Crowtrees LNR, July 2018 Part 1 – Buttercups to Carrots

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.jpg

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

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.

Unaffected vegetation

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!

Wild carrot, Daucas carota ssp carota 5

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
Fat-hen Chenopodium album
Bladder campion Silene vulgaris
Knotgrass Polygonum aviculare
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
Shepherd’s-purse Capsella bursa-pastoris
Perennial wall-rocket Diplotaxis muralis
Wild mignonette Reseda lutea
Weld Reseda luteola
Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria
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
Bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus
Black medick Medicago lupulina
Ribbed melilot Melilotus officinalis
Common restharrow Ononis repens
Zigzag clover Trifolium medium
Red clover Trifolium pratense
White clover Trifolium repens
Gorse Ulex europaeus
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
Hogweed Heracleum spondylium
Wild parsnip Pastinaca sativa
Burnet-saxifrage Pimpinella saxifraga
Upright hedge-parsley Torilis japonica

 

 

5 comments

  1. […] After some prevarication, I’ve chosen Raisby Hill Grassland nature reserve as the site I’ll look at monthly this coming year.  It’s just a short bike ride from home but has one of the last remaining areas of primary Magnesian limestone grassland in the country, as well as an abandoned quarry, ponds and an area of woodland.  Lots of diversity but, this time, my walking route more or less round the bounds of the reserve will be just a mile or two long so it shouldn’t be quite such a mammoth task as last summer. […]

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