Kent Wildlife Trust manage a marsh near Holborough, a small part of which has Southern and Early Marsh orchids. I didn't expect to find any flowering as it was a couple of weeks too early given the cold snaps we keep having here in Kent. The reserve has been subject to heavy grazing by horses to try and control shrubs over the last 18 months or so and last year was a disappointment compared to 2014. You can see from the photo below, we did find an orchid, but look at those shrubs completely taking over. These shrubs were hardly noticable in 2014.
The orchid was the only Southern Marsh Orchid we found in flower in the whole reserve, still a nice find though.
No Early Marsh Orchids had come up at all, maybe in 2-3 weeks they will?
Southern Marsh Orchids are quite attractive and have a distinctive pleat down the lower petals, leaves are nearly always unspotted.
There were other damp loving species, like this natural native, Marsh Marigold, a favourite planting in garden ponds and council owned lakes.
Ragged Robin also likes it wet and it was very boggy underfoot where it grew. You can see how its ragged leaves gave it its common name.
There were lots of Damselflies around and dragonflies will be here soon as well. This is an Azure Damselfly.
In a ditch at the back of the meadow were Yellow Flag, another Spring favourite with gardeners, but quite native.
It seems there were lots of yellow flowering plants here! This is Yellow Rattle, semi parasitical on grasses, so weakening them and allowing other species (like orchids) to grow.
They have big heavy seeds that rattle in the pod as you walk through them, hence the name.
Tiny blue flowers on the ground caught my eye and I was pleased to find another species of the Speedwell family, Brooklime. It has small flowers like Germander Speedwell, but the large fleshy leaves means you can't really mistake it for another Speedwell. It also has a great sounding botanical name!
We then came across several orchid rosettes with heavily spotted and barred leaves with flower spikes coming up. These are the hybrid between Southern Marsh and Common Spotted Orchid, well known at this venue. However, this year they are coming up in a completely different area. It will be fantastic to see these when in full flower.
The flower spikes go up to 3 feet tall full of heavily spotted flowers. Presently I could only find a single floret open, but it shows you the Common Spotted pattern in its genes! In its botanical name, D stands for Dactylorhiza.
Both parents can be found here, though Marsh Orchids outnumber the Common Spotted fifty to one.
D. x grandis
We left the meadow and headed off on drier ground towards the tidal Medway. By the path was a large stand of Greater Celandine, which is completely unrelated to Lesser Celandine and is in fact in the Poppy family!
Their big well rounded lobed leaves and 4 yellow petals are unmistakable. But if still in doubt, cut a stem and it will bleed orange sap.
Houndstongue was on a dry part of the path, a chalk loving species it is often found in Kent, but it is declining. To monitor this, it has been placed on the Kent Rare Plant Register. We don't want to lose any plants from Kent let alone one as attractive as this with its silvery looking leaves (caused by hairs) and their blood red flowers.
At first I thought this was a Changing Forget-me-not due to the different coloured flowers. However, the flowers were way too big and further study showed it to be the mundane Field Forget-me-not, but lovely to see anyway.
I found this spider running across water! I wondered if it were a Water Spider but it seems it's a common Wolf Spider species carrying its load of eggs somewhere safe.
We then came to the tidal Medway and the tide was up. I found some English Scurvygrass in the edges, but the base of the plants were already covered in sea water. They thrive where most other plants would be killed.
On the way back to the car I photographed some Sycamore in flower. These raggy looking flowers will have big bunches of those helicopter seeds in a few months. I still remember my mates and I throwing them as high as we could and seeing whose helicopter flew the best!
Sycamore are so common you'd think they were native, but they've only been around since 1632 when they escaped into the wild, no doubt from some royal garden or park of the time. Imagine being alive back then and seeing those Sycamore seeds for the very first time!
We then left the reserve and felt rather hungry, which is where McDonalds comes in at Strood nearby. This restaurant is on the riverfront and a chalk bank was created when the complex was built around 10 years or so ago. This chalk bank which extends for several hundred yards is now full of wildflowers.
Though there were some naturalised plants as well, such as Pink Sorrel and this lovely Rosy Garlic, which I've only ever seen before on the dunes at Sandwich, though they seem to be spreading around the County quite quickly.
The first Common Knapweed were out here, with their lovely thistle like flowers glowing in the sunlight.
Insects love them as well, such as bees, hoverflies and butterflies.
The "agg" in the botanical name means aggregate, a collection of sub-species all lumped into one name, usually because they are extremely hard to tell apart without a laboratory!
Centaurea nigra agg.
Talking of which, there were several Common Blue butterflies flitting from flower to flower, or in this case, to a leaf!
Viper's Bugloss was flowering as well, an impressive plant with blue and lilac flowers (sometimes all white), they are more common around coastal areas in Kent, though chalky fields have their fair share inland.
Here's a close up of the flowers where you can see the delicate pastel hues, beautiful!
This is a Poppy but not a Common Poppy which are deep pillar box red. That's the first clue it's different, the second is finding a seed head which I did to confirm it as a Long-Headed Poppy. It's quite common but subtly different from the Common variety. Obviously it has an elongated seed head form where it gets its name.
This is Hoary Plantain. There are a few Plantain plants in the family and all are common in Kent except this one which, again is declining fast.
It has big fat heavily veined basal leaves in a rosette with fine hairs on the leaves. The only other Plantain that looks like it when not in flower, is Greater Plantain, but these have hairless leaves and are longer stalked.
There were more Yellow Rattle here as well, so this time I've included a whole plant shot and not just a photo of the flowers.
These seeds in the dying off yellow florets are key to determining what species this is. It's a Cornsalad and they are impossible to determine the species until the seed appears. Each seed is only 1-2mm long as well!
On the lower left you can see a deep groove in the seed, so this has to be a Keel-Fruited Cornsalad.
There were a few Field Scabious out, flowering about a month early, a real topsy turvy Spring, with some species late and others early. This once common plant is also on the decline and added to the rare plant list as a result.
To finish off I photographed the very common White Clover to show that it isn't a single flower, but made up of many multiple florets, each a tiny flower of its own.
So we had a great morning out and saw a lot of special plants, and in case you were wondering, yes we did eat at McDs!