Thursday, 27 July 2017

Angelsey Adventures - 24 to 25/06/17 Part 1

We spent a week on holiday in a lovely cottage near Penmon in Anglesey in the last week of June. It's the first proper holiday we've had in 10 years so we were really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, I came down ill just before leaving with a heart problem. However, despite making life difficult I was determined to make the best I could of the holiday.

After a long drive from Kent we arrived and after unpacking had a look around. This view was nearby from a local beach. The headland in the background is the Great Orme, a venue I was also keen to visit during our stay.

Of course, even with great views I had a look at plants growing along the beach. I found a Common Spotted Orchid flowering up a steep slope but couldn't get to it for a photograph.

I also found Sea Aster, quite common in North Kent, but took a photo anyway.  I'm glad I did as I later found it was a new record for this area.

Aster tripolium var tripolium 

The photo wasn't too brilliant though.

This was our cottage for the week, very nicely presented with lovely views across the Menai Strait to Snowdonia.

This was one of the views from the cottage, we didn't tire of looking at it, though later in the week, Snowdonia was covered in clouds.

Anyway, back to wildflowers!

The next day, we made our way to one of the amazing bogs on Anglesey, or more precisely fens, called Cors Bodeilio. It's in the middle of nowhere down some scarily narrow lanes. I could have botanised the centre of the road, it was full of flowers!

These fens are a mix of acid and alkaline habitats being a bog on limestone, which makes for a weird collection of plants (from a Kent perspective anyway).  I was concerned that I may be too late to see the renowned Marsh Orchids here, but explored anyway.

Being North Wales and Summer, it was of course raining, but undeterred, we put on our wet weather clothing (and wellies) and went exploring.

Very apparent, even by the car park, were numerous Common Valerians, a beautiful and stately looking plant. I don't know these aren't grown in gardens, they look great!

Valeriana officinalis

Bog Pimpernel were out here and there, but most were very bedraggled and half closed due to the rain. When I found some open enough to photograph I was pleasantly surprised by the end result with a frame of raindrops around the flower - quite unplanned and a happy coincidence.

Anagallis tenella

I found numerous Lesser Water-Plantains here as well, a rare plant in Kent and one I'd not seen before. The leaves are quite different to the big, broad ones of the usual common Water-plantain.

Baldellia ranunculoides

I need not have worried as there were orchids everywhere. Obviously, this late in June there weren't vast displays, but there were some lovely speciments to be found.

Heath Spotted Orchids were plentiful in the drier areas.
Much like Common Spotted, the variations in colours, patterns and form vary tremendously.

Always great to see.

Dactylorhiza maculata

Brookweed was here and there, a surprise, as I'm used to finding it in shingle habitats.

These are quite small plants, but fairly sturdy with bright 5 petalled flowers.

Samulus valerandi

We then found several Early Marsh Orchids, long gone to seed in Kent.

This is a sub-species we don't get in Kent either, all ours are a dirty white (spp incarnata) with perhaps a hint of pink at most.

Dactylorhiza incarnata spp pulchella

This one looks almost like spp cochinea which is a nice crimson red colour.  It might well be, but I'm inclined to think it's just a colourful variant of spp pulchella which was the dominant sub species here.

I did spend quite some time immersed in Harrap's Orchid book though!

Right by the boardwalk (as were most plants) I found a patch of these stunning Marsh Cinquefoils, a beautiful plant that I've only ever seen at Dungeness in Kent before.

Comarum palustre

Here's a photo of the whole plant as best as I could get. By now I was feeling quite ill and despite the excitement had to slow right down. I was ok getting down to photograph the flowers, but getting up was difficult. When you're having a great time it's easy to forget how unwell you might be and overdo it.

Here's a small orchid that had me baffled. I think it may be Northern Marsh Orchid, but perhaps it is a back crossed hybrid with the Early Marsh as well?

It has the diamond shaped lip of the Northern, but has the habit and appearance overall of an Early Marsh.

I don't really know to be honest, so for now I'll call it a Northern Marsh, being an orchid I'd never seen before didn't help.

