May 2021 Botanical Finds from Kent
Here is a selection of interesting plants I found this May in the Kent area, I hope you enjoy them.
Starting off with one of the early flowering mouse ears, it's the Grey mouse-ear, a species only found in a few counties with North Kent probably having the largest population of them in the UK.
A few years back I found a new colony on a field edge and despite being sprayed and suffering successive Spring droughts they have persisted. I couldn't find any in flower, but here's one in seed.
Note how very hairy it is and that the hairs overlap the sepal tips by a long way. The hairs aren't glandular and the inflorescence is lax. All these features are different to the look alike Sticky and Little mouse-ear plants.
Midway through May, I found a patch of these plants on an ant hill at Longfield Chalk Bank where they have been absent since 2013. I thought they had died out here as Kent Wildlife Trust had failed to maintain a suitable habitat. Fortunately ants did it for them. The habitat needs scarifying to create bare patches. In addition, ant hills attract Green Woodpeckers which I have seen here too.
On a trip to Ranscombe Farm I came across a huge stand of Common Wintercress in a recently coppiced area. I wonder if years ago this area was arable and under the plough?
Early Purple Orchids abounded in the usual purple hues and were delightful to see. Even better was finding a solitary all white variant amongst the Bluebells.
And the usual flower colour form, around 100 plants seen
I had visited Dartford Heath a few times this month searching for rare Dandelions (see last blog). Below is one of the other treats you can find provided you look for the tiniest flowers in very short turf.
Another teeny flower found there was Subterraneum Clover. I found a new colony on a road verge which was a nice find. I like this photo as it includes the leaves which are often blotched like this, hairy and entire. There is a similar Clover called Birdsfoot Clover which has toothed leaves without blotches and similar flowers, so it pays to notice leaves!
On 11th May news spread like wildfire through the Kent botanical community of a walker finding a masive colony of Mousetail, a small plant that cannot tolerate competition from other plants and often grows in dried out previously flooded areas. It had not been found in Kent since the 1970s and was presumed extinct. Here is a photo of the site near Hoo showing part of the thousands of plants there.
As this is such a rare find in Kent, forgive me showing you more than one photo of it.
This last photo shows a tiny Celery Leaved Buttercup growing with them.
What an amazing find, and not by a hardened botanist but by a lady walking the Saxon Shore Path (Jane Lawson) who had an interest in wildflowers. Fortunately she noticed these and thought they were different to plants she had seen and broke the news to others.
Habitat looking the other direction. The area floods from a fishing lake on the left inundating this part of the field during wet Winters.
The 16th May was an orchid day for me. Seeing photos of lovely orchids online made me visit some Kent sites to catch up with them myself. Here's some Green winged orchids from Marden Meadow. May was notable for being very wet and cool with frosts well into the last week of the month.
Lady Orchids from a mid Kent wood. Perhaps our most impressive orchid.
Amazing aren't they. Nearby were some much smaller Man Orchids, though I have seen some over 2 feet tall. Due to the cold May, these were late coming out and still quite small.
Fly orchids were missing from the usual area. Fortunately I knew of another colony nearby and these were out.
Then it was down to Samphire Hoe on the coast for Early Spider Orchids, beginning to go over but still plenty to see.
A short distance away is a site for Late Spider Orchids, but given the cold weather I was doubtful I'd find any, but - yes, there was one out. Still quite small and just the one flower, but hey, what a day this was.
Back to plants other than orchids.
Houndstongue, an uncommon plant declining fast!
Below is just Common Storksbill. This photo though shows the seeds which give this plant its name. when ripe they explode shooting the seeds away from the parent plant.
Here is another plant I had not seen before and in an unexpected place. It's London Rocket, so named as the plant covered London after the Great Fire of 1666.
It wasn't quite covering Whitstable, but it was quite numerous around the harbour and Sea Wall Rd area as a pavement plant.
We are at the end of May now and we managed a day out to Rye Harbour NR and took a long walk around the shingle reserve. On the way I found a patch of Field mouse-ear, a rare plant that I haven't seen here before despite numerous previous visits.
Rye Harbour has a huge stand of Sea Pea, a rare pea found where the highest tides land the floating seeds.
I hoped that perhaps some Bee Orchids might be out, and they were. Just a few and none of the var. chlorantha variety (all white plants) were out yet. Still pleasing to see.
Sea mouse-ear is usually long burnt off by late May, but was still going strong due to the cold weather.
Yellow Vetch - Vicia lutea
Greater Sea-Spurrey - Spergularia media
And so ended another month in the botanical year. I don't think May is complete in Kent without a visit to see Lady Orchids, so I'll end with another photo of this delightful plant to finish.