Saturday, 16 September 2017

Ranscombe Farm, Cuxton, Kent - 20/08/17

Ranscombe Farm is a stunning wildflower reserve managed by
and for anyone interested in botany it is a place you must visit when you come to Kent.

There are numerous rare wildflowers here including orchids, but mostly its arable rare wildflowers that are looked after here. There are meadows, woods, shrubby areas, chalk turf and fields with no herbicides or pesticides, full of flowers.

I hadn't been there for some time even though it's only 10 miles away from me so thought it would be interesting to see what I could find. I was hoping to see some Blue Pimpernels, Rough Mallow and perhaps some Ground Pine, though Rough Mallow was the only species that had eluded me so far on that wish list.

Here's what I photographed this day.

Scarlet Pimpernel always brightens up arable field edges as it did here, no blue ones found though.

Anagallis arvensis subsp arvensis f. arvensis

A whole field full of Stinking Chamomile (Kitchen Field) a Kent RPR species. Squeeze some and take a sniff, it's putrid.

Anthemis cotula

There were lots of other species mixed in with the Stinking Chamomile as well.

A Brown Argus butterfly on Wild Marjoram

(Origanum vulgare).

This and many other plant species usually found on chalk grassland grew in the arable field edges here. Such is the diversity when no spraying occurs.

I can't decide what Campanula this is.
Nettle-leaved Bellflower is prevalent here, but the leaves are stalkless, the leaves are dentate and downy and the flowers are mostly in a clustered head on top of the plant.

So it's either Clustered Bellflower or Nettle-Leaved Bellflower.

Campanula sp

The reddened stems and leaves give this plant away as a Rough Chervil, found in Brockles Field.

Chaerophyllum  temulum

Even very common plants like this Wild Teasel can look very different by using an alternative camera angle. This plant had just the one floret left. Its seeds are a valuable food source for birds like Goldfinches in the Winter, so if in your garden, try leaving them over the Winter to feed the birds.

Dipsacus fullonum

 Here's an orchid, unfortunately in seed. It's the Broad-leaved helleborine. It's relatively common but was a new record for the area behind Kitchen Field so a nice find.

Epipactis helleborine

There are numerous Willowherbs in flower now, but this is one of the most common, it's Great Willowherb. You can also easily find Hoary and Broad-leaved Willowherbs everywhere now. These were also growing in the arable field edges thanks to no herbicides, as well as the usual hedgerows and woodland path edges.

Epilobium hirsutum

 Sun Spurge is a classic arable field plant and is very common. The flowering top parts seems to have a reflective green coloured glow making it shine in sunlight, hence its name I think.

Euphorbia helioscopia

You may come across the next plant and be perplexed. It isn't easy to find or is absent from most wildflower books. That's because it is a crop plant, this one self sown from a crop from years back. Another new record for this monad. It's also sometime sown as cover for game birds such as pheasants. It then persists in the area for many years later.

Fagopyrum esculentum 

Note: the leaves at the bottom belong to a wild Geranium and not Buckwheat!

Common in fields at this time of the year is Black Bindweed. It has very tiny flowers as you can see, but the stems and leaves go a deep red as they age which is when you are most likely to spot them.

Fallopia convolvulus

Next is one of Ranscombe's very rare arable plants, the Broad-leaved Cudweed. Not much to look at, but present here in their hundreds most years, both in Kitchen and in Longhoes fields. They are past their best now, and these were small plants found in Kitchen field.

Filago pyramidata

This is a Common Fumitory and a frequent find in arable fields, even sprayed ones, such is their resilience.

To identify Fumaria I would recommend getting the BSBI Handbook for Fumitories.

Fumaria officinalis

Below is Round-leaved Fluellen, a relative of Common Toadflax. It has big, round leaves. Look out for the even smaller Sharp-leaved Fluellen as well, as both species are often found together.

Kickxia spuria

Talking of which, Common Toadflax was present too.

Linaria vulgaris

Unfortunately I didn't find any Ground-pine, but perhaps next time.

Looking like a small ivory tooth, this is the seed of a Common Gromwell. They're very tiny, but very unusual.

Lithospermum officinale

I then spotted a tiny purple flower in the chalky soil. I was very pleased to have found a Rough Mallow, the first I'd ever seen.
This should be a tall plant, but they were well past their best and had collapsed to the ground to seed. This plant had thrown up an opportunistic last flower.

Malva hirsuta

With thousands of flowering plants, it wasn't surprising that there were very many pollinators about. Here's only the second Painted Lady I've seen this season.

Phacelia is another crop relict and is often found in field edges now, not just here but in many places.

Phacelia tancetifolia 

Wild Radish is an attracive plant and can form dense stands of white or lilac flowers, both of which were present here.

I've also recently found them inland with white and yellow petals. Yellow is the usual colour for Sea Radish and it is unusual to find petals that colour inland.

Raphanus raphanistrum

I said in a recent blog post that Bastard Cabbage was under-recorded. As if to prove that, I found they weren't recorded in this monad at Ranscombe Farm either. They are very easy to identify once their seed pods appear.

