Crowtrees LNR, August 2018

So much for there being less in flower and me finding it quicker to do my Crowtrees loop this month!  Of course, many plants have gone to seed and the reserve is not such a riot of colour but many things still have some flowers and others are producing a second flush after the recent rain.  The yellows definitely have it now – lots of ragwort but also sow-thistles, hawkbits and dandelions.

The scree patch above the ponds has finally come to life with a diverse flora all of its own – Eyebright, Hawkbit, Mouse-ear hawkweed, Yellow-wort and, my favourite find of the day, Autumn gentian, of which more anon.

I accidentally walked straight past my usual entrance to the reserve it was so overgrown but was intrigued to find a big group of volunteer rangers strimming scrub at the top of the reserve and more surprised to find they had brought a large gas barbecue with them!

My usual entrance to Crowtrees LNR

A degree of management is obviously important – where verges have been cut back a little, some of the smaller plants are able to compete again.  On the other hand, I suspect that other plants might have still been in flower were it not for some over-enthusiastic verge cutting.

So, what are the big changes this month? There are fewer individuals of the buttercup family in flower, but most of the species present in July are still represented.  The Fat-hen, which is the only member of the Chenopodiaceae I’ve seen so far, is now in seed, as are the docks I saw in flower in June.

Mealy seeds of Fat-hen, Chenopodium album

By contrast, the campions are enjoying something of a renaissance – I find White and Red campion, as well as Common mouse-ear in flower again, now that some of the competing grasses have died back.  At this stage in the season, all the Red campion flowers I see are male, the female plants having long since set seed.

Knotgrass is now thriving on dry, open ground – as a more or less prostrate member of the dock family, the Polygonaceae, it is another plant which needs the space created by grasses setting seed and dying back.

Knotgrass, Polygonum aviculare

I find some scraggy-looking Garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata, in flower beneath the hedgerows where it has presumably been all summer, hidden amongst other vegetation.  Agrimony and Silverweed, too, are back in flower but many other members of the rose family are now more notable for their brightly coloured fruits – blackberries, rosehips, haws, sloes and rowan berries.


 Blackthorn berries (Sloes), Blackberries, Rowan and Hawthorn berries

As in July, there are plenty of the Fabaceae in flower, though the swathes of Ribbed melilot around the ponds are mostly in seed so the colours are more muted.

Bird’s-foot trefoil is still providing a source of nectar for butterflies and other insects but Black medick is starting to live up to the first part of its name, at least, as the seeds ripen.  ‘Medick’ has nothing to do with any purported medicinal qualities though – it comes from the plant’s supposed Persian (Median) origin!

Common blue butterfly on Bird’s-foot trefoil, Lotus corniculatus

Black medick, Medicago lupulina

I notice Bush vetch, Vicia sepium, back in flower alongside the Tufted vetch but it’s easy to see why the latter is so successful all summer, with its ability to clamber up taller vegetation to reach the light.

Tufted vetch, Vicia cracca

Many of the larger willowherbs are in seed now, the long pods splitting vertically in four to reveal tiny seeds, each attached to a parachute of silky hairs.  It’s no surprise the willowherbs are such familiar features of our landscape – the advent of railways, industrial wasteland and the felling of woodland all offered Rosebay willowherb, in particular, the opportunity to spread throughout Britain.

Ripe seed pod of Great willowherb, Epilobium hirsutum

Looking more closely at the smaller willowherbs, I spot American willowherb, Epilobium ciliatum, growing alongside the ubiquitous Broad-leaved willowherb.  It’s distinguished by its ridged stem and the fact that the stigma is club-shaped, rather than divided into the more characteristic four lobes.

August is the first time I’ve noticed Petty spurge, Euphorbia peplus, on my Crowtrees loop though it is one of the banes of my life on my allotment, for much of the summer.  The geranium and carrot family members in flower are largely the same as in July, though many of the latter are also now in seed, adding a new element to the landscape. Wild carrot remains a favourite, for its delicately sculpted seeds.

Wild carrot, Daucas carota spp carota, seed head and seed

The stars of the show for me, today, were the Autumn gentians just starting to flower on the scree patch above the ponds.  Though I’ve seen them often enough at the nearby Bishop Middleham Quarry nature reserve, I’d not seen them here before.

