East Kent & East Sussex 10/06/18
We drove all over this area on this day, so here are some of the highlights we found. I've detailed Sussex plants first, then those found in Kent later in the day.
This is Navelwort, very common in the West of the UK and very hard to find elsewhere.
Somehow this species made its way into East Sussex and abounds in and around Winchelsea Church and on nearby Camber Castle.
As you can see it likes old walls. When I saw it in Wales it liked growing out of slate cliffs as well.
At Scotney Castle on the Kent/Sussex border it appeared in the bole of an old tree, so perhaps tourists can spread the seed in their boots?
This is a very common plant found almost everywhere, it's Black Medick. Here it is growing on the shingle at Winchelsea Beach but it's just as much at home in gardens, pavements and arable field edges.
When no seeds are present it can be confused with Lesser Trefoil. In this case look under a lens at the leaves and on Black Medick you will find a point or small bristle, called a mucro. Lesser Trefoil doesn't have those.
Of course, once in seed, as below, the clump of black little seeds makes ID very easy.
The next plant was a surprise, simply due to it being gone to seed and withered in most places.
This is Little Mouse-ear, often found in coastal areas and present at the top of the shingle at Winchelsea beach. These are very small indeed!
As I'm trying to learn some grasses for my recording, I noticed these on the beach at Winchelsea as well.
One of the easier grasses to identify, this is Sea Fern Grass.
Inland Fern Grass is more three dimensional, but both are stiff and rigid little plants.
Below is Winchelsea Beach with its typical shingle flora. The blue flowers are Viper's Bugloss (Echium vulgare). Others present included Curled Dock (Rumex crispus); Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara) and Common Mallow (Malva sylvestris) to name just a few.
I think the mammals in the background are Homo sapiens, a rather destructive though innovative species!
I usually associate Common Birdsfoot Trefoil with short turf, in particular chalk and neutral sites, but it's just as much as home in shingle. How such plants get sufficient nutrients on germination is beyond me. Of course, as roots grow, there will be detrius from dead vegetable matter between the stones, but initially, where does the food come from to grow those roots?
A freshly emerging Meadow Brown on the shingle.
A Small Copper, always a delight to see this attractive, small butterfly.
This was as close as I could get to a Small Tortoiseshell.
What these show you is that there are plenty of food sources for butterflies in a vegetated shingle environment, and for their caterpillars.
Unfortunately, such places in Kent and East Sussex are becoming scarce due to constant shingle movement by the Environment Agency for flood defences.
We then drove East into Kent and visited a couple of orchid sites; two at Folkestone and on a tip from Kirsty, a botany friend I met on the recent BSBI meeting (see last blog) to Dover Council offices of all places! All will be revealed...
Pyramidal Orchids were out in force near Folkestone with their beautiful pyramidal shaped heads of small pink flowers (sometimes also in white).
It's easy to dismiss these as so common they're not worth a photo, but there are several areas of the UK where they're not found or if so, found infrequently. We found this to be the case in Anglesey and North Wales last year. There were a few to be found, but not hundreds (or thousands in places) that we see in Kent.
The beautiful and nice smelling Chalk Fragrant Orchid, though if you really want to smell it, go in the evening when it fills the air around it with a lovely sweet scent.
Here's an orchid that is very widespread throughout the UK, the beautiful Common Spotted Orchid.
Its petals have such a variation in colours and patterns that I never tire of looking at them.
They also freely hybridise with other orchids, so if one looks different it's always worth a closer look.
Of course, a visit to the Folkestone area in early June requires a vissit to see the Late Spider Orchids which are only found in a small part of East Kent in the whole of the UK.
The flowers are large and imposing though the plants are often only 6-10" tall.
While similar to a Bee Orchid (see below) the Late Spider has big broad shoulders and usually bright lilac sepals.
What a delight to see these!
As if the fine display of Late Spiders wasn't enough, to my delight there were a number of white sepalled variants as well.
I've been visiting this site most years for the last 4 years and up until now all have been the usual form as shown above. So it was quite a pleasant surprise to find these variants here.
Growing only a few feet from the Late Spiders were a few Man Orchids, though past their best and looking a bit spindly.
Although going over, you can still see the head, arms and legs of the little "men".
We then left the Folkestone area and headed to Dover Council offices at Whitfield as they had several Bee Orchids there including some variants.
Like the Common Spotted Orchids, Bee Orchids can vary tremendously in pattern and shape. There are several recognised variants as well, though none of those were here today.
Nearby were the white sepalled variants, but also showing variation in patterning and form.
This is how these beautiful orchids survived the relentless mowing of Dover Council. All credit to whoever put up thses sticks to protect them.
So ended a wonderful day out with a wide variety of wildflowers found. I hope you enjoyed seeing some of them