Rapistrum rugosum

Here's Hop Trefoil, so called as the flower head resembles a hop in shape.

It's quite small and can be confused with Black Medick which has similar flowers but are smaller and the florets are typical pea shaped ones.

Other features separating them are that Hop Trefoil seeds are round and compact, and the leaves have no point on their apex (mucro).

Black Medic has a clump of small black seeds and a mucro on the leaves.  See the next 2 photos as well.

Hope that helps with field ID for you.

Trifolium campestre

Black Medick, a very common plant and in flower now.

Note the differences to Hop Treoil as described above.

Medicago lupulina

Black Medick seeds, if present, the quickest way to ID them.

At this time of the year, it is quite common to come across these. They look like fluffy flower heads and no book will identify them at this stage of their lifecylce.

That's because they're not actually flowers, but the seedheads of a Cornsalad species.

This is how you would normally see them, which I did close by to the seeding heads above.

There are a few species of Cornsalad and the only way to firmly ID them is to examine the seeds. By shaking the seedheads over your hand a few seeds will drop out.

These are Common Cornsalad.

Valerianella locusta

The final plant I'll feature is this stunning native White Mullein. It's on the Kent RPR and as such is hard to find. I've only seen it in the Darenth area of Kent apart from this one plant here.

Verbascum lytchnitis

That's it for this blog. I did photograph many other common species, such as Common Poppy, Field Madder, Hedge Bedstraw, Wild Mignonette and so on. There are so many wildflowers at Ranscombe, it would take a book to show them all. Why not get down there and support Plantlife and their work for wildflowers? I do.

Take care

Friday, 15 September 2017

The Final Orchid of 2017 - Littlestone 19/08/17

This will be a very short blog as it's about just one plant, the Autumn Lady's Tresses, a diminutive wild orchid averaging 6-8" tall.

It comprises of a single stem or spike with tiny flowers spiralling up it. Beauty in miniature.
I usually have a walk to Littlestone Warren (also called Pirate Springs) were a few can be found but I called in at the green down the Avenue at Littlestone (with the canon) where some can usually be found if not mowed.

Not only were they numerous on the green but the grass verges of Madeira Road was stuffed full of flowering spikes, a wonderful sight.

Spiranthes spiralis 

 An encouraging footnote is that Shepway Council agreed to not mow Madeira Road verges for a while to let them grow and set seed. Thanks to Owen Leyshon, Romney Marsh Ranger, for liaising with them.

No more new UK orchid species to see now until 2018!

Take care

Orlestone Forest near Hamstreet, Kent - 16/08/17

There is a lovely walk through this forest on a rectangular track with wide open paths between the trees. It is full of wildflowers and insects. The only down side is that it is also full of dog mess, so much so, you can taste it in the air on a still day.

Many of my photos this day were of the insects with a few plants as well. There are rafts of Common Fleabane, Purple Loosestrife, Red Bartsia, Eyebrights, and Scabious, it's a butterfly haven. In early June there are numerous Common Spotted Orchids as well.

Brimstones were the most numerous butterfly this day.

I had hoped one might be a Clouded Yellow, but I didn't see any. A few years back, the place was full of Clouded Yellows at this time of the year. I'll cheat here and put in photos of some taken here in 2013.

 Beautiful aren't they.

There are damp loving plants with wet ditches all around the route both sides of the path. Here's a damp loving plant, the graceful Angelica.

Angelica sylvestris

There were lots of Parsnip about as well. These are garden escapes that have naturalised in the wild and are now widespread. Wild Parsnip has plenty of hairs on both the  upper and lower sides of the leaves.

Pastinaca sativa subsp. sativa

Across a water filled ditch I glompsed this Goldenrod. As this is a Kent RPR species, I took a photo and put in a record, not found here before.

Solidago virgaurea

Dragonflies were particularly abundant as well, though nearly all were Common Darters, an occassional large Hawker species whizzed by.

Some stunning Red Admirals, freshly emerged I think.

The first of hundreds of Devil's Bit Scabious were opening. By now they would all be in flower, attracting all sorts of pollinators.

Succisa pratensis

Nearby I found a very small Centaury.  Common Centaury are frequent here and I thought it was another one but stunted. However, I was drawn to it by the much deeper pink of the flowers than usual so took a closer look. I was very pleased to have found some Lesser Centaury. This has no rosette on flowering, deep pink flowers and an elongated calyx, all different to Common Centaury.

Centaurium pulchellum

I couldn't get a better photo thanks to a large pile of dog mess near it! These people shouldn't own a dog if they can't look after them in a socially acceptable way.

My final photo was of another new record for this area and a first for me.
It looks rather like Pennyroyal which is very rare in Kent, but it turned out to be a hybrid between Corn and Water Mint.

It's commonly called Whorled Mint for obvious reasons.

 Mentha x verticillata

So if you're in the area, take a walk there, especially in late Spring to now. There's so many wildflowers and insects it's a joy to see.

Just watch out for dog mess. As usual I trod in some.

Take care