Early June Botany in North Kent

I thought it might make a change to enjoy a selection of plants from more than one trip in one blog. It will give you a flavour of what there is to be found at the beginning of June following on from a long drought in May.

Beaked Hawksbeard is the earliest Hawkbeard to flower, making it easy to get one's eye in for it, before numerous look alikes appear.

However, this one was a massive fasciated plant with a mind boggling amount of flowers.

Field edge near Eynsford.
What a monster!

Crepis vesicaria

Found nearby was this Fumitory. I thought it would be interesting to include this to show you what you need to consider to start identifying them. The size of the flowers and sepals are important.

I find Broomrapes are fascinating and there are several species in the UK to find. They parasitise other plants. Some are very particular as to which (so are rare as a result) others attach themselves to pretty much any plant nearby, like this Common Broomrape. They are usually an off purple/lilac colour, so this yellow form is a welcome change. It might be var. flava but I await an impending paper from renowned botanists Fred Rumsey and Chris Thorogood to help me decide!
Again, found near Eynsford.

Orobanche minor

Anyone for a liquorice?
Astragalus glycyphyllos

Although this is called Wild Liquorice is isn't the same as what used to be used for making the sweets. However, it's an interesting Pea Family plant and I come across it from time to time in north Kent. This (and many more) were at Park Pale by the A2 east of Shorne country park.

Here is one of Kent's other amazing Broomrapes, this time at Bluewater. It's Ivy Broomrape and you can see its host all around it. It's present in several urban areas around me including East Hill Dartford, London Rd Stone and behind the church/McDonald's at Greenhithe as a few examples. Given the amount of Ivy all over the county it should be present everywhere too.  I don't know why it is confined to the small area of north Kent and a few other isolated areas elsewhere.
Orobanche hederae

Of course, early June is the time for Bee Orchids and following a tip from fellow botanists I set out to the hills above the Romney Marsh to find these special variants.

They are:

Ophrys apifera var. chlorantha

This type lacks the usual red pigment (though I can see a tiny hint of red on the base), but it's close enough. Otherwise the nearest of this type to me are at Rye in East Sussex.

Following weeks of bone dry weather it actually rained hard this day!

Below is an uncommon plant. It's the fodder form of Common Vetch
Vicia sativa ssp. sativa
Found near to the above Bee Orchids, presumably a crop relict from long ago.

Closer to home is Rectory Meadow, Longfield. A tiny area of ancient chalk meadow with much of it scrubbed over. One of the gems it contains is a good amount of Dyer's Greenweed as shown here.

Genista tinctoria

It only grows up to a foot tall here, and half that is usual and it shares that turf with an even rarer plant, Slender Bedstraw. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any of that plant in flower though.

Nearby is a Kent WIldlife Trust roadside nature reserve which has pretty much scrubbed over. However, above it is an old people's home and a bit of lawn. Fortunately this lawn hadn't been mowed for a couple of weeks and I found around 10 Bee Orchids there in their usual colours of course. Nature doesn't need much from us, a couple of weeks off the mowing and voila!

Ophrys apifera

Early June is also the time for the thousands of Pyramidal Orchids to begin to open too. They particularly like the road verges of north Kent chalk and are very common on most main roads where scrub is kept down.

Anacamptis pyramidalis

In 2019 I stumbled on a Lizard Orchid local to me, the first since 1921 in the Dartford area. How unfortunate then that in its second year it tried to flower and became a victim of the May drought where it failed to rain for five weeks.

I hope it has sufficient resevres to flower again within a year or two, but if not, at least I have recorded it there so that in 2119 someone can say "Wow look at this, it's been a century since it was last found here".
Although in reality it will probably be a part of London and built on by then.

I consoled myself with a 20 mile trip to see some roadside Lizards instead.

My final offering was the above wonderful lovely Lizard Orchids, which conveniently pop up on a main road verge in mid Kent not too far away. I'm surprised they/re not called the Goat Wee Orchid as they are supposed to smell of it. Never having sniffed goat urine, I have no idea if this is true.

Himantoglossum hircinum

A few years ago there were over 100 but now the count was around 20 or so and the verge was seriously scrubbing over. They will be lost by 2030 if action isn't taken soon. Scrubbing over is one of the biggest threats to face chalk orchids and wildflowers. Neglect destroys as many habitats as does building houses and roads does combined (no source, just my gut feeling). In fact, the latter tends to create new habitats for a few years at least.

June is a great time for wildlfowers so get out and about, even if only down your street and see what you can find.

Take care
Twitter: @Barbus59