Monday, 5 March 2018

Botanising in the Beast from the East! Longfield, Kent - 27/02/18

The Beast from the East arrived in full force this week  with around 10cm of snow, much of it drifting, ice and a bitingly cold wind chill from the Easterly winds of Siberian origin. On this day, I decided to take a day's leave rather than risk the perils of Kent's roads and possibly end up stuck for hours on a freezing cold motorway.
That was just as well as the snow fell all morning with the wind driving it into my face, initially making my face sting, until the cold made it numb!


I had decided to walk around Churchdown Woods near Longfield. I didn't have botany on my mind at all, but thought that a bracing walk through the snow might produce some photo opportunities, which of course it did.


Once in the woods, I began to notice plants that I could still identify even with snow covering them.






Of course, this is the Hazel tree. It's been flowering now for over a month with the male catkin flowers now wide open.






The tiny red coloured female flowers are above the catkins, and here they were covered in snow, so won't get pollinated yet!









Corylus avellana










This is a Wood Spurge with a snow capped head! First year plants grow the basal leaves and in their second year they throw up long flowering spikes from the central stem.







Euphorbia amygdaloides







Of course, Holly is easily identified, snowing or not. I searched several bushes but failed to find any with either berries or flowers on, not surprising really!









Ilex aquifolium










In between heavy snow showers, the weak late February sun tried to appear - but ultimately failed!



This grass was Wood Melick, common in my local woodlands and carry distinctive black seeds in late Spring.

Melica uniflora


I then found a few Spurge Laurel bushes, an evergreen native shrub found in chalk woodlands. It's supposed to flower in late Winter and sure enough one was still in full flower.











You can just see the flowers poking out from between the drooping leaves. Small, circular bunches of green flowers with yellow anthers, they are easy to miss as they lack much in the way of colour!



















 Daphne laureola











I had to shake some snow off them to take the photos but it was quite exhilarating to find wildflowers in such conditions.







This was a young Yew tree covered in snow. My fingers were a bit numb so I didn't fancy brushing off the snow to see if any of its flowers had developed yet. They will be bursting forth soon, followed by hollowed out red berries in Autumn.

Taxus baccata


I continued through the winter wonderland of the woods marvelling at the complete silence you only seem to get in heavy snowfalls. No traffic noise, no aircraft overhead and no birdsong either. I think the latter were all in local gardens where the best food supply would be found (including my own).


I then spotted another plant that could be in flower now, the Butcher's Broom, a low growing evergreen shrub with viciously sharp bristle tipped "leaves". From the middle of these "leaves" (which are modified bracts really) arise tiny flowers and I hoped to find some on this snowy freezing cold day.


And find some I did!


These flowers are incredibly small and difficult to photograph. I took at least 20 photos and these were the only ones half decent. A pleasing find indeed.

Ruscus aculeatus





The final woodland plant was Wood Avens in seed. As you brush past them, they detach from the stem and tiny hooks catch on your clothing (or furry coats if you have one like those of rabbits and deer) to spread far and wide.



Geum urbanum



I had hoped to perhaps spot some Violets or Early Purple Orchid rosettes, but the snow was too deep to see them.






I headed back via an arable field, just taking in the view and not expecting to find any more plants outside of the wood in these conditons.


Once again I was wrong and pleasantly surprised.



The humble Shepherd's Purse, it's flowers just about exceeding the depth of the snow, but destined to be buried later this day!










Capsella bursa-pastoris









I was then confronted by a colour contrast that was quite beautiful. One of those tricky to identify cabbage family plants with bright yellow flowers, offset by the sparkling white of the snow.


The drooping heads caused some confusion at first, but I soon realised this was due to the extreme conditions.

the flowers were quite large and overtopped the flower buds and the sepals were patent (sticking out).



This was Wild Turnip, apparently a troublesome arable weed for farmers, but a beautiful sight to behold in the snow for me.





Brassica rapa







That was my last photograph as I trudged my way back home as blizzard conditions set in and my camera and lens aren't waterproof.

The photo below shows part of Longfield to the far left of the photo. It was quite a walk in the cold and with lots of steep inclines as well, so much so that I was drenched in sweat by the time I got home, though with numb fingertips and face.


I thoroughly enjoyed my walk, all the more for the botanical surprises I found in such conditions, extreme botany indeed!  As I write this, the thaw has at last begun and hopefully, Spring will be back on course by the middle of March at the latest.

Take care
Dave
@Barbus59

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