Autumn gentian, Gentianella amarella ssp amarella

Some of the Lamiaceae and plantains seem to be getting a bit of a second wind.  I find a patch of Hedge woundwort flowering by the roadside, along with both Ribwort and Greater plantains.

Left to right: Hedge woundwort, Stachys sylvatica; Ribwort plantain, Plantago lanceolata; Greater plantain, P. major

The figwort family has produced a new member in flower this month – the vibrantly-coloured Common toadflax – as well as much more Red bartsia and Eyebright and a new flush of Germander speedwell.

Common toadflax, Linaria vulgaris

The flowers’ long spurs carry a good supply of nectar for late summer moths as well as bees and bumblebees; actual pollination requires the latter, heavier insects to force the more-or-less closed flower lips apart.

The bedstraws are still hanging on in there, though mostly in seed now, but I’m surprised to see a second flush of flowers on the crosswort, enjoying the damper weather we are having now.  Valerian, too, is mostly in seed, though I don’t see the beautiful, feathery pappi I saw on seeds earlier in the month near Ennerdale Water.

There is still plenty of scabious in flower but, as in the meadows round Ennerdale, it is mostly Devil’s-bit scabious now, particularly on damp ground.

Then we are on to the daisy family which, as last month, provides plenty of species in flower – some new for August.  One of these is Lesser burdock, which has thistle-like flowers so tiny and inconspicuous for the size of the plant and, in comparison with the burrs which form seed heads, that they are very easily overlooked.  The strong, hooked spines on the burrs ensure they are readily dispersed in the fur of animals and on the clothes of hapless passers-by.

Young and mature burrs of Lesser burdock, Arctium minus, and a Twenty-two spot ladybird

Burdock was one of the plants I needed to find describe for the final Identiplant assignment. Another was the Marsh thistle, which I was confident I’d seen in the reserve last month.  However closer inspection showed this was actually a Welted thistle, Carduus crispus, the giveaway being its unbranched pappus hairs.

Most of the Knapweed and Creeping thistles around the ponds are in seed, the latter filling the air with clouds of thistledown.   And then there are all the yellow members of the daisy family I am still struggling with…  I like the fact that Rose doesn’t even attempt to key out Hawkweeds but just says that all are characterised by having flower heads with overlapping, unequal bracts, only strap-shaped florets and achenes with a pappus of simple, brittle hairs.

Hawkweed, Hieracium agg.

Rough hawkbit is, as the name suggests, a hirsute plant throughout, distinguished from similar looking plants such as Cat’s-ear by the hairs being forked and having no scales between the florets.

Rough hawkbit, Leontodon hispidus

There are now several sow-thistles in bloom, with Perennial sow-thistle being the most statuesque and attractive of these at up to 1.5 m tall, with golden flower heads four or five cm across.  Yellow, gland-tipped hairs on the involucre make its identity easy to confirm.

Perennial sow thistle, Sonchus arvensis

According to Geoffrey Grigson’s, The Englishman’s Flora, the name Sow-thistle was first recorded by one William Coles in 1657 for the plant’s supposed ability to increase lactation in farrowing sows.  In fact, sympathetic magic implied that all plants with milky sap would increase milk flow so lucky nursing mothers were fed Smooth sow-thistle in the past!  I guess members of the lettuce family, Lactuca sp., must all get their generic name from their milky sap.

The bur-reeds and bulrushes are still flowering in the ponds, the male flowers with their protruding anthers conspicuous at the top of the bur-reeds, whilst the female flowers below are now setting seed.

Branched bur-reed, Sparganium erectum

On closer inspection, this month, I decided that what I thought last month was Juncus conglomeratus (Compact rush) was actually Soft rush, Juncus effusus – the smooth rather than ridged stems being key.  On the warm afternoon I visited, the plants in and around the pond were playing host to plenty of damselflies and dragonflies. I always think Common blue damselfly is such a boring name for these turquoise beauties!

Some grasses seem to have flowered again but, as I’ve explained before, the species I’ve tentatively identified below are more of a best guess than anything else and I’ve certainly missed others.  That brings the total number of species in flower to at least 100, again!

