Raisby Hill Grassland, August 2019

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. 

Succisa pratensis (left) and Campanula rotundifolia (right)

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.  

Gentianella amarella ssp. amarella

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. 

Land beside Raisby Beck in February and August 2019

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.

Left to right: Berries of Viburnum lantana, Arum maculatum and Rosa rubiginosa

August plants in flower

Wood dock   Rumex sanguineus
Common rock-rose   Helianthemum nummularium
Agrimony Agrimonia eupatoria  
Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria  
Tormentil Potentilla erecta  
Creeping cinquefoil Potentilla reptans  
Barren strawberry Potentilla sterilis  
Bramble Rubus fruticosus agg.
Meadow vetchling Lathyrus pratensis  
Bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus  
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
Herb-Robert Geranium robertianum  
Wild angelica Angelica Sylvestris  
Hogweed Hieracium sphondylium  
Burnet-saxifrage Pimpinella saxifrage  
Yellow-wort Blackstonia perfoliata  
Autumn gentian Gentianella amarella ssp. amarella  
Viper’s bugloss Echium vulgare  
Wild basil Clinopodium vulgare  
White dead-nettle Lamium album
Betony   Betonica officinalis
Ribwort plantain   Plantago lanceolata
Eyebright Euphrasia agg.  
Red bartsia Odontites vernus  
Yellow-rattle Rhinanthus minor  
Harebell Campanula rotundifolia  
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  
Hawkweed Hieracium agg.  
Common ragwort Jacobea vulgaris  
Rough hawkbit Leontodon hispidus  
Autumn hawkbit Scorzoneroides autumnalis  
Oxeye daisy Leucanthemum vulgare  
Meadow foxtail   Alopecurus pratensis

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