West Kent - 09/06/19

The following plants are from the Chiddingstone and Cowden area of West Kent from early June and on this visit there were some insects as well that allowed me to take their portraits.

These areas have both acid and alkaline areas and in the former Foxgloves were relatively commonplace.

Digitalis purpurea

The Geranium family were well represented with many species found. This one is Hedgerow Cranesbill, which has the largest flowers of our native Geraniums.

Geranium pyrenaicum

Perhaps my second most favourite wild Geranium is Shining Cranesbill with its bright pink flowers and foliage that reddens as it ages (my favourite is Little Robin).

Geranium lucidum

These bright orange beetles called Cardinal Beetles, always seem to look as though they are balancing somewhere highly precarious and that they are about to fall off. This one was no exception...

Willowherbs can be difficult to identify, but here's one of the commonest found, the Broad-leaved Willowherb.

Epilobium montanum

Start off by looking at the stigma, is it shaped like a cross or a club shape? Then check the stem, is it square shaped or round, hairy or not, glandular hairy or not; finally check the leaves, how they attach to the stem, their shape especially closest to the stem and whether hairy or not.

With those fetaures looked at you should be able to identify it and its close relatives. The only difficulties arise with hybrids and these are frequent. So if I find a hybrid (one that doesn't fit one species totally) then I move on without an ID.

There are experts in Epilobiums and the Kent County Recorder is one of them, but it's all very time consuming to do and time is something I don't have a great deal of.

 Oddly, both the ladybirds below are the same species. They are Harlequin Ladybirds, a non native that has spread rapidly around southern England in the last few years. I've read that they can eat other ladybirds though I've yet to see one doing so.

Wood Forget-me-not is a common plant and is both a native and a garden escape. I suspect this may be the latter, an almost white form, difficult to photograph in bright sunlight.

Myosotis sylvatica

The following plant had a mixture of 4 and 5 petalled flowers and is the hybrid between Tormentil and Creeping Cinquefoil (or Trailing Tormentil). I've seen it many times in Kent.

Potentilla anglica or erecta x reptans = P. x mixta

There are always several habitats to explore within an area and in places like this below I would expect to find Arum maculatum, Prunus spinosa, Mercurialis perennis and other shade loving plants. In  Summer, these nature made "tunnels" always look quite dramatic with the bright sun giving a high contrast to the shade within. Beware though because mosquitoes also like the shade!

I was though a bit surprised to find one of these in full flower in the shade, a Common Dog Violet.

It's not uncommon to see this having a second flowering in late summer, but it still catches me by surprise when I stumble on them. It immediately transports me back to the wonders of Spring and the re-awakening of the natural world after a long Winter sleep with carpets of violets adorning the woodland floor.

Viola riviniana

Chiddingstone has the River Eden nearby and so all the usual water plants were found along with plenty of dragon and damselflies. I usually give up trying to follow these until they settle long enough for a photo as they rarely stay put long enough. I persevered with this one though as it was the first time I'd ever seen this species, a White-legged Damselfly

A stretch of the River Eden in Kent.

There are plenty of Speedwells around most of the year, even if they only sometimes flower for a short while. Below are the seeds of Wood Speedwell and as the name suggests, it is mostly only found in woodland. When not in flower, it can easily be seprated from the similar Germander Speedwell by the presence of hairs all around the stem; Germander Speedwell has one or two lines of hairs running along the stem and not all the way around it.

Veronica montana

This tiny Oxalis plant was a "weed" in a churchyard and nearby pavements. It's Least Yellow Sorrel, an escaped garden plant. It has a much more common relative, Procumbent Yellow Sorrel, but that plant is bigger all round and the leaves have a purplish tinge as well.

Oxalis exilis

A freshly emerged Red Admiral is a stunning creature and these hibernate over the winter too.

This is the appropriately named Red and Black Froghopper, and yes they do hop!

Of course, being early June there is always the chance of finding some flowering orchids.

Dactylorhiza praetermissa

Southern Marsh Orchid

This site near Cowden is also known for Leopard Marsh Orchids as well with their lightly spotted leaves.

Dactylorhiza praetermissa var. junialis

 I wonder if this variant is actually an introgressed hybrid between a Common Spotted and Southern Marsh hybrid, back-crossing again several times with Southern Marsh.

These are much less imposing than D. x grandis (Southern Marsh x Common Spotted) which has barring on the leaves and is usually very vigourous in growth form as well.

Perhaps someone has already done DNA studies to find out?

Regardless, they were beautiful plants.

From beautiful native orchids to an aggressive alien invader was only a matter of half a mile. Here, the soil was now acidic and escaped Rhodedendrons were rampant through some ancient woodland remnant.

They look great in flower but are bad news for other plants which die off under their (365 days of shade) evergreen leaves, and thus this impacts on bio diversity.

Rhodedendron ponticum

There were numerous other plants found as well, all as much deserving of an entry here, but I have to end a blog somewhere. Kent is a very interesting county for botany as there are acidic and alkaline areas quite close to each other, thus allowing one to find lots of species in a small area that are missing if this were not the case.

Until next time, take care,


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