Meadow buttercup Ranunculus acris
Lesser spearwort Ranunculus flammula
Creeping buttercup Ranunculus repens
Common poppy Papaver rhoeas
Common nettle Urtica dioica
Common mouse-ear Cerastium fontanum
Red campion Silene dioica
White campion Silene latifolia
Knotgrass Polygonum aviculare
Perforate St John’s-wort Hypericum perforatum
Garlic mustard Alliaria petiolata
Shepherd’s-purse Capsella bursa-pastoris
Wild mignonette Reseda lutea
Agrimony Agrimonia eupatoria
Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria
Silverweed Potentilla anserina
Creeping cinquefoil Potentilla reptans
Bramble Rubus fruticosus agg.
Meadow vetchling Lathyrus pratensis
Bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus
Black medick Medicago lupulina
Ribbed melilot Melilotus officinalis
Zigzag clover Trifolium medium
Red clover Trifolium pratense
White clover Trifolium repens
Tufted vetch Vicia cracca
Bush vetch Vicia sepium
Rosebay willowherb Chamerion angustifolium
American willowherb Epilobium ciliatum
Great willowherb Epilobium hirsutum
Broad-leaved willowherb Epilobium montanum
Hoary willowherb Epilobium parviflorum
Petty spurge Euphorbia peplus
Fairy flax Linum catharticum
Meadow crane’s-bill Geranium pratense
Herb Robert Geranium robertianum
Indian balsam Impatiens glandulifera
Wild angelica Angelica sylvestris
Wild carrot Daucus carota spp carota
Hogweed Heracleum spondylium
Wild parsnip Pastinaca sativa
Burnet-saxifrage Pimpinella saxifraga
Upright hedge-parsley Torilis japonica
Yellow-wort Blackstonia perfoliata
Autumn gentian Gentianella amarella ssp amarella
Bittersweet Solanum dulcamara
Large bindweed Calystegia sylvatica
White dead-nettle Lamium album
Water mint Mentha aquatica
Selfheal Prunella vulgaris
Hedge woundwort Stachys sylvatica
Ribwort plantain Plantago lanceolata
Greater plantain Plantago major
Eyebright Euphrasia nemorosa
Common toadflax Linaria vulgaris
Red bartsia Odontites vernus
Germander speedwell Veronica chamaedrys
Harebell Campanula rotundifolia
Crosswort Cruciata laevipes
Hedge bedstraw Galium mollugo
Lady’s bedstraw Galium verum
Common valerian Valeriana officinalis
Wild teasel Dipsacus fullonum
Field scabious Knautia arvensis
Devil’s-bit scabious Succisa pratensis
Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Sneezewort Achillea ptarmica
Lesser burdock Arctium minus
Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris
Daisy Bellis perennis
Welted thistle Carduus crispus
Common knapweed Centaurea nigra
Creeping thistle Cirsium arvense
Spear thistle Cirsium vulgare
Hawkweed sp. Hieracium agg
Cat’s-ear Hypochaeris radicata
Autumn hawkbit Leontodon autumnalis
Rough hawkbit Leontodon hispidus
Oxeye daisy Leucanthemum vulgare
Pineappleweed Matricaria discoidea
Mouse-ear-hawkweed Pilosella officinarum
Hoary ragwort Senecio erucifolius
Common ragwort Senecio jacobaea
Groundsel Senecio vulgaris
Goldenrod Solidago virgaurea
Perennial sow-thistle Sonchus arvensis
Prickly sow-thistle Sonchus asper
Smooth sow-thistle Sonchus oleraceus
Tansy Tanacetum vulgare
Dandelion Taraxacum agg.
Goat’s-beard Tragopogon pratensis agg.
Scentless mayweed Tripleurospermum inodorum
Water-plantain Alisma plantago-aquatica
Branched bur-reed Sparganium erectum
Bulrush Typha latifolia
Jointed rush Juncus articulatus
Soft rush Juncus effusus
Meadow foxtail Alopecurus pratensis
False oat-grass Arrhenatherum elatius
Cock’s-foot Dactylis glomerata
Meadow-grass Poa sp.

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