Dactylorhiza purpurella 

I may have been too late for the best displays of Marsh Orchids, but the first Marsh helleborines were coming out. There weren't many but they really are one of the most beautiful wild orchids we have in the UK.

Epipactis palustris

As we walked on, we met the horses which graze this reserve keeping it tip top for wildflowers. Unlike most private land with horses (especially in Kent) each horse has acres to move around in, thus overgrazing doesn't happen and wildflowers set seed without all being grazed off. The benefit is that the site doesn't scrub over which would eventually turn the fen into a dull bog forest!

Common Spotted Orchids were also numerous, at their best at this time.

Dactylorhiza fucshii

We then came to a more acidic habitat and found several of these Sundews. This one has a meal part digested within it.

Drosera rotundifolia

Beautiful drifts of Bog Asphodel brightened up this area of the bog. I wonder if Wordsworth had written his poem about these instead of Daffodils, how they would now be perceived?

Narthecium ossifragum

 I then found my first ever Common Butterwort, its pale green leaves standing out against the dark soils. Alas no flowers yet. It's a common plant in the West of the UK but absent from the South East.

Pinguicula vulgaris

The leaves are sticky and this also traps insects on them and digests them for nourishment in the poor acidic soils that can't support it. A wonderful adaption.

Another plant absent from Kent is this Marsh Lousewort, far bigger and taller than normal Lousewort that we do have. This one has a Mirid bug on it.

Pedicularis palustris

Here's one next to a Square Stalked St John's Wort. Tall aren't they!

There was no much to see and little time. I had taken longer than anticipated due to illness, but I made the most of it. There were lots of other wildflowers seen but not included (else the blog would go on for ever).  This Ragged Robin was the last plant photographed here.

Silene flos-cuculi

So we said goodbye to this wonderful reserve on Anglesey and headed North which will be in Part 2 to follow soon.

I had hoped to see Dactylorhiza traunsteinerioides - Narrow Leaved or Pugsley's Marsh Orchid, but though recorded here, I was likely too late in the season to see them, perhaps next time!


Saturday, 15 July 2017

Botanical Recording in the Detling Area & a few Kent Orchids - 11/06/17

This seems like ages ago, but it's still only about a month at the time of writing. I had decided to spend some hours recording a couple of under-recorded monads near Detling in Kent and set off from home this Sunday to do so.

I found a quiet area in a country lane to park and set off. There were several areas that had been coppiced the year before and these are always a good place to look. The extra light triggers plants to grow whose seed may have been in the seed bank undisturbed for several years.

I didn't take any "view" type photos, so I'll just get on and show what I photographed.

The Willowherbs were out in force, including this Rosebay, Hoary, Great and Broad-leaved and several hybrids I couldn't identify!

Chamerion angustifolium

The beautifully named Enchanter's Nightshade usually grows in deep shade. However, with the coppicing they were now in the light, and looked very fine indeeed, glinting in the sunlight.

Circea lutetiana

Trailing St John's Wort had also run riot, with large clumps of it dotted through the coppicing.

I have a better photo of the flowers, but this one shows the leaves better and how they literally trail along the ground to spread.

Hypericum humifusum

This is Hybrid Cinquefoil. It is the cross between Trailing Tormentil and Creeping Cinquefoil. It's supposed to be common, but unless you see it in flower, you will most likely miss it, I do.

This plant has numerous leaflets palmately cut into 5 leaflets (like Cinqufoil) along with several simpler short stalked leaflets divided into three (like Tormentil). It also had flowers with 4 and 5 petals, and those that had withered were sterile.

Potentilla x mixta

Beauty in miniature is the Selfheal plant, now out in large numbers. Often found in lawns only an inch or two high (adaptation to mowing) or up to 2 feet tall in shaded areas, their flowers always brighten up the view.

This is the usual colour form, but I have previouly seen them with all white or pink flowers as well.

Look at the photo and ask yourself why most people consider this a weed to be eradicted from their lawn. I don't understand it at all!

Prunella vulgaris


This is Heath Groundsel and it is a plant I rarely, in fact, never see on the chalk. Its an acid and neutral soil type plant and was common here and elsewhere off the chalk. Found near a hill top, the soil was distinctly acid with associated grasses, Bracken, Gorse etc and none of the chalk loving flowers present.  The obvious and easy way to spot the difference between this and normal Groundsel is that the flowers have yellow rays which are short and curl under. The plant is also often much taller and stouter than the usual Groundsel found in gardens and arable field edges.

