Tuesday, 12 November 2019

The Eastern Quarry, Bluewater, Kent - 26/08/19

This quarry has been out of bounds to the general public for many many years. It comprises of a vast disused chalk pit which is slowly being developed for housing. The first phase of housing was now complete and allowed entry to an area previously unreachable.
The plant I really wanted to see was easily found as there were hundreds of them all along a damp area several hundred metres long. Some were still flowering too.

Round-leaved Wintergreen

They had previously been found in the nearby Bluewater quarry, although it evaded our search for them when the county recorder and I surveyed it in 2015. As such, I had only previously seen this plant at Newborough Warren on Anglesey. There were many rosettes like this one below, as well as some in flower, many in seed and some in between.

Pyrola rotundifolia

Here are some habitat photos, which also show the (chalk) geology and general habitat for the area.

Associated species included Alnus glutinosa (Alder); Phragmites australis (Common Reed) and Salix (Willows)

Narrow-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil was very common in the drier parts of the quarry. I think I've covered these in a recent blog, but they are more upright with fewer flowers and leaves 4x longer than wide, compared to Common Birdsfoot Trefoil.

Lotus tenuis

A large stand of Early Goldenrod splashed some colour to the late Summer scene in this quarry. It's not a native plant but widely naturalised in the south east.

Check the leaves for hairs to separate Early from Canadian Goldenrod, the latter being quite hairy - the former being hairless apart from a few on the underside leaf veins as shown below.

Solidago gigantea

This plant below is the Winter rosette of Yellow-wort and in this form is easily mistaken for a Bee Orchid rosette. I was surprised to find this in late Summer, especially when several nearby were still in flower or seed.

Blackstonia perfoliata

There are several types of Ragwort that may all be in flower at the same time. The prevalent one now is Hoary Ragwort, but the leaves show this to be Oxford Ragwort.

Having said that leaves can be highly variable so look carefully at your plant before determining its identity.

Senecio squalidus

The next two photos show Sea Buckthorn, an uncommon plant inland unless planted as amenity planting. Some of these plants were old enough to have become knarled, thick-trunked trees forming an impenetrable barrier due to their prolific spines. A Kent RPR species.

 Hippophae ramnoides

The last few flowers of Rosebay Willowherb added splashes of colour amongst the reedbeds.

Chamaenerion angustifolium

White Melilot is a common plant of waste spaces in north Kent and here was a large plant growing right out of the middle of the path. I have previously seen them as tall as six feet in places.

Melilotus albus

That was it for this trip, so I'll leave you with a few more photos of the round-leaved Wintergreen, a rare plant in Kent.

Take care

Monday, 11 November 2019

Wittersham, Kent and the Romney Marsh - 25/08/19

Many months ago I met a lovely lady at a boot fair in Peasmarsh, East Sussex. She told me she had little white spiral flowers in her lawn in August last year and wondered if they were orchids. I then arranged to come and see her around that time as it was obvious from her description that these were mot likely Autumn Ladies Tresses, a small but beautiful wild orchid and there were  no records for that species here or nearby.

Sure enough, on my visit to her house lawn, I recorded 9 spikes of Autumn Ladies Tresses.

Spiranthes spiralis 

These only became known to the householder as a couple of years ago she paused a normally strict mowing regime and two spikes popped up that year.

Two years later and by refraining from mowing in late July, she now had 9 spikes on her lawn. I see no reason why the numbers won't continue to rise year on year.

I wonder how many other lawns have surprises in them like these, just waiting for the right conditions to emerge?

They're little stunners and the last wild orchid to flower in the UK.

I took the opportunity to record the flora in the vicinity of this lady's house as records were sparse.
I didn't take many photos, but here's some of the wildlife I found.

Musk Mallow
Malva moschata

Hops are common in Kent and are found in many hedgerows around the county.
Humulus lupulus

Red Admiral

Tufted Vetch in a hedgerow.
Vicia cracca

Purple Loosestrife
Lythrum salicaria

From here, I drove a short way down to the Romney Marsh to record a couple of under recorded squares. As you can see below, the environment wasn't very inspiring with huge areas under intensive agriculture. This meant the only place with any wildlife whatsoever were the ditches and road verges. Even then, most were either dried out or full of nettles and hogweed from over use of fertilisers.

Many of the ditches were empty of water or choked with nettles, however, in one I did find some pondweeds including this Ivy Leaved Duckweed.

Lemna trisulca

In the 1980s a ditch survey here found over 20 pondweeds but only a few were found now, due to over extraction of water and agricultural overuse of fertilisers.

Botanical recording over many years shows up what is happening in a particular area and mostly it's bad news as species decline all over the county for a variety of reasons.

And then I found this plant below!
I think it's pretty obvious what it was as you see the leaves of this plant on tobacco tins; T shirts and on other merchandise such as bongs, but I bruised a leaf just to make sure.

The smell  confirmed it was cannabis!

Cannabis sativa

I had a large amount of enquiries as to where I found it, I don't know why! It may still be growing there as I didn't tell.
Please note that if you picked a leaf or two or took the whole plant you would be committing an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Just a short blog this time, but as usual there was always something of interest.

