Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Nashenden Down, Kent - 19/11/17

Most people associate this venue with the Kent Wildlife Trust reserve and indeed this was where I originally intended to walk. However, on arrival I decided to record what I saw and so took a different route along the track parallel to the M2 to see what I could find.

At this time of the year, the thought is always present that I might find nothing! However, as usuaal, I needn't have worried. There had only been a few frosts and the plants seemed to be just fine.

The first two could be found in most places in the UK, White and Red Clover.

Trifolium repens

Trifolium pratense

Hawkweed Oxtongue will flower well into Winter, it's bright yellow flowers only opening when conditions are good.

Picris hieracioides

Strap like leaves and the lack of a big ruffe of bracts under the flowers tell this apart from the similar Bristly Oxtongue

Spotted Medick is often found in lawns, pavements and waste ground. Here it was in the grass on the path verge. The black chevrons on the leaves really stand out and easily identify it even without flowers present.

However, I took a closer look and hiding under the leaves were some flowers, quite a surprise find.

Medicago arabica

As I walked I saw lots of Bush Vetch, easily recognisable without flowers by its distinctive leaves and tendrils.  However, none had flowers, so I was pleased to find a plant not only with flowers, but some in perfect condition.


Vicia sepium

These members of the Pea Family have purple/pink flowers in untidy bunches.

Once pollinated, they turn blue and go to seed, giving us beautiful colours at all stages of its flowering.

I recorded around a hundred species in the monad next to the reserve and decided to finish off the recording by visiting a small part of the KWT reserve that lay within that OS Map square.

I'm glad I did as there were some nice and rare plants still flowering as well as some common plants.

In the field by the HS1 railway line were numerous stands of Dwarf Spurge, a Kent RPR species and quite hard to find in much of Kent. It's a chalk loving Spurge but it does not withstand herbicides, unlike the commoner Sun Spurge also found here.

Euphorbia exigua

A bedraggled, but still attractive Common Toadflax flower reminded me to look for its relatives, the Fluellens.

 Linaria vulgaris

These have gone to seed in most places, but a few can still pop up like they did here.

A rather sparsely flowered Wild Carrot still braved the elements of Autumn. This is another plant where the main population flowers and seeds and then a few can pop up and flower in Winter if conditions suit.

Daucus carota subsp carota

Field Forget-me-nots were scattered about, many in flower. At this time of the year, I've ony seen this and Water Forget-me-nots in flower. Don't be fooled by the photo, these flowers are just a few millimetres wide!

Myosotis arvensis

Creeping Thistles are so abundant and by their nature spread so rapidly that they are considered a pest and not often noticed.

But this pesky plant is a lifeline for late season bees and other pollinators. I saw a bumblebee and several types of hoverfly on them this day.

Thistles have quite beautiful flowers when looked at up close and used to have many healing qualities attributed to them in olden days.

Cirsium arvense

Another oft overlooked flower is Annual Mercury. Probably because it grows everywhere, thus is considered a weed, has no petals and is all green!

Mercurialis annua

I then had a pleasant surprise and a find of another Kent RPR species. In the photo below it looks pretty much like a lot of nothing in particular! In fact, the Knotgrass caught my eye as I had seen this before and it looks different to the usual Knotgrassess found everywhere. The green stems are long and stretched out and the leaves (when visible) are long and strap like. Pink tepals are a real giveaway as well.

But the final confirmation for the ID of this Knotgrass was to examine a seed. This isn't too easy as they are minute!

There were no flowers left, but these appear red due to the tepals being pink to red. In fact the flowers are white with pink stripes, but it's the seeds that are needed for a firm ID.

I just about managed to photograph one to show you. In this rare species (in Kent) called Cornfield Knotgrass, the nutlet (seed) pokes out from the top of the surrounding tepals. No other Knotgrass found in Kent does this. Other Knotgrasses are usually fully enclosed by their tepals.

Polygonum rurivagum

I then found numerous Wild Radish in flower and seed. I suspect most are crop relicts where they are sown for ground cover, but they persist in the area for many years after being sown.

The distinctive seed pods of Wild Radish.

Raphanus raphanistrum 

The bright red berries of Bittersweet or Woody Nightshade looked great adorned with raindrops. Don't be tempted to eat them, unless you enjoy a nasty tummy ache!

Solanum dulcamara

There were some interesting views across the River Medway and beyond. To the left of the bridges in the photo across the river is Plantlife's Ranscombe Farm reserve.This is another great place to visit for wildflowers and wildlife.

Two stalwarts of arable fields, even where they are often sprayed are Field Madder (left) and Field Pansy (below)

Sherardia arvensis

Viola arvensis

I was then very pleased to find a few flowering Sharp-leaved Fluellens. These intricate dual coloured flowers with their bright yellow beacons and half hidden deep purple ears, are very small.


I invariably see the leaves well before I notice any flowers. This is even more likely with its relative, the Round-leaved Fluellen, which has much bigger round leaves. Alas I didn't find any of those this day.

Kickxia elatine

Scentless Mayweed rounded off the trip and by now the light was fading fast.

