We saw virtually no rain and temperatures constantly in the 20s in June and early July in this part of the country, so some flowers seem to have come and gone very quickly this year. Five cm or so of rain a couple of days before my walk undoubtedly helped extend the flowering life of some plants, at least. There is a sense of abundance now – many species are flowering in huge drifts, obscuring some of the smaller individual plants seen on earlier walks. Whereas last month was mostly about whites and yellows, now the pink and purple flowers have it, with the notable exceptions of Ribbed melilot and Lady’s bedstraw.
Last month’s June blog turned out to be rather an epic so I’ve decided to divide this one in two to make it more manageable, again following the order of plant families as they appear in Rose’s Wild Flower Key. There are still over one hundred species in flower. There are new things, some of which I’ve never noticed before around Crowtrees, and some old favourites have disappeared. This is the first month I haven’t seen White dead-nettle in flower, for example, I suspect because higher vegetation at the base of hedgerows has just shaded it out. Several of the new plants in flower are water plants and the first of these is Lesser Spearwort, a delicate member of the buttercup family, growing amidst Jointed rushes in the margins of the largest mine pond.
Lesser spearwort, Ranunculus flammula, growing with Jointed rush, Juncus articulatus
One of the first plants I see in flower as I walk up the road towards Old Quarrington is Fat-hen, the first of the family Chenopodiacee I’ve seen on my route this year. This is a flower of late summer, very common on arable margins and wasteland, particularly around farmyard middens. It provided a supplementary food for early settlers and farmers in Europe; the fat-and protein-rich nutlets were found in the gut of Tollund Man who lived in Denmark around 400 BC. It is still cultivated for these fruits and its edible leaves in northern India – not so surprising when you realise how closely it is related to Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa).
Fat-hen, Chenopodium album
Fat-hen is also a good example of the value of scientific names as the name is attached to no less than seven species with seeds which make good eating for farmyard poultry, in Geoffrey Grigson’s The Englishman’s Flora.
The campions have all but disappeared from the hedgerows and verges now but the Polygonaceae are more obvious than ever. The blood-red, warted tepals of Wood dock and paler Curled dock flowers catch the attention in bright sunlight.
Left: Wood dock, Rumex sanguineus; Right: Curled dock, R. crispus
A new family, the St John’s-worts, are in full flower now too. It’s a little late for St John’s Eve (23rd June) when a range of herbs, including the most common, Perforate St John’s wort, were traditionally gathered and smoked to preserve them for medicinal use or protection against evil. The translucent, glandular dots on the leaves which look like perforations when held up to the light only added significance to the plant; the dots seemed to represent wounds, so the logic went that the plant must be healing.
Perforate St John’s-wort, Hypericum perforatum… or possibly a hybrid with H. maculatum
Brassicas have largely gone to seed in our shortened summer season. I was less than happy to see that the topsoil deposited by Hepplewhites at the East end of the quarry, in the process of reconstructing the escarpment, has obviously been full of Rape seeds rather than typical limestone vegetation.
Left: Replaced topsoil (right hand side of the photo); Right: recolonising soil seen up close
This is completely different to the sparse but diverse vegetation on the thin soil of the quarry margins which have not been affected by the recent quarrying.
I was pleased to find, round the back of the ponds, a second member of the tiny Mignonette family – Weld is like an unbranched version of the Wild Mignonette I found last month, with simple leaves which are the source of a brilliant yellow natural dye. In the late Middle Ages, dyers in the cloth town of Lincoln used it in combination with blue woad, from the brassica Isatis tincoria, to produce the ‘Lincoln Green’ cloth so strongly associated with Robin Hood and his merry men.
Weld, Reseda luteola
Fewer of the rose family are in flower this month than in June though drifts of Meadowsweet, particularly on damp ground around the ponds, more than make up for this.
Meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmaria
There are also large drifts of Ribbed melilot everywhere along my route, obscuring some of the smaller pea family, though not the Tufted vetch which remains a magnet for pollinators. Zigzag clover, with its deep pink flowers and pointed leaflets, is also blooming now, replacing dried out Red and White clover.
