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
Dave
@Barbus59

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