Yet again this month I find myself heading to Raisby Hill early in the morning because of the high temperatures forecast later in the day. The site is beautiful in the early sun but there are plenty of signs that this is summer’s last fling and autumn is just around the corner – rather a melancholy time of year. There is still plenty of Meadowsweet, Knapweed and Perforate St John’s-wort in flower but many plants have set seed and the number of species in flower is only a little over half the number flowering in July. Many of those I’ve recorded as flowering are, in reality, just sporting a few late flowers and putting most of their energy into seed production.
There are one or two new arrivals, though – on the bank above the wetland area Devil’s-bit scabious fills the gap left by last month’s fragrant orchids. There are still plenty of harebells too, some of them pure white.
The morning’s dew highlighted spider webs hanging everywhere, amidst the vegetation.
Autumn gentians were the other new flowers of the day, on the scree slopes; nowhere near as large as the ones we saw on the Wiltshire downs last week, they are easy to overlook. Some are no larger than the thyme plants they grow amongst.
Although the scree looks dry and barren, a few small Waxcap mushrooms are appearing and there are patches of bright orange Trentepohlia, the filamentous green alga (really!) important in many lichen symbioses which I last saw here in March.
Walking back along Raisby Beck it’s astonishing how the ground laid bare in February is now covered with a dense mat of willowherbs and bracken – something the Wildlife trust are clearly going to need to manage in the process of restoring the fen.
The good news is that there is still plenty of standing water in late August so the conditions will be good for re-establishing wetland vegetation, provided the weedy ruderals can be kept in check.
Elsewhere, the bees and butterflies which were everywhere last time I visited are fewer and further between though I do find plenty of good bugs and beetles.
Fruits are ripening everywhere, ready to act as a winter larder for birds and small animals. I’m surprised how few of the Cuckoopint which clothed the woodland floor in spring have actually produced fruit, or maybe these were eaten before they matured to a conspicuous red colour. The red may warn us of the fruits’ toxicity but is primarily a way of attracting birds and animals which will disperse the seeds far and wide when the fleshy fruits are digested in their gut.
August plants in flower
|Wood dock||Rumex sanguineus|
|Common rock-rose||Helianthemum nummularium|
|Creeping cinquefoil||Potentilla reptans|
|Barren strawberry||Potentilla sterilis|
|Bramble||Rubus fruticosus agg.|
|Meadow vetchling||Lathyrus pratensis|
|Black medick||Medicago lupulina|
|Zigzag clover||Trifolium medium|
|Red clover||Trifolium pratense|
|Bush vetch||Vicia sepium|
|Tufted vetch||Vicia cracca|
|Rosebay willowherb||Chamerion angustifolium|
|Great willowherb||Epilobium hirsutum|
|Wild angelica||Angelica Sylvestris|
|Autumn gentian||Gentianella amarella ssp. amarella|
|Viper’s bugloss||Echium vulgare|
|Wild basil||Clinopodium vulgare|
|White dead-nettle||Lamium album|
|Ribwort plantain||Plantago lanceolata|
|Red bartsia||Odontites vernus|
|Field scabious||Knautia arvensis|
|Devil’s-bit scabious||Succisa pratensis|
|Carline thistle||Carlina vulgaris|
|Common knapweed||Centaurea nigra|
|Greater knapweed||Centaurea scabiosa|
|Marsh thistle||Cirsium palustre|
|Common ragwort||Jacobea vulgaris|
|Rough hawkbit||Leontodon hispidus|
|Autumn hawkbit||Scorzoneroides autumnalis|
|Oxeye daisy||Leucanthemum vulgare|
|Meadow foxtail||Alopecurus pratensis|