Tripleurospermum inodorum

A view from KWT Nashenden Down looking North East towards Bluebell Hill with the HS1 (Eurostar) railway and the M2 in the picture. Many of the species detailed above were found in this brown, dead looking field. Always investigate!

I hope you enjoyed this account, I found numerous new records, as is often the case when recording at different times of the year to most others. It's well worth recording well into Winter!

Take care

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Farningham Woods, Kent - 27/10/17

I was very surprised at the number of flowering plants I found in this stunning wood this day. As there are so many, I'll keep the writing to a minimum and the photographs to the max!

Situated just outside the M25, these woods are an oasis in the urban jungle not too far away. Along the woodland border of the photo below, lives a colony of protected Deptford Pinks.

These are now a rare wildflower and the main flowering period is in the Summer, but I did hope to find the odd straggler in flower still. You can see from the photo that Autumn was in full swing with the leaves now turned into a coppery shimmer in the Autumn breeze. The flowering plants in the photo are of course, Hogweed.

However, I didn't start in this area, so read on to see if I found those elusive wild Pinks still flowering!

These were pink but not the ones I was looking for.

Common Centaury which only fully opens in sunlight, mainly a Summer species, but till a few to be found today.

Centaurium erythraea

Many Seeded Goosefoot. Usually a procumbent plant with masses of flowers and seeds along the stems between the leaves.

Chenopodium polyspermum

Trailing St John's Wort, sprawling over the ground in a recently coppiced area of the woodland.

Hypericum humifusum

In well trodden paths it is not unusual to find this plant, Pineappleweed. It really does smell of pineapples when you crush it and smell.

Matricaria discoidea

Some beautiful Large-flowered Evening Primrose had spread into the coppiced areas and looked stunning.

There are several types of Evening Primrose but these can be easily identified by the stigmas projecting well out past the anthers holding the pollen to prevent self pollination.

Oenothera glazioviana

It wasn't all flowers though, here's one of several late season Peacocks I saw here.

One of the Inkcap family.

In the damp, shady edges of the woodland paths were lots of these Water-Peppers which are related to Redshank and White Persicaria.

These were in seed, but the flowers are pretty small and easily missed even when out.

Persicaria hydropiper

In a shady glade was a stand of native Soloman's Seal, a Spring flowering plant, it was now laden with fruits.

Polygonatum multiflorum

A few Creeping Cinquefoils put on a fine, though mini display with their bright bold yellow flowers.
Their stems were snaking across bare ground, making it easy to see the stem nodes putting out roots and runners.

Potentilla reptans

Here's another common plant often overlooked, the Selfheal. It's usually only a few inches tall (as here), though in shady woods I've seen them up to 2 feet tall.

Prunella vulgaris

It seemed I was photographing most of the wildflowers I saw this day, here'a a Bramble flower which sometimes come in pink as well.

Rubus fruticosus agg.

Not quite in focus, but this was a very tiny plant. It's Procumbent Pearlwort on a bare path in the wood. Also found in most pavement cracks in most towns!

Sagina procumbens

I found four flowering Ragworts here. This one is Narrow-leaved Ragwort.

Senecio inaequidens

The others I found were Common, Hoary and Oxford Ragworts.

How about this for a perfect composition left by nature. I will admit to tidying the scene up for the photo by removing a few leaves and twigs.

Black Nightshade flowered profusely, especially in the coppiced areas.

Solanum nigrum

A Smooth Sowthistle and a very small spider.

Sonchus oleraceus

Not the best photo, but very late for a flowering Wood Sage. As the name suggests it's found in woods. However, it is also found on chalk grassland, shingle and many other places.

Teucrium scorodonia 

Along the Southern edge of the wood were some fine views towards Farningham village.

Scentless Mayweed was and may still well be, flowering in an arable field edge by the wood.

Tripleurospermum inodorum

I found around 30 of these Great Mullein but only a couple left with flowers on.

Verbascum thapsus

 Nearby was a surprise find of Argentinian Vervain. This was deep in coppiced woodland, so it wasn't fly tipped or introduced. Perhaps it was bird or wind sown?

Verbena bonariensis

A Seven Spot Ladybird was quite sluggish in a seeded plant.

A surprise find were numerous Small Nettles. While fairly common, they are often overlooked and taken as normal Stinging Nettles.

These were quite rampant in an arable field by the wood.

Note the points on the leaves are all pretty much equal in length. In normal Nettle the centre point pokes out further than the rest.

These little Nettles pack powerful stings, so be careful!

Urtica urens

I found Heath, Wood and Germander Speedwells, though none were in flower, but this Common Field Speedwell was. They will stay in flower for much of the Winter as well.

Veronica persica

Sometimes, a seedhead grabs my attention. this was very small, but worthy of a photo. It's the seed capsule split open of Hoary Willowherb.

Epilobium parviflorum

I found plenty of Deptford Pinks once I got my eye in, spotting the slender stalks through the dying grasses and other plants. However, it took a while to find some still with flowers, but find them I did.

I think that in Kent they are only found in Sandwich in East Kent and here at Farningham Woods in West Kent.

Dianthus armeria

It seems a long time ago now since this trip, though some of the plants are still in flower even after the frosts and snow we had recently. It's been nice to revisit the experience through my blog and I hope you liked it as well.