There was just time for a sneaky bike ride up to Quarrington Hill for my March visit the day before we set off to Cyprus (more of that, in due course). Despite some warmer weather, things don’t seem to have changed that much, though looking down the hill the arable fields are greening now and the goat willows are blowsy with catkins.
On the restored ground, more rosettes of leaves are appearing; in places these are starting to outcompete the small brassica seedlings.
There are at least three sorts of plume thistle; welted, spear and creeping.
Top left; Welted, bottom left; Spear and right; Creeping thistle rosettes (Carduus crispus, Cirsium vulgare and Cirsium arvense, respectively
There are other rosettes too, some of which I feel I should recognise but don’t – one is an umbellifer of some sort (the leaves don’t look quite right for Cow parsley, but time will tell), the other knapweed, perhaps?
Weld (Reseda luteola) top left and two other unnamed basal rosettes of leaves
There are also the inevitable nettles, displaying the stinging hairs they use to protect themselves from herbivore attack. The tiny bulb at the base of the stinging hairs contains a number of biochemical irritants. When the tip of the spicule is touched, it breaks off and becomes a needle to inject the irritants into the skin off the luckless animal or human.
The presence of nettles is not good news; they are indicators not only of disturbed ground but also of nitrate and phosphate-enriched soil (often associated with human habitation and abandoned buildings). This does not omen well for the lime-loving plants (calcicoles) which grew here before the quarrying but cannot compete with more rapidly growing ruderals.
On a more positive note, the site seems already to be sporting quite a lot of diversity and only a watching brief will tell whether the calcicoles will reappear. Onwards to April and more to see!