Habitat restoration at Quarrington Quarry, August 2019

So, what’s new on the patch of re-vegetating quarry spoil I’m watching this month?  At first glance, not much – the area in the background here, which was covered with new topsoil around this time last year, now looks to be covered in fairly dense grass, in contrast with the sparser vegetation on the older spoil.

However, things are often not quite what they seem!  There are big patches of thistles, amongst the grass – mainly sprawling Creeping thistle but also some Spear and Welted thistles with attendant pollinators.

Left to right: Creeping thistle, Cirsium arvense; Spear thistle, C. vulgare; Welted thistle, Carduus crispus

Last month’s diminutive Field pansies have nearly all finished flowering but amongst the grass there are also three tiny new plants which I haven’t seen here before; Fat-hen, Knotgrass and Black bindweed.  All three are inconspicuous but common arable and waste ground species, though not ones I particularly associate with the limestone grassland of this area.  Fat-hen is a Goosefoot, named for the shape of its leaves, though its common name is a better indicator of the fact that the seeds are a useful food source for birds and were a supplementary food for early human farmers.  The other two are members of the dock family some of which, such as buckwheat, also produce nutritious seeds.

Left to right: Fat-hen, Chenopodium album; Knotgrass, Polygonum aviculare; Black bindweed, Fallopia convolvulus

I don’t really find any new species on the older spoil and, in fact, many of the plants which were flowering a month or so ago are now in seed.  What is interesting is that this month, for the first time, I find very similar numbers of species in flower in the two habitats – 19 on the disturbed ground where topsoil was added in comparison to 21 on the older spoil.  The species are different, but the numbers seem to be evidence of a similar level of latent diversity in the topsoil seed bank.

Here is the August list for the two habitats.

    Disturbed ground ‘Original’ vegetation on older spoil
Creeping buttercup Ranunculus repens p  
Fat-hen Chenopodium album   p  
Knotgrass Polygonum aviculare p  
Black-bindweed Fallopia convolvulus p

Slender St John’s-wort Hypericum pulchrum   p  
Field pansy Viola arvensis   p  
Dame’s violet Hesperis matronalis   p  
Charlock Sinapis arvensis   p  
Weld Reseda luteola   p  
Scarlet pimpernel Anagallis arvensis   p  
Creeping cinquefoil Potentilla reptans   p  
Blackberry Rubus fruticosus agg.     p
Bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus     p
Red clover Trifolium pratense   p  
Tufted vetch Vicia cracca     p
Rosebay willowherb Chamerion angustifolium   p p
American willowherb Epilobium ciliatum   p
Fairy flax Linum catharticum   p  
Cut-leaved Crane’s-bill   Geranium dissectum p  
Wild carrot Daucus carota ssp. carota     p
Upright hedge-parsley Torilis japonica p    
Yellow-wort   Blackstonia perfoliata   p
Eyebright Euphrasia sp.     p
Harebell Campanula rotundifolia   p
Welted thistle Carduus crispus   p  
Common knapweed Centaurea nigra     p
Greater knapweed Centaurea scabiosa     p
Creeping thistle Cirsium arvense p

Spear thistle   Cirsium vulgare   p
Hawkweed Hieracium agg.     p
Rough hawkbit Leontodon hispidus     p
Oxeye daisy Leucanthemum vulgare p    
Common ragwort Jacobaea vulgaris   p p
Mouse-ear hawkweed Pilosella officinarum   p

Prickly sow-thistle Sonchus asper   p p
Crested dogstail Cynosurus cristatus p    
Annual meadow grass Poa annua p    


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