Thursday, 18 July 2019

Fleetdown, Dartford - 16/05/19 - a Hungarian Connection

It's odd how sometimes, somewhere quite local to you can throw up a surprise, and in this blog I am writing about one right here. Here's a taster photo, the details of the find follow further down this blog.

 I had noticed there weren't many records for TQ5572 and decided to spend an hour or so adding some to the BSBI database. I found a host of previously unrecorded species common on the chalk such as this Grey Sedge.

Carex divulsa

Grass Leaved Vetchling
Lathyrus nissolia

Bladder Campiion
Silene vulgaris

 But then I came across a plant that was somewhat puzzling - a mystery plant!

There was a substantial colony of what looked like the white form of Vicia sativa (subspecies sativa) or Common Vetch  on both verges of the B260 for a hunded metres or so east of the A282 bridge.There were hundreds of plants in flower, which at first I thought were anthocyanin deficient V. sativa plants. I thought it odd that there would be so many white variants of this plant in quite a large area.
I posted some photos on Twitter of it and a friendly botanist suggested Vicia panonnica - Hungarian Vetch which it subsequently turned out to be, hence the Hungarian connection to the title of this blog.

However, this is not a first for VC16 West Kent as described below.

In 1977 V. pannonica (Hungarian Vetch) was found by G. Joyce on a motorway slip road in TQ57L and refound in the 1990s by Eric Philip presumably at the same location. This description would likely be one of the slip roads from the M25/A282 onto the A2 at that time.
It is unlikely that this would be on the B260 (my location) as it crosses high over that road. However, in the late 1980s, the A282 was widened and the bridge carrying the B260 was realigned and lengthened. This required the import of large amounts of earth and sand  to complete the works. The sandy soil can still be seen today around the bridge area even though there is much scrubbing over now. Either side of the bridge area, the soil reverts to thin turf over chalk.
I believe it was during these works that V. panonnica was introduced to the B260 verges. It could have been from amenity sowing when the works were complete or from seeds picked up by machinery working on the motorway below.
Also of note, is that this same area has hundreds, possibly a thousand Lathyrus aphaca (Yellow Vetchling) plants which are absent from the rest of the immediate area. This possibly lends weight to the theory that both plant species arrived by amenity sowing after the roadworks were completed.
V. panonnica has not been found anywhere else in East or West Kent. It resembles a sturdy Vicia sativa Ssp. sativa  but is hairier and mostly has more leaflets as well. Of course the dirty white flowers with brown veins is distinctive in itself.

After mentioning Lathyrus aphaca, which itself is a Kent RPR species, I thought it would be informative to show you some photos of it as well.

The leaves are actually stipules formed into an arrow head shape.

Beware of mis-identifying Meadow Vetchling which has similar leaves when young but also lots of strap shaped leaves as well.

Unlike Meadow Vetchling, this has solitary yellow flowers usually on a long stalk, whereas the former often has a clump of flowers on short stalks.

Lathyrus aphaca
Finally, here is a habitat photo for both Lathyrus aphaca and Vicia pannonica. Both can be found on both sides of the road from the road sign and around the bend.  This is the B260 Trolling Down Hill looking east where the road crosses the A282 (M25).

It goes to show that surprises can be found even in your local and well known areas. Get out and find some in your own area!
Take care

Friday, 7 June 2019

Botanical Recording near Bridge & Postling Wents, Kent - 05/05/19

This day was split into two parts, a few under recorded monads near Bridge which is south east of Canterbury, and a monad near Junction 11 of the M20 at Postling Wents. 

This area near Bridge had mainly woodland or woodland edge type habitats along with some interesting arable fields.

There were plenty of additional records in the arable areas, but I didn't photograph any plants this time.

Bugles were commonplace in the woods. I particularly like them as they were one of the first in the family of Lamiaceae I found when I first started out looking at plants.

By now, they were at their best and some were over a foot tall.

Ajuga reptans 

Sadly though, as I write this it is early June, they have all gone over and gone to seed in Kent. So I'll now either have to travel a long way north, or wait until 2020 to see them again in all their glory.

This plant can also produce white or pink flowers, though this year, I didn't see any colour variations.

I very much like it when nature decides to do some flower arranging all by herself. Here's a Herb Robert posing with an adjacent Dandelion.

Geranium robertianum and Taraxacum agg.

One of my best ever woodland photos was of Yellow Archangel against a backdrop of Bluebells. Unfortunately, there weren't enough Bluebells around the Yellow Archangel to impress, but still nice to see.

Lamiastrum galeobdolon subspecies montanum and Hyacinthoides non-scripta

The woodland paths were sometimes lined with the bright yellow flowers of Yellow Pimpernel.

Lysimachia nemorum

Red Campion is another common but cheerful woodland plant in flower now and probably until the first frosts come.

