July 2021 - Botanical Finds from Kent
It is of course peak season for wildflowers and trying to sort out what to include and what to leave out is difficult. I hope you like the final selection below.
Yellow Bartsia is a plant that eluded me for several years. I failed to
find it at three other sites where it had previously been found. By happy chance though, I found several
hundred growing on railway land near Shorne, ironically, not too far away from my home area.
There is a small reserve near Kemsing on the North Downs chalk stuffed full of orchids including Bee, Man, Greater Butterfly, Common Spotted, Chalk Fragrant, Pyramidal and others. Here is an all white variant of a Chalk Fragrant Orchid from this amazing venue. It is also the only orchid I am including here as I have posted so many in the past, I am now trying to show different plants of interest when I can.
A trip along the Thames near Greenhithe produced some of these weird looking little pea plants, Yellow Vetchling. The leaves are actually tendrils and what looks like levaes are enlarged stipules.
Another plant I found was English Scurvygrass. It is the only large scurvygrass found here as Common Scurvygrass has only a Western distribution.
The Thames foreshore had some nice Sand Lucernes too, including several with flowers having different colours but on the same plant. The one below had the added bonus of the colours also being metallic! I also found a yellow and blue flower combination on a plant.
Medicago sativa subsp. varia
I had read about Evening Primroses being difficult to identify and that they hybridised amongst each other. However, up until now I had not had any issues in identifying ones I had found. It was clear though now, that I had found a hybrid along the Thames foreshore, and by elimination of examining various parts of the plant I came up with Large flowered x Common Evening Primrose hybrid.
This was later confirmed and had previouslly been found in the same area before which helped. Of course, I took many more photos than just this one, but this photo shows the whole plant and it doesn't fit any one species.
Oenothera biennis x glazioviana = O. x fallax
If you find this next plant on or near a saltmarsh, it is Sea Arrowgrass. The flower spike arises from a clump of fairly fine grass like leaves (one blade can be seen in the photo too). It was found with Sea Plantain and other common salt marsh plants.
The last plant I will mention from here was Four Leaved Allseed, a very unusual plant for this area and no doubt brought in on the turf I found it in, on an industrial estate.
I am now back on the chalk in North Kent to find some Basil Thyme. I was pleased to find it as it had "gone missing" for a couple of years. It is one of those plants that needs disturbance for its seeds to germinate. In this case, rabbit activity did the job.
The single spike of Lizard Orchid I found in North Kent by the HS1 rail line 2 years ago had this year spiralled up to the giddy heights of 6 spikes! I think this firmly evidences that this is a new colony and not a casual one off plant. The plant below was the final spike to be discovered and it is actually trackside, hence the photo at range through a fence. Thanks to Lindsay of Network Rail for helping to find it.
In the same area as the above orchid were at least 80 spikes of White Mullein, another rare plant in Kent. It is by far the biggest colony in one place in VC15 or VC16.
Half way through July and a visit to Dungeness brings forth the usual multitude of botanical amazement. Here's a Carline Thistle which when fresh look dead! This one is in full flower and unusually, the florets are white. They are usually purple. They still look dead though!
There is a population of a 100 plus of these beautiful and rare Red Hemp-Nettles at Dungeness. However, they are confined to one small area and to my mind this makes them vulnerable to being accidentally wiped out at a later date. I do hope that doesn't happen.
Rough Clover was another prolific species in flower (and seed) here.
Patches of blue were Sheep's Bit with a backdrop of Nottingham Catchfly (Silene nutans) and
English Stonecrop (Sedum anglica).
Back to North Kent and saltmarshes, this time in the Yantlet Creek area of Allhallows.
Here is Frosted Orache, a species not yet found inland to any degree, though with road salting it might colonise inland too like many other plants have now done. It gets its name due to a coating of white hairs giving it a frosted look. As it ages, most hairs will drop off.
Sea Holly is always nice to find, even more so well up an estuary and not on an open coastline. So I was rather pleased to find hundreds here growing nicely on a huge sand bar of shellgrit lifting them off the Thames tidal mud.
The place was alive with bumblebees pollinating them.
Water-crowfoots are notoriously difficult to identify and can also hybridise between species. Fortunately, this one matched everything in the books about it and it was Thread-leaved Water Crowfoot. It only has submerged leaves and very small flowers with gaps between the petals. I forget the shape of the nectary now, but that matched too. It was present with thousands of plants in one ditch alone.
There were some interesting grasses here too. I found Wall, Meadow and Sea Barleys all growing within a 100 yards of each other, Timothy and Small Cat's Tail and some of this Annual Beard Grass too.
Strawberry Clover is commonly found on the back of the earthen sea walls here. The flower clusters look like small Red Clovers but with only half the number of flowers and more flat topped rather than globular. However, once in seed, they can't be mistaken for anything else (apart from a rare alien, Woolly Clover).
Of course, I found lots more, such as Sea Lavender, Golden Samphire, Sea Wormwood, Sea spurries and so on, but there isn't room for them this time. Here's a view of Yantlet Creek at low tide.
With July nearing its end, I was back in the Dartford area and found lots of Deadly Nightshade lining the banks of the River Darent. No berries were present yet but they are a rich, shiny black and look quite enticing, though please remember they are deadly!
And for the finale for July, it was back down to East Kent and Dengemarsh. I did a walk from Dengemarsh Road to the RSPB reserve and back. On the way I found some lovely plants including hundreds of the rare Marsh Mallow in full flower.
In several areas were Flowering Rush which usually grows well out of reach for any close ups photos. Here though, one grew in the edge and I could get closer for some decent photos of this colourful plant.
A similar type of plant is Corky Fruited Water Dropwort and a find of this by one of the lakes was apparently a first for the Dungeness area and Romney Marsh as a whole (source: Owen Leyshon).
So that was a good find too.
I had often read about the terrestrial leaves of Amphibious Bistort, but had never actually seen them. When I did see this plant it was always in the water and behaving as it should. Here at Dengemarsh, it was left high and dry by receeding Summer water levels and looked like an overgrown Redshank on steroids as it was around 3 feet tall. In practice, you can't mistake it for anything else!
Here is how one usually finds it and this was only about 100 yards away from the one above. The small lily like leaves among it belong to Frogbit.
That concludes July 2021. I hope you enjoyed it. I could easily have made it three times longer, but these take a long time to write and compose, upload the photos and so on. Plus, I think, if the blog goes on for too long, some will lose interest. I hope you enjoyed it.