Senecio sylvaticus

Not all brambles are as they first appear. This is actually a Raspberry bush.

It's usually found in deep shade with few flowers. The leaves are in leaflets of 3 and  are a paler green than brambles, the prickles are weak and the flowers look different to the usual brambles found.

Rubus ideaus

In more open areas, keep a look out for Dewberry as well, another bramble like plant. It will be fruiting from now and its dark Blackberry like fruits have a white film over them, easy to spot!

I was most impressed to find numerous Common Dog Violets like the one pictured below. They flower en masse in Spring, but have another go at flowering from now onwards. However, the second flowering period usually only produces a few straggly looking flowers.

Here, thanks to the coppicing, I found hundreds flowering, along with a colony of Early or Wood Dog Violets as well. Lovely and unusual to see in June!

Viola riviniana

Quite a way into the coppiced woods and well away from the road and with no habitation near, I found this!

I had no idea what it was, but there were several patches flowering in the area.

It's thin, spindly flowers reminded me somewhat of Enchanter's Nightshade above, so I set out to find it in my books which I eventually did.

It's common name is Pick-a-back plant or Piggyback plant and it is a garden escape.

Tolmiea menziesii

 Whilst it has been found in the wild in a few places in West Kent (VC16) I was very pleased to later find out that this is a County First Record for East Kent VC15.

It just shows you never know what you might find.

I wish I'd got better photos now!

There's always other things to see as well as the plants of course. I spotted numerous butterflies, beetles, ladybirds and moths as well.

The final photo I took here was of Slender St John's Wort.

In the South East, it is the only St John's Wort with red tinged buds and looks delicate, almost spindly.

Hypericum pulchrum

I added 100+ botanical records for each of 2 monads (1km x 1km OS grid square), a good day!

I then met up with my Son and decided to show him the beautiful wild orchids at Strawberry Bank near Bredhurst.  I have been there many times over the last few years, and when the orchids are at their best, it is an unmissable sight.

There are numerous orchids here, but of course, they don't all flower at the same time.  Anyway, here's what was flowering for this trip in early June.

Common Spotted Orchids, as one would expect, were in full flower, though not very numerous here.

They do hybridise with the Chalk Fragrant Orchids here and last year I found a hybrid swarm. Unfortunatley this year there were no hybrids to be found at all. Orchids never cease to surprise!

Dactylorhiza fuchsii

However, there is a lot of variation with Common Spotted Orchid flowers and we were fortunate to find one lacking anthocyanins (colour pigments).  White flowered forms are common, but when you look very closely, there is often faint markings in pink or purple and colour in the stem.

It is the latter that defines this as:

Dactylorhiza fucshii var albiflora 

There were thousands of Chalk Fragrant Orchids also in full flower, not only a delight to see, but a delight to smell; their scent filling the air downwind.

These specimens I think were trying to imitate G. densiflora, so packed in were the florets.

Gymnadenia conopsea

There were still some Bee Orchids to be seen, but most had gone over due to the very dry conditions this Spring and up to very recently.

Ophrys apifera

A couple of weeks previously there would also have been Man, Lady and Birds Nest Orchids, White Helleborine and common Twayblades in flower. About now there will be also be Broad-leaved helleborines flowering, a wonderful area. The rare Field Eryngo was also present but not near flowering yet (it will be by now).

I'll leave you with a view of the Chalk Fragrant Orchids. This photo doesn't do justice at all to the wonderful view. Perhaps next year I'll take some video footage and share it here, just a thought.

Take care

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Holborough Marshes & Ranscombe Farm, Kent 04/0617

This is an account of a day out in early June, just a month ago, but it seems longer! Many of the plants featured can still be found flowering now in Kent, and certainly can be found the further North you go.

I started out at Kent Wildlife Trust's Holborough reserve, a very rare alkaline fen over chalk in the Medway Valley. It is renowned for its marsh orchids in particular, but there is much to see there.

