Crowtrees LNR, September 2018

Finally, it’s September and the number of plants in flower is starting to dwindle.  I still found around 80 species in flower, though in many cases these were just a few stragglers hanging on after most had set seed.  I had no choice but to walk my route on a very windy day near the end of the month just before Storm Ali so, although there were still plenty of Speckled wood butterflies and dragonflies around, none would sit still long enough for me to take their photo!

The most obvious decreases in plants flowering this month were for two contrasting reasons – rampant nettles along parts of the path have shaded out or obscured some smaller plants whilst, conversely, the trimming of other verges has led to the premature demise of some, such as wild carrot, which I’ve seen flowering elsewhere. One positive sign was that, where long vegetation on some of the meadow areas had been cut, the cuttings were left in situ to seed next year’s growth.

Yellow rattle seed heads (Rhinanthus minor)

The only ‘new’ plants I found in flower this month were Tormentil (Potentilla erecta), from the rose family and Hop trefoil (Trifolium campestre) from the Fabaceae or legumes.  In both cases, I suspect they have been there all along but I’ve somehow just noticed them for the first time!  Florally, the main difference between Tormentil and the Creeping cinquefoil I’d noticed previously is the fact that, unusually for the rose family, Tormentil only has four petals.


Tormentil, Potential erecta (left) and Creeping cinquefoil, P. reptans (right)

In the case of Hop trefoil, it is the hop-like seed head which distinguishes it most clearly from the ubiquitous Black medick.


Hop trefoil seed head, Trifolium campestre (left) and immature Black medick seeds, Medicago lupulina (right)

A couple of plants which I haven’t seen in flower since much earlier in the year are also flowering again now – Red dead-nettle from the Lamiaceae and Common field speedwell, from the figwort family.


Red dead-nettle – the aptly-named Lamium purpureum

Apart from that, seed heads are stealing all the glory at this time of year – after all, there is no point in a plant having attractive flowers to ensure pollination if it doesn’t carry through and disperse the resultant seeds effectively.

The brightly-coloured fruits of the rose family, which encourage animals and birds to eat them and spread the seeds within, are obvious everywhere.  Hawthorn seems to have done particularly well after our warm summer.

Indian or Himalayan balsam is an equally successful plant with quite a different strategy – when the ripe fruits are touched they spring open explosively at the base, firing seeds in all directions.  The plants are a metre or more tall, so seeds can travel some distance.

Indian balsam, Impatiens glandulifera, fruit

Wild angelica, Angelica sylvestris

The daisy family, of course, are the real experts at wind dispersal, producing small, light achenes (fruits) with parachutes of tiny hairs (the pappus) to catch any breeze.  Whether the pappus hairs are branched are not is one diagnostic feature for distinguishing some of the trickier species.  In fact, this is how I realised last month that what I’d taken to be a Marsh thistle (Cirsium palustris) in early summer was actually a welted thistle (Carduus crispus)!  In many species, for example Hawkweeds, the achenes are held on a central swollen stem from which they break away when ripe.

Hawkweed seed head, Hieracium agg.

In others, such as Knapweed, they are released when the involucre dries up and opens out.


Achene dispersal in Greater knapweed, Centaurea scabiosa

Last but not least we come to the monocot seeds – The bur-reeds which were still flowering in August are now shedding their fruits, which break away from the swollen stem tissue.  These tiny fruits have the advantage of water to aid their dispersal – the pond surface was covered in them.

Fruits of Branched bur-reed, Sparganium erectum, breaking away

The other, really obvious, change as I walked my route was the autumn leaf colours appearing in the hedgerows – who knows how many leaves will be left by October!


Anyway, here is September’s list of plants in flower.

Lesser spearwort Ranunculus flammula
Creeping buttercup Ranunculus repens
Common nettle Urtica dioica
Common mouse-ear Cerastium fontanum
Red campion Silene dioica
Knotgrass Polygonum aviculare
Perforate St John’s-wort Hypericum perforatum
Shepherd’s-purse Capsella bursa-pastoris
Charlock Sinapis arvensis
Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria
Tormentil Potentilla erecta
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
Hop trefoil Trifolium campestre
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
Broad-leaved willowherb Epilobium montanum
Petty spurge Euphorbia peplus
Fairy flax Linum catharticum
Herb Robert Geranium robertianum
Indian balsam Impatiens glandulifera
Rough chervil Chaerophyllum temulum
Hogweed Heracleum spondylium
Burnet-saxifrage Pimpinella saxifraga
Yellow-wort Blackstonia perfoliata
Autumn gentian Gentianella amarella ssp amarella
Large bindweed Calystegia sylvatica
White dead-nettle Lamium album
Red dead-nettle Lamium purpurea
Water mint Mentha aquatica
Selfheal Prunella vulgaris
Thyme Thymus polytrichus
Ribwort plantain Plantago lanceolata
Hoary plantain Plantago media
Eyebright Euphrasia nemorosa
Red bartsia Odontites vernus
Common field speedwell Veronica persica
Harebell Campanula rotundifolia
Crosswort Cruciata laevipes
Hedge bedstraw Galium mollugo
Lady’s bedstraw Galium verum
Field scabious Knautia arvensis
Devil’s-bit scabious Succisa pratensis
Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Sneezewort Achillea ptarmica
Daisy Bellis perennis
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
Mouse-ear-hawkweed Pilosella officinarum
Common ragwort Senecio jacobaea
Groundsel Senecio vulgaris
Perennial sow-thistle Sonchus arvensis
Prickly sow-thistle Sonchus asper
Smooth sow-thistle Sonchus oleraceus
Dandelion Taraxacum agg.
Scentless mayweed Tripleurospermum inodorum
Cock’s-foot Dactylis glomerata
Meadow-grass Poa sp.




  1. Love the blog! Late flowering or second flowering? One suggestion in my group was that a lot plants had not set seed because of a lack of pollinators and that they were continuing o flower, or having another go, either way, flowering later than usual. If they are right, then there should be more insect pollinated plants still in flower than wind pollinated. Do your ‘plants in flower’ provide any evidence one way or t’other? Terry

    • Glad you like it! Are you involved at Gosforth Park? I saw a photo of some volunteers the other day and wondered if it was you… What I am still seeing in flower is a mixture of the odd remaining flower head on things like knapweed but also some completely new flushes of flowers – vetches, clover and some crosswort a month or so ago. My hunch is it is just the mild weather prolonging the growing season as there were plenty of insect pollinators around in July/August. Also, the majority of summer flowers except grasses are insect pollinated – I associate wind pollination with things like tree flowers earlier in the year, but maybe someone will correct me!

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