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|
|Perforate St John’s-wort||Hypericum perforatum|
|Garlic mustard||Alliaria petiolata|
|Wild mignonette||Reseda lutea|
|Creeping cinquefoil||Potentilla reptans|
|Bramble||Rubus fruticosus agg.|
|Meadow vetchling||Lathyrus pratensis|
|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|
|Wild parsnip||Pastinaca sativa|
|Upright hedge-parsley||Torilis japonica|
|Autumn gentian||Gentianella amarella ssp amarella|
|Large bindweed||Calystegia sylvatica|
|White dead-nettle||Lamium album|
|Water mint||Mentha aquatica|
|Hedge woundwort||Stachys sylvatica|
|Ribwort plantain||Plantago lanceolata|
|Greater plantain||Plantago major|
|Common toadflax||Linaria vulgaris|
|Red bartsia||Odontites vernus|
|Germander speedwell||Veronica chamaedrys|
|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|
|Lesser burdock||Arctium minus|
|Welted thistle||Carduus crispus|
|Common knapweed||Centaurea nigra|
|Creeping thistle||Cirsium arvense|
|Spear thistle||Cirsium vulgare|
|Hawkweed sp.||Hieracium agg|
|Autumn hawkbit||Leontodon autumnalis|
|Rough hawkbit||Leontodon hispidus|
|Oxeye daisy||Leucanthemum vulgare|
|Hoary ragwort||Senecio erucifolius|
|Common ragwort||Senecio jacobaea|
|Perennial sow-thistle||Sonchus arvensis|
|Prickly sow-thistle||Sonchus asper|
|Smooth sow-thistle||Sonchus oleraceus|
|Goat’s-beard||Tragopogon pratensis agg.|
|Scentless mayweed||Tripleurospermum inodorum|
|Branched bur-reed||Sparganium erectum|
|Jointed rush||Juncus articulatus|
|Soft rush||Juncus effusus|
|Meadow foxtail||Alopecurus pratensis|
|False oat-grass||Arrhenatherum elatius|