Tuesday 10 March 2020

Botanical Highlights of 2019

Finally finished sorting through photos from last year, not quite as many as in 2018 as due to my ill health I had to stop going out at the beginning of July. The good news is I'm well on the road to recovery so should be able to get out and about a lot more this year.

Instead of a day by day diary I've decided to separate last years sightings into categories, firstly plants, then butterflies & moths, other inverts and finally spiders, which I rather got into last year. I'll also be getting a couple of fungi based blog post on, you know, the ones I've been promising for a couple of years now! Oh, and one featuring the butterflies I saw on a trip to Vietnam. Hopefully I'll have all of those on here before the end of this month ready to get out and about as the new season gets underway.

The weather in February was unseasonably warm and we had a few nice days out in Somerset, where we saw both Blue Anemone and Balkan Anemone.These two plants are virtually identical and you need to look very closely to separate them.

Firstly Balkan Anemone which is naturalised in a Langport churchyard

The base of the underside of the petals is hairless. 
The hairs seen here are confined to the pedicel. 

Balkan Anemone - Anemone blanda

Blue Anemone was also seen in a churchyard but this time in the nearby village of North Curry.

Blue Anemone - Anemone apennina

In Blue Anemone there are hairs on base of the underside of the petals.

There were some very impressive Mistletoe plants in an orchard behind the churchyard.

A germinating Mistletoe seed attached to a branch of an apple tree

Another couple of new plants were seen in April namely Water Hawthorn  (Cape Pondweed) and Wall Whitlowgrass, both on a trip to Dartmoor on the 21st. The Water Hawthorn is well naturalised in a pond by Newbridge. It's called Water Hawthorn due to its pungent aroma which is very similar to that of surprise, surprise Hawthorn. Much stronger though, I could smell it from some distance away! Unfortunately it can be an invasive species but seems well confined in this small pond.

Water Hawthorn - Aponogeton distachyos

The Wall Whitlowgrass was at Leusdon Church near to Poundsgate. In the New Flora of Devon it is listed as introduced because it was brought here with chippings lain around the parking area. It was assumed the chippings came in from outside of Devon, but whilst there we met the church warden and he told us that he and his father spread the chippings there in 1995. When we asked where they came from he said Ashburton Quarry, so it appears that the plant is therefore, in fact, native to Devon!

Wall Whitlowgrass - Draba muralis

Also from April, a few plants seen alongside the banks of the River Sid, Sidford.

Bulbous Comfrey
Acres of the stuff!

Bulbous Comfrey - Symphytum bulbosum

Hidcote Blue Comfrey
Symphytum (S. asperum x grandiflorum. x officinale)

 Greater Chickweed - Stellaria neglecta

Only one new plant was seen in May and again a naturalised alien. It took me quite a while to identify it but it turned out to be Australian Hollyhock. It flowers very early in the year and had been in flower for over a month before I photographed it. In fact a few sprigs of it are in flower this year already!

Australian Hollyhock - Malva preissiana

A few more flowers that I photographed in May.
At Martin Down, Hampshire:

Hawthorn - Crataegus monogyna

Field Fleawort - Tephroseris integrifolia ssp. integrifolia

Burnt-tip Orchid - Orchis ustulata

At Cerne Hill, Dorset this Germander Speedwell caught my eye. At first I thought it was the white form but on close inspection it turned out to be very, very, light blue.

Germnader Speedwell - Veronica chamaedrys

A couple of good days botanising in June, one with three new plants and one with an impressive five! Including my favourite find of the year.

On June 1st we visited Dartmoor to look for the two species of Filmy Fern. On the way we stopped at a woodland to look for a couple of naturalised species, originally introduced as cover for game birds.

 Shallon - Gaultheria shallon

Prickly Heath - Gaultheria mucronata

On Dartmoor we only found Tunbridge Filmy Fern. Although Wilson's Filmy Fern grows at the same site we couldn't spot any. Good excuse for a return visit though. 

Tunbridge Filmy Fern - Hymenophyllum tunbrigense

June 15th was a real 'red-letter day'. A five new plant day! 

We started at Topsham Quay where we saw several plants of Smaller Tree Mallow. 

Smaller Tree Mallow - Malva pseudolavatera

We then moved on to Plymouth where we found:

Prostrate Toadflax - Linaria supina

Small Melilot - Melilotus indicus
This patch of 'weeds' on the side of some docks doesn't look much at first sight but here we found two plants we'd searched for and not seen at several other sites. Namely Narrow-leaved Pepperwort and Greek Sea-spurrey, which is a rare plant in the UK and most of the shorter plants you can see here are it! There were over 40 plants on the dockside.
A closer view of both plants.

Narrow-leaved Pepperwort - Lepidium ruderale

Definitely my favourite find of the year.

Greek Sea-spurrey - Spergularia bocconei

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