Sunday, 1 September 2019

Kent Orchids - Early June 2019 -

I didn't get to see all of Kent's orchids this year, but I have already featured some on the last two blogs, so here's some more from the first week of June.
I might sneak in some other wildflowers as well when no-one is looking!

Man Orchids
Orchis anthropophora

There's a venue not too far away with thousands of these on it, called Darland Banks, a steep hilly reserve in Medway.

However, I rarely go there now as a road verge near me usually has over 300 close to the car with no hills to climb!

These were taken on the busy A225 on a Kent Wildlife Trust roadside Nature Reserve near Eynsford. This is an example of what can happen to our road verges if they are managed properly and mowed at the end of the season and not during it. All the cuttings are taken away too which prevents the soil becoming enriched which Hogweeds, Cow Parsley and Nettles all do so well on.

A new record for this RNR was a single flowering Common Spotted Orchid. Hopefully the first of many more to come.
By the end of June there will also be over a hundred Pyramidal orchids here too.

Dactylorhiza fuchsii

The next venue was in the north downs not far from Luddesdown. Six years ago this was pristine chalk turf but had now scrubbed over from neglect, so it is likely that by 2025 there will only be young woodland here and no orchids.

This was the star attraction here , a Greater Butterfly Orchid, a most graceful plant in flower, it''s long spurs pollinated by moths.

Platanthera chlorantha

I found just one Bee Orchid and one Man orchid here as well. The latter used to number over 50 a few years back.

Ophrys apifera

Here's a plant that novices sometimes mistake for an orchid, it's a Common Broomrape. It's parasitic on a number of species, but quite often on Clovers.

Orobanche minor

A Wild Strawberry with its tiny fruits.

Fragaria vesca

An increasingly rare arable plant, the Dwarf Spurge.

Euphorbia exigua

We've moved onto another venue now, a KWT reserve north of Maidstone.

This is a Common Twayblade, an unimposing orchid and annoyingly difficult to photograph!

Neottia ovata

At the base is a big pair of oval green leaves.

Another difficult to photograph plant and one that is hard to find in the first place is the Fly Orchid.

Ophyrs insectifera

Here's another one of those parasitic plants like the one above, however this one only attaches itself to Ivy and is thus called Ivy Broomrape.

Orobanche hederacea

Still here to smile at me were some lady flowers from the beautiful Lady Orchid. These flower and peak in mid May, so these were very late and rather pale too. Most had gone to seed.


Orchis purpurea

And here is my last orchid from these few trips in early June. I was particulary pleased to find this again, as I thought it might have been dug up the previous year. I saw it in bud, then a week later it had disappeared. I now assume someone passing picked the flowers!

 It looks very similar to the Greater Butterfly Orchid above doesn't it, however, this is the Lesser Butterfly Orchid and is much harder to find in Kent.

The only obvious difference between the two species is that this one has parallel pollinia, whereas the Greater has pollinia curved in towards each other at the top.

The pollinias are the small brown anthers carrying the pollen.

Platanthera bifolia

So ends this blog, I hope you liked it, even though it was a composite of a few short trips over a week.


Friday, 23 August 2019

Folkestone Downs and Mersham, Kent - 02/06/19

Most years of late I have made the pilgrimage to the best two known sites for Late spider Orchids, so I thought it would be nice to see them at a different site for a change. For reasons of security (for the plants) I can't name the site, but anyone could find these if they put in the leg work to go and look for them in likely locations.

At this site between Ashford and Folkestone there was a steep slope where I thought they would be and I exhausted myself scaling it and then traversing the slope to find them. When I did find them they were near the base of the slope after all! I suppose the moral is to start a search at the bottom then work up rather than head for the best looking areaat the start.

Here's a selection of the plants I found in flower from this site starting off with the stunning Late Spider Orchids.

Most were less than 8" tall. This species is only found in East Kent in the UK though is apparently quite common in northern France. Orchid lovers (sometimes lovingly referred to as Orchidiots) from all over the UK come to East Kent to see these wild orchids and 99% admire them and take a few photos without causing any problems. However, a few people dig them up or pick them to take home or flatten them by accident when taking photos, hence the lack of any specific site detail in this blog.

I saw around 50 flowering plants and the variations in patterning, colours and shapes was quite something.