Silene dioica

They freely and often hybridise with White Campion as shown here with this pale pink flowered form. Others may have streaks of red and white in the petals.

Silene dioica x latifolia = S. x hampeana

More lovely views of this mainly woodland walk.

 Wood Spurge were in flower, though not very numerous here. The bright green tops to the plant bearing the flowers and the darker green the over wintered leaves. There is a bushier garden subspecies called Ssp. robbiae which sometimes escapes into the wild.

Euphorbia amygdaloides subspecies amygdaloides

 Things then got very interesting. 

As is often the case, I began to notice several Common Twayblades, a common and rather dull green orchid. however, where these grow, other orchids often do too. After a few yards, there were over a huundred Common Twayblades.

Neottia ovata

 And then, under some very shady Beech trees, I saw this:

Yes, a sea of Dog Mercury, with the occasional Twayblade thrown in, but there were also Lady Orchids; the Lady of the Woods in Kent and a delight to find.

I counted around 20 flowering plants and a similar number that were rosettes only. I later found out that these had previously been recorded, but not for some years, so it was nice to find they were still doing fine. Of course, this find demanded lots of photographs!

A Kent RPR species.

 Orchis purpurea

Possibly the showiest and most attractive of our native wild orchids, although the matter is of course highly subjective.

In such situations, be very careful where you tread. The light is poor and under the canopy of (usually) Beech and Yew, it is perpetual gloom. It is very easy to then tread on a Lady Orchid, or other rare plants such as Fly Orchids that go virtually unseen until it's too late. So please tread very carefully.

There was only the one aberration and it was this "legless" Lady, missing her lower "legs". As the flowers were just opening, it was too early to say whether this was a genetic defect in the flower or whether something had bitten them off. interesting nonetheless.

On the way back to the car I found some Common Rockrose on the edge of a wood bathed in sunlight, a Kent RPR species (due to rapidly declining habitat).

Helianthemum nummularium

I had amassed well over 100 records for each monad I had passed through and it was time to move on.  I then drove south to Postling Wents near junction 11 of the M20 where I found another 100+ new records and took a few photos. The area included another wood, some ditches, some arable and a main road verge.

On the latter which was very sandy, I found several Common Cudweed rosettes beginning to grow. These will flower from June onwards and are another Kent RPR species.

Filago vulgaris

Along the road verge, and predictably not too far from a house and garden were stands of Green Alkanet with its confusingly bright blue flowers.

Pentaglottis sempervirens

Goatsbeards are a tall dandelion like flower but they close up around midday. There is a garden escape almost identical but with purple flowers, called Salsify. So if you find one all closed up look at the tip to see the colour of the petals: yellow = Goatsbeard; purple = Salsify. Sometimes you have to gently prise open the top of a sepal to see it. Sometimes though, they hybridise with each other!

Also known as Jack go to bed at Noon.

Tragopogon pratensis

The arable field edge gave up plenty of records as it was unsprayed, but prevalent here were stands of Field Pennycress with its coin shaped seeds being very eye catching.

Thlaspi arvense

In late Spring, Common Vetch is so common and found almost everywhere, that it tends not to get photographed. However, it is an attractive plant with nice showy flowers, though often somewhat small.

Vicia sativa subspecies segetalis

My final offering this day was the dainty Field Pansy. Its delicate flower belies its strength as it can easily survive moderate spraying with herbicides, poor compacted soils and drought.

Viola arvensis

Until next time, take care,


Thursday, 6 June 2019

Marden Meadow, Kent - 28/04/19

Marden Meadow is perhaps the most well known orchid meadow in the South East of England. It is justly famous for its displays of thousands of Green-winged orchids in the Springtime. Like most people who love orchids, I always tended to visit the site when the first one came into flower. This is a shame as it's far better to see this meadow when the flowering is at its peak. That's what I hoped to see this day and add a few records to the BSBI database whilst I was there.

A photo just does not do this scene justice. Thousands of orchids of many shades, colours and hues dotted two of the four meadows in large numbers. However, here's a few other species I found this day.

Celery-leaved Buttercup in a ditch near the railway line, a new record for this monad.
Ranunculus sceleratus

Adder's Tongue ferns were numerous in the meadow grasses, though difficult to see unless you look for the upright pointed ear shape of the fern.

Ophioglossum vulgatum

Initially I mistook this as an aquarium alien plant that had made its way onto the site, but it was in fact Water Violet. Unfortunately this was the only leaves I found and no flowers present yet.

Hottonia palustris

Rather than go on, I'll finish up with a (rather large) selection of the beautiful Green-winged orchids found here. It's a must see place to visit at this time of the year.

Anacamptis morio


Forgive me for going on a bit with photos of just one species, but it is a beautiful wild flower and one which sadly will not be seen again now until 2020.

Take care