Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Dungeness, Kent - 07/10/17

In 2016 I stumbled across the rare Knotted Pearlwort at Dungeness ARC site. Unfortunately, they have white reflective flowers and as it was a sunny day, the photos weren't up to much, so I hoped to find some still in flower today. I had re-visited in September but none were to be found with the ground very dry.

As this area was mined for gravel, there are numerous lakes and wet areas following extraction years ago. This has lead to having very wet/damp habitats next to desert like conditions amongst the shingle.

I didn't take landscape shots, so these are from a visit I made in 2016. At the far end of one of the lakes is a stand of Southern Marsh Orchids, though I always seem to miss them in flower.

Near the car park was a bunch of escaped Michaelmas Daisies, which I didn't have time to identify to species level, but attractive nonetheless.

They could have arrived on wind blown seed, on the feet of bird watchers (or botanists) or possibly fly tipped as they were near the car park itself.

I've seen these growing happily in the wild in several places in Kent recently.

Aster agg

Viper's Bugloss does very well at Dungeness, the dry conditions suiting it well. I think the purple/pink stamens poking out from the pale blue petals are very attractive. You can get very tall or bushy plants earlier in the year full of flowers, and you don't have to be on the coast to find them. Ranscombe Farm near Strood have a fine display in their wildlife friendly arable fields each year.

Echium vulgare

I then noticed these amazing seed heads which I could tell straight away were either from a Cranesbill or Storksbill flower.

A nearby flower confirmed Common Storksbill, their small bright pink flowers catching the eye as I walked past.

Erodium cicutarium

Sea Buckthorn is a Kent RPR species, though determining whether they are wild or introduced can be tricky, as they have been planted in many places where they can become rampant and have to be controlled, Camber dunes is an example.

I've never managed to photograph a flower, I guess I've not looked at the right time. However, the flowers are not much to look at and very small, unlike thier berries which glow like mini oranges in the Autumn sunlight. No doubt they will sustain many birds and small mammals over the Winter months.

Hippophae rhamnoides

I'm not that good on identifying grasses, but some are so distinctive, ID is easy.

Here's Harestail grass, now in seed.

Lagurus ovatus

Most of the pea family plants had gone to seed now, however, I did find some very small flowering Common Birdsfoot Trefoil.

They are very easy to find with their bright yellow petals reminding me of Summer.

It's always worth checking leaves and sepals to determine which Trefoil you've found as there's a couple of different ones, like Greater and Fine-leaved Birdsfoot Trefoils.

The seeds and leaves in the photo are from a nearby Common Storksbill.

Lotus corniculatus

Another very common small yellow flower (though there are numerous flowers in one flowerhead) is the humble Black Medick.

The easiest way to tell it part from similar species while in flower is to look for a mucro (small bristle tip) in the centre of each leaflet. This photo shows it well.

Of course, once in seed, it's the only species of Medick  with a bunch of black seeds, hence its name.

Medicago lupulina

This tall plant can't be missed at Dungeness, Greatstone and many other places from mid Summer onwards. It's an Evening Primrose.

There are several types of these, but only this one has the anthers (bits with pollen on the end) poking out from the flower above the stigmas (female bits below).


The photo below from a side view shows this well, proving it to be a Large-flowered Evening Primrose.

Oenothera glazioviana 

Here's another common plant, mainly found on the coast, but also inland on chalk turf and some arable fields, the Common Restharrow.

It's delightful flowers remind me of a rhinoceros horn.

Ononis repens

The flower below looks big, but it is in fact only about 2cm across, it's Creeping Conquefoil, found just about everywhere. Oddly though, in many places it doesn't flower very often if at all. It can propogate by sending out runners which become independent plants, hence the name "Creeping".

Potentilla reptans

There are plenty of blackberries (often called Brambles) to be picked at this time of the year, but these plants will put up flowers well into the Winter. Sometimes they can be pink as well.

Rubus fruticosus agg.

They are called "agg" as there are actually 334 micro species of Bramble (caused by natural cloning) and differentiating them takes someone dedicated to that species or an expert. Figure taken from "Harrap's Wild Flowers".

This late in the season means it's not all about wildflowers. There were numerous fungi to be seen, though given the sparse, dry habitat, most were quite small.

A Shaggy Inkcap in a damp area.

Some Waxcaps, with my favourite fungi shot of the day below.

Also in a damp area was a huge Perennial Sowthistle at around 5 feet tall. The weight of the flower bending over the stem, making a photo a bit easier.

You can just about make out the yellow gland tipped hairs on the bracts which make this a very easy plant to identify.

Once you get your eye in, you can tell from afar that this is this plant simply from the large shaggy mophead of a flower. It's larger than all the other Dandelion like flowers.

Sonchus arvensis

I finally found my target species, hiding away on very short, rabbit grazed turf, Knotted Pearlwort.

Don't be fooled by the leaves in the photo, they don't belong to the flower! The leaves are Common Birdsfoot Trefoil, through which the flower is growing. 

Sagina nodosa

Bearing in mind I had seen them here the year before, I still had difficulty finding them due to my memory playing tricks. I seemed to recall them being a bit bigger than the flower of a Scarlet Pimpernal, however, they were actually about half the size, actually quite tiny!

From this photo you can see how the plant gets its name as the bunches of leaves appear like small knots up the stem - Knotted Pearlwort.

I'm still not happy with the photos, so I'll return again next year to try again. Hopefully it will be a cloudy day to make photographing a reflective white flower a bit easier.

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed it.

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