As I walked into the first meadow I found Meadowsweet coming into flower.

I've just returned from a weeks holiday in Wales and this is very common and in full flower now. Thousands of plants can be seen along roadsides in certain areas, especially on Anglesey.

Filipendula ulmaria

The deep purple flowers of the Marsh Thistle were next spotted. This can grow to 2m tall and often on dry places, not just marshes and bogs.

Cirsium palustre

In the ditches grew Watercress, an attractive crucifer that is obviously edible.

Nasturtium officinale

Another lover of the damp is Pink Water Speedwell, reasonably abundant here.

Veronica catenata

This was the only flowering Early Marsh Orchid I could find. All the rest, and there were many, had already gone to seed, no doubt due to the hot dry conditions in Kent this spring.

However, they are still flowering on Anglesey and further North in the country.

Dactylorhiza incarnata spp incarnata

The other numerous orchid species here is the Southern Marsh Orchid, now in full flower.

Having now seen the Northern Marsh Orchid as well, the Southern Marsh seems much taller and more robust, but then I've only seen Northern in Anglesey, so maybe they're bigger elsewhere?

Dactylorhiza praetermissa

Horses now graze the meadows and in some dung grew this unsual fungus, no doubt poisonous!

Finally at this venue were several Common Spotted Orchids with each having a unique pattern of loops, dots, dashes and lines, let alone colours!

Dactylorhiza fuchsii

From Holborough I headed to the strip of grassland near the Eurostar rail line near Strood.

There are lots of flowers here, a mix of naturally occurring and those seeded when the railway line was built.

This is Kidney Vetch, probably a seeded species from the railway.

Anthyllis vulneraria

This is the food plant for the caterpillars of the Small Blue butterfly.  I hoped they would have survived here where I saw them last year, though there wasn't much Kidney Vetch about.

 Well find them I did and quite a few, which was a relief. I've not seen them elsewhere in Kent. They're very small as well (as their name suggests) and easy to miss. A delight to see.

Another easy to miss plant is the Long-stalked Cranesbill which is pretty much the same as Cut-leaved Cranesbill but has flowers on long stalks as the name suggests.

Geranium columbinium

The Soldier Beetles were having a good time as well as me, just in a different way!

Yellow-wort is a flower of chalk soils and bright sun. It closes up on cloudy days and in the late afternoon.

Blackstonia perfoliata

The beautiful but delicate Grass Vetchling was dotted within the grasses, a single flower to each grass like stem

Lathyrus nissolia

There are often 100+ Bee Orchids along the railway line, though I only found 20 or so this time around, always pleasant to find and admire.

Ophrys apifera

 Many people mistake these for an orchid species, but they are in fact Common Broomrapes, a parasitical but fascinating species, of which there are several host specific types. The Common Broomrape though isn't that fussy. Here it is growing on Clovers.

Orobanche minor spp minor

The last plant I photographed here was Common Vetch, an attractive, though sprawling plant which clings on with tendrils to nearby vegetation to lift itself up to the light.

Vicia sativa spp segetalis

From here I made the short journey to Ranscombe Farm for a fleeting visit. You could spend days at Ranscombe, it really is a wildflower and wildlife heaven managed by Plantlife. Even the car park has a few Man Orchids there, almost gone over and certainly gone to seed at the time of writing in early July.

Orchis anthropophora

I made my way up a steep slope from the car park to Longhoes Field for a quick look around.

 Papaver rhoeas

Longhoes Field has many Poppy species, this is Common Poppy, but Opium, Rough and Long Headed can also be found along with others.

In the sparse crop (deliberately sown that way with no weedkillers) were numerous Corncockles, an arable plant in serious decline and mostly now only found from seed mixes.

Agrostemma  githago

 They really are a stunning wildflower.

Tufted Vetch was now in flower, it's purple coloured flowers drooping down for the bees to explore and feed on.

Vicia cracca

 A Large Skipper buttefly feeds on Bush Vetch  (Vicia sepium)

Finally for this day, here's a Field Pansy, perfection in miniature and very common in arable fields.

Viola arvensis

 After a hard day in the heat and sunshine I made my way home, all venues were a delight to visit and still are.