Take Care

Monday, 4 November 2019

Swanscombe Marshes, Kent - 23/08/19

Swanscombe Marshes have been well documented by botanists pending the whole peninsular being re-developed, or so one would think. However, there were two monads (1km x 1km OS map squares) to the east that had been missed. So I set out this day to put that right.

The Common Reed is often overlooked as there is usually so much of it but it is an attractive grass in its own right.

Phragmites australis

Unsurprisingly in north Kent, Buddleja was dotted about everywhere.

Buddleja davidii 
I didn't see any butterflies on it though. 

Wild Carrot was living up to its name of Queen Anne's Lace and the fruiting heads balling up shows it to be subspecies carota.

Daucus carota subspecies carota

This first monad was dominated by the Brittania Lead Works, not an appealing sight  but a reminder of the ever present pressures on the land in this area which include - ever more housing;industrial;agricultural and leisure. Wildlife doesn't get much of a mention for land use in north Kent as (perhaps) it doesn't generate any cash for the local authorities.

These types of habitats often have several alien escapes present and here was no exception. This was a Late Michaelmas Daisy and I take several macro photos of the plant to work out which one I had found when I get home. The complete plant looked very similar to Sea Aster, a close relative.

Aster laevis x novi-belgii = A.  x versicolor

Another alien escape was Hollyhocks which are usually 5-6' tall, however, this beautiful red coloured form was only a foot tall for some reason.
Alcea rosea

It's that time of the year for Ploughman's Spikenard, a large plant with tiny flowers.

Inula conyza

After a while I came to the tidal River Thames and a narrow strip of saltmarsh.
In this area, wherever you have saltmarsh you have this plant, Sea Purslane.

Atriplex portaculoides

Between the plants in the upper saltmarsh I found this amazing Wasp Spider which  had caught and wrapped up its dinner. When the Spring tides come I hope it can move quickly as it will be submerged on the higher tides where it had set up camp.

Argiope bruennichi

In this photo below, to the right is a large clump of Golden Samphire in flower which a few hours before was totally under salt water.  However, in the centre is another clump just emerging from the water. A very tough plant indeed.

Limbarda crithmoides
(formerly Inula crithmoides) 

This is Gypsywort, which is a common plant near freshwater margins,but this one was very different, it was in the upper part of the saltmarsh!

Here it is surrounded by Sea Purslane in the upper saltmarsh.

Lycopus europaeus

Common Cord Grass is a common sight in saltmarshes and grows in estuarial mud helping to stabilisethe mud.

 Spartina anglica

This drab looking plant is another that survives being inundated with salt water often twice a day, such as the one growing here.

Sea Plantain
Plantago maritima

This photo shows a strange habitat for the tidal Thames, a sandy foreshore. 
This came from a nearby industrial site where aggregates (including sand) was routinely unloaded from ships to the land and as you can see, plenty of it gets spilled and washed up here.

Just out of reach of the tides were stands of Perennial Sowthistles, a common seaside plant in Summer.

Sonchus arvensis

After recording all I could it was time to leave the saltmarshes behind and I headed back inland.

It was now the time for Fabaceae (Pea or Bean or Legume family) and Swanscombe has them in plenty.

This plant on the left with its big pink showy glowers was Broad Leaved Everlasting Pea and it's quite common all over coastal areas of Kent.

Lathyrus latifolius

Not quite so common is the narrow Leaved Everlasting Pea (below) with its leaves all at least 4 x longer than wide.

Lathyrus sylvestris

The next Pea of note was the charming Narrow-Leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil, again with its leaves 4 x longer than wide.
These also have smaller and fewer flowers than the usual Common Birdsfoot Trefoil and are more upright in form.

Lotus tenuis
I think Swanscombe peninsular is perhaps the finest place in the South East to see all the colour forms of Sand Lucerne. There are white, yellow, blue, purple, black and many shades in between. However, the plant below was the first I had ever seen with dual coloured flowers on the same plant, though "Harrap's Wildflowers" book documents that it happens.
Medicago sativa subspecies varia
But without doubt the star of the trip was the next Pea family plant I stumbled across. At first I thought these were a late flowering Common Vetch, but a closer look showed their colours to be totally different with almost white wings and keel set against a deep pink/purple standard.
After some research when I got home, I found them to be Hairy Vetchlings, a first for me and a rare plant in Kent.

Being small and thin, unsurprisingly they were difficult to photograph, especially in the breeze around this day. They were scrabbling up and through any adjacent vegetation and if they could support themselves would be about three feet tall. But of course they can't and their tendrils clasp any plant nearby for support and most were less than a foot off the ground as a result.

Lathyrus hirsutus

This next photo gives an indication of how small they were and almost submerged in the vegetation here.

These plants and some Eyebrights are semi parasitical and no doubt help contribute to floral diversity here.

Odontites vernus

My final photograph was of a grass which looked like an under sized Pampas Grass, about three feet tall with fluffy heads in amongst the Common Reeds. My thanks to Lliam from Kent Botanical Recording Group for identifying it for me.

Wood Small Reed
Calamagrostis epipejos

I got so carried away I had to almost run back to the car as it was now getting dark earlier than I realised and I didn't want to get caught out on the marshes with no torch! I hope you enjoyed the plants I found, I know I did. Until next time.