.

I'd only seen this before in unimproved neutral grassland so it was a surprise to find it in deep shade.

Ophioglossum vulgatum

There were still a few Early Purple Orchids here and there, though many had gone to seed.

Orchis mascula

We saw several butterflies, hoverflies, beetles and bugs as well as the plants.

We then came to a very special area full of Fly Orchids.

As is often the case, most were in shade or dappled sunlight and to reduce weight I would have to carry all day, I didn't have a tripod with me.

Ophrys insectifera

There were also numerous Common Twayblades in the area and a couple of Greater Butterfly Orchids in bud.

But then we came to the highlight of the field trip. Well over 100 of them, seen in every monad we visited.

The wonderful and quite rare Lady Orchid.

There were some very unusual variants here, some with heavy purple spotting.

Another had very bright coloured-in purple skirts

As these beautiful orchids are now long gone until 2019, I'll indulge myself with a few more photos!

  Orchis purpurea
 So ended an eventful and wonderful day and what's more it was completely free. Anyone with an interest on learning about our wild plants can join the Kent Botanical Recording Group; from complete novice to advanced botanist, all are welcome. See for details or and click on the map where you live to find your own local group.