A hybrid with Bee orchid has previously been found here and I searched for any possibility, but to be honest, the variation in this species was sufficient to make any determination of a hybrid almost impossible.

Anyway, I failed to find an "obvious" hybrid, so I'm happy to call of all of  these Late Spider Orchids.

Ophrys fuciflora

This was probably the tallest plant I found at about a foot tall.

Southern Marsh Orchids aren't often found on the dry chalk slopes in Kent, though there are some notable exceptions such as at Monkton Quarry. So I was pleased to find this one on the chalk not too far from the Late Spider Orchids. Having said that, this was the only marsh orchid I found here.

Dactylorhiza praetermissa

Also found close to the Late Spiders were a few Bee Orchids, so future hybrids remain a possibility here.

Ophrys apifera

As if I hadn't seen enough orchids, I then found a solitary Common Spotted at this site.

Dactylorhiza fuchsii

There were of course numerous other wildflowers on the chalk such as this Common Centaury 
Centaurium erythraea

Cut leaved Cranesbill
Geranium dissectum

Horseshoe Vetch
Hippocrepis comosa

The beautiful Hoary Plantain, now a Kent RPR species.

Plantago media

White Bryony
Bryonia dioica

There were many more too. June into July is the best time to see the multitude of wildflowers on chalk turf with perhaps only the beautiful Autumn Gentian and Autumn Ladies Tresses not arriving until August.


I then left this venue and decided to visit an area near Mersham, Ashford to add general botanical records to the BSBI database. I would have recorded at least 100 species for each 1x1km square (monad) that I walked, but here's a few I photographed.

Can you guess what species of common wildflower the following plant is - it's in seed if that helps?

Below are the leaves - guessed what it was yet?

Here it is towering over some nearby Hemlock Water-Dropworts.

And this is how I first spotted it, growing in an arable field as a weed. It was about 5 feet tall.

It was in fact a heavily fasciated Garlic Mustard! Maybe this is what herbicides did to it?

Alliaria petiolata var. giganticus

(yes I made up the variety!)

I showed this to the Kent County Recorder just for interest and he confirmed the ID but also said he'd not seen the likes of it before.
There's always something new to see!

One of the pitfalls of travelling around the county to walk public footpaths is that some are no longer usable. Mostly this is due to neglect with rotted stiles or paths covered in brambles or nettles, but frequently now I an finding man made obstructions to public rights of way such as this kissing gate fenced off with barbed wire. Fortunately I could just about climb over it, as it would have been over a mile to return by the same route. Another thing landowners frequently do is to remove all the signage and posts that the path is a public footpath. I reported this and other infractions to Kent County Council but I doubt they will do anything about it. This landowner needs prosecuting or being forced to maintain the footpaths as recompense.

Part of the path owned by the ame landowner as above - this gate has been tied up so it can't be opened. The only way to get through would be to cut it but I don't carry a knife with me! Perhaps I should now take wirecutters?

When a footpath goes through an arable field but is off the chosen route, I always have a brief look anyway. in this case I found Cut Leaved Dead Nettle, an uncommon plant in Kent.

Lamium hybridum

Nearby were numerouos Scented Mayweeds with their distinctive smaller flower heads than the unscented species.

Matricaria chamomilla

This wall was high and fronted a rural road. It contained some interesting plants such as Wall-rue and this garden escaped Spotted Dead Nettle - it quite obviously wasn't planted 6' up a wall.

Lamium maculatum 

Insects love umbellifers. This one took a liking to Hemlock Water-Dropwort which was abundant in the ditches and East Stour River.

Oenanthe crocata

It's usually in the company of Great Willowherb, Gypsywort and Water Mint, all water loving plants.

 Knotgrasses are very common and found just about everywhere. They take some work to sort out to species level and in most cases this can't be done without fruits being present. They had only just started flowering now and no seeds were present, so the exact species is not known.

Polygonum aviculare agg.

Field Pansy
Viola arvensis

A Woundwort Shieldbug. I've yet to get the "perfect" photo of these pretty little bugs. They are small and they move about a lot too, making them difficult to photograph.

Eysarcoris venustissimus

Of course, I saw a lot more than I have shown here, but I've gone on for long enough. I hope I've given you a taste of early Summer, though as I write in late August, Summer is now comong to a close. Until the next catch up blog, take care.....