Left: Ribbed melilot (Melilotus officinalis) and Tufted vetch (Vicia cracca); Right: Zigzag clover (Trifolium medium)
The gorse is just about hanging in there to maintain its ever-flowering reputation, though I saw only a handful of flowers on the many bushes. I was pleased to find Restharrow too, for the first time at Crowtrees – a plant I mostly associate with sand dunes.
Common restharrow, Ononis repens
Willowherbs are definitely having their moment in the sun – Rosebay willowherb is joined by plenty of Great willowherb along the hedgerows.
Great willowherb, Epilobium hirsutum
Amongst the geraniums, Herb Robert is still flowering but also showing its Crane’s-bill credentials.
Perhaps the least welcome newcomer in my route is Indian (Himalayan) balsam, which I’ve often written about before – an invasive scurge here, as it is in parts of India. Paths and rivers provide an easy way for the seeds to be dispersed over long distances.
Indian balsam, Impatiens glandulifera
The carrot family is among the most different this month and I’m getting better at identifying them! Last month’s Ground elder has been replaced by Rough chervil, Upright hedge-parsley, Wild angelica, Burnet saxifrage, Wild carrot and Wild parsnip and, though some Hogweed is still flowering, much of it is in seed.
Left to right: Wild angelica (Angelica sylvestris), Burnet-saxifrage (Pimpinella saxifrage), Wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)
Both wild parsnips and carrots are very close to the varieties we cultivate for eating, the clue with parsnips being the specific name ‘sativa’, meaning edible. We rarely see the delicate flowers in gardens as we interrupt the life cycle of these biennial plants to eat the taproot which is the plants’ way of building up enough food reserves to produce a good show of flowers in their second summer. Wild carrot is one of my favourite flowers though – elegant at every stage from the pinkish buds with their elegant ruff of bracts, to the pure white umbel with its single, central dark red flower and finally the spiny fruits.
Wild carrot, Daucus carota ssp carota
Common red soldier beetles also seem to favour the shelter of its concave umbels for their amorous encounters!
There is something equally beautiful about the rayed seed heads of many of the Apiaceae.
Hogweed (Heracleum spondylium) seeds at different stages of maturity
Here is the list of species in the first 15 or so plant families in flower; the rest will follow in due course.
|Meadow buttercup||Ranunculus acris|
|Lesser spearwort||Ranunculus flammula|
|Celery-leaved buttercup||Ranunculus sceleratus|
|Creeping buttercup||Ranunculus repens|
|Common poppy||Papaver rhoeas|
|Common nettle||Urtica dioica|
|Bladder campion||Silene vulgaris|
|Curled dock||Rumex crispus|
|Broad-leaved dock||Rumex obtusifolius|
|Wood dock||Rumex sanguineus|
|Imperforate St John’s-wort||Hypericum maculatum|
|Perforate St John’s-wort||Hypericum perforatum|
|Perennial wall-rocket||Diplotaxis muralis|
|Wild mignonette||Reseda lutea|
|Wood avens||Geum urbanum|
|Creeping cinquefoil||Potentilla reptans|
|Bramble||Rubus fruticosus agg.|
|Salad Burnet||Sanguisorba minor ssp minor|
|Kidney vetch||Anthyllis vulneraria|
|Meadow vetchling||Lathyrus pratensis|
|Black medick||Medicago lupulina|
|Ribbed melilot||Melilotus officinalis|
|Common restharrow||Ononis repens|
|Zigzag clover||Trifolium medium|
|Red clover||Trifolium pratense|
|White clover||Trifolium repens|
|Tufted vetch||Vicia cracca|
|Rosebay willowherb||Chamerion angustifolium|
|Great willowherb||Epilobium hirsutum|
|Broad-leaved willowherb||Epilobium montanum|
|Hoary willowherb||Epilobium parviflorum|
|Fairy flax||Linum catharticum|
|Meadow crane’s-bill||Geranium pratense|
|Herb Robert||Geranium robertianum|
|Indian balsam||Impatiens glandulifera|
|Wild angelica||Angelica sylvestris|
|Rough chervil||Chaerophyllum temulum|
|Wild carrot||Daucus carota spp carota|
|Wild parsnip||Pastinaca sativa|
|Upright hedge-parsley||Torilis japonica|