Swanscombe Marshes, Kent - 23/08/19

Swanscombe Marshes have been well documented by botanists pending the whole peninsular being re-developed, or so one would think. However, there were two monads (1km x 1km OS map squares) to the east that had been missed. So I set out this day to put that right.

The Common Reed is often overlooked as there is usually so much of it but it is an attractive grass in its own right.

Phragmites australis

Unsurprisingly in north Kent, Buddleja was dotted about everywhere.

Buddleja davidii 
I didn't see any butterflies on it though. 

Wild Carrot was living up to its name of Queen Anne's Lace and the fruiting heads balling up shows it to be subspecies carota.

Daucus carota subspecies carota

This first monad was dominated by the Brittania Lead Works, not an appealing sight  but a reminder of the ever present pressures on the land in this area which include - ever more housing;industrial;agricultural and leisure. Wildlife doesn't get much of a mention for land use in north Kent as (perhaps) it doesn't generate any cash for the local authorities.

These types of habitats often have several alien escapes present and here was no exception. This was a Late Michaelmas Daisy and I take several macro photos of the plant to work out which one I had found when I get home. The complete plant looked very similar to Sea Aster, a close relative.

Aster laevis x novi-belgii = A.  x versicolor

Another alien escape was Hollyhocks which are usually 5-6' tall, however, this beautiful red coloured form was only a foot tall for some reason.
Alcea rosea

It's that time of the year for Ploughman's Spikenard, a large plant with tiny flowers.

Inula conyza

After a while I came to the tidal River Thames and a narrow strip of saltmarsh.
In this area, wherever you have saltmarsh you have this plant, Sea Purslane.

Atriplex portaculoides

Between the plants in the upper saltmarsh I found this amazing Wasp Spider which  had caught and wrapped up its dinner. When the Spring tides come I hope it can move quickly as it will be submerged on the higher tides where it had set up camp.

Argiope bruennichi

In this photo below, to the right is a large clump of Golden Samphire in flower which a few hours before was totally under salt water.  However, in the centre is another clump just emerging from the water. A very tough plant indeed.

Limbarda crithmoides
(formerly Inula crithmoides) 

This is Gypsywort, which is a common plant near freshwater margins,but this one was very different, it was in the upper part of the saltmarsh!

Here it is surrounded by Sea Purslane in the upper saltmarsh.

Lycopus europaeus

Common Cord Grass is a common sight in saltmarshes and grows in estuarial mud helping to stabilisethe mud.

 Spartina anglica

This drab looking plant is another that survives being inundated with salt water often twice a day, such as the one growing here.

Sea Plantain
Plantago maritima

This photo shows a strange habitat for the tidal Thames, a sandy foreshore. 
This came from a nearby industrial site where aggregates (including sand) was routinely unloaded from ships to the land and as you can see, plenty of it gets spilled and washed up here.

Just out of reach of the tides were stands of Perennial Sowthistles, a common seaside plant in Summer.

Sonchus arvensis

After recording all I could it was time to leave the saltmarshes behind and I headed back inland.

It was now the time for Fabaceae (Pea or Bean or Legume family) and Swanscombe has them in plenty.

This plant on the left with its big pink showy glowers was Broad Leaved Everlasting Pea and it's quite common all over coastal areas of Kent.

Lathyrus latifolius

Not quite so common is the narrow Leaved Everlasting Pea (below) with its leaves all at least 4 x longer than wide.

Lathyrus sylvestris

The next Pea of note was the charming Narrow-Leaved Birdsfoot Trefoil, again with its leaves 4 x longer than wide.
These also have smaller and fewer flowers than the usual Common Birdsfoot Trefoil and are more upright in form.

Lotus tenuis
I think Swanscombe peninsular is perhaps the finest place in the South East to see all the colour forms of Sand Lucerne. There are white, yellow, blue, purple, black and many shades in between. However, the plant below was the first I had ever seen with dual coloured flowers on the same plant, though "Harrap's Wildflowers" book documents that it happens.
Medicago sativa subspecies varia
But without doubt the star of the trip was the next Pea family plant I stumbled across. At first I thought these were a late flowering Common Vetch, but a closer look showed their colours to be totally different with almost white wings and keel set against a deep pink/purple standard.
After some research when I got home, I found them to be Hairy Vetchlings, a first for me and a rare plant in Kent.

Being small and thin, unsurprisingly they were difficult to photograph, especially in the breeze around this day. They were scrabbling up and through any adjacent vegetation and if they could support themselves would be about three feet tall. But of course they can't and their tendrils clasp any plant nearby for support and most were less than a foot off the ground as a result.

Lathyrus hirsutus

This next photo gives an indication of how small they were and almost submerged in the vegetation here.

These plants and some Eyebrights are semi parasitical and no doubt help contribute to floral diversity here.

Odontites vernus

My final photograph was of a grass which looked like an under sized Pampas Grass, about three feet tall with fluffy heads in amongst the Common Reeds. My thanks to Lliam from Kent Botanical Recording Group for identifying it for me.

Wood Small Reed
Calamagrostis epipejos

I got so carried away I had to almost run back to the car as it was now getting dark earlier than I realised and I didn't want to get caught out on the marshes with no torch! I hope you enjoyed the plants I found, I know I did. Until next time.



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