Plants of a wasteground 2

This is an episode in the story of a patch of ground in the village where everything was untended and garden rubbish was dumped for many years. On my regular walks during the two year pandemic period of 2020 and 2021, I often passed by and looked over the fence to see what was new amongst the fast-growing vegetation of this wild place. These are close-up photos of some of the lovely plants that were growing there by chance.

Plants of a wasteground

There was once a patch of ground in the village where everything was untended and garden rubbish was dumped. It had been there a long time. It was bounded by a brick wall with a wooden door on one side and a bar fence on the other. Some roses draped themselves over the fence to partially screen the area. Most people walked past it and paid no heed; but it was a surprising place if you paused to look. There was a wonderful assortment of wild plants, many of them flowering, with additional stray cultivated ones. It was a great habitat in its own right, and provided food and shelter for many insects and birds. To most eyes it was a bunch of weeds, and as such it was routinely cut down as a control measure. The flowers always came back. Here are some pictures showing some of the plants that were growing there a couple of years ago.

Only Grasses 2

I am glad that I do not get hay fever because this is the most interesting time of the year for grasses, when the flowers open, and pollen starts to fill the air. Grasses are looking their best, but taking a picture is quite difficult because they move so easily in the breeze, and the camera and I have problems finding a focus point.

Only Grasses 1

Maybe only grasses but I just love them. So many varieties and combinations growing together. They give a sense of peace and calm as you walk through them.

Holm Oak 2

It is that time of year again, and our splendid Holm Oak, also known as an Evergreen Oak, is in flower by the village hall in Charlton Down. It loses leaves at any time throughout the year, and so it is not unusual for dead leaves to carpet the ground beneath the tree while new leaves and flowers appear in the canopy.

The species was first introduced in the 1500’s from the Eastern Mediterranean. Although it is not adapted as much as our native oaks, it supports plenty of our wildlife. A good tree for surviving hot and dry summers, but not so good at coping with severe frosts and cold. That’s why it mostly grows on the coast and in Southern England.

Maybe we should all be thinking of planting more sun-loving and drought tolerant trees and shrubs around Greenwood House to allow for the fact that weather patterns are changing. I think that future generations would be grateful to inherit plants that withstand the warmer climate and need less intensive management and watering. (There are lots of much smaller options than this magnificent tree).

Bladder Campion 2

The Bladder Campion flowers are doing very well this year in the hedgerow close to the allotments.

Yellow rattle 2

The Charlton Down Nature Reserve has seen some significant ‘tidying up’ over the last year. I do not know why a nature reserve should be so neat and tidy, with swathes of close-cut grass and pathways that look as if they cover a greater proportion of the site than the ‘wild’ areas themselves. Nevertheless, some wild native flowers have survived this Spring, although to a much lesser degree than observed in previous years. There is a thick carpeting of very small Yellow Rattle plants low down on the ever-decreasing central area which I think has been cut twice at least since last autumn..

Greenwood’s Mini-Meadow

At Greenwood House we would like to be more wildlife friendly. A space has been set aside with the idea of seeing how we could manage a wilder area designed to increase biodiversity.. It lies to the south of the building, beyond the plain rectangular lawns, the gravel paths, and cropped Whitebeam trees, and slopes down to the boundary that separates our property from the Council-managed grass and trees below.

It has just been a couple of weeks now since the last grass-mowing. By leaving the area to grow, it is hoped that the habitat will be enhanced and provide for greater numbers of pollinating insects and birds. A variety of grasses and wild flowers are becoming more apparent already. I am not certain of the accuracy of my identifications but I reckon we have Buttercups (Ranunculus sp.), Daisies (Bellis perennis), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) and White Clover (Trifolium repens), Ox-eye Daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare), Sorrel or maybe Sheep’s Sorrel (Rumex acetosa or R. acetosella), Black Medick (Medicago lupulina), Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium), Cat’s Ear? (Hypochaeris sp.), ?Ground Ivy (Glechoma hereracea), Silverweed (Potentilla anserina), Common Whitlow Grass (Erophila verna) and Cock’s-foot Grass (Dactylis glomerata)., and much else not identified.

I shall be following our new mini-meadow’s progress with enthusiasm. This is just the first stage of a managed wild area to see how it might work out. Later, in the autumn, I understand that native wildflower seeds will be sown, and possibly some small plant plugs inserted.

Muslin Moth

I saw this unusual moth resting on a wall as I walked around Greenwood House. I have never seen one before and it took me a while to identify it. My first thought was that it was a melanistic form of the Peppered Moth (Biston betularia) which is well known because early descriptions of the form were considered an adaption to living on the grimier surfaces of industrial locations. In fact, the moth at Greenwood is a male Muslin Moth (Diaphora or Cycnia mendica). The male is dark with wonderful feathered antennae (bipectinate I think they are called). This particular specimen has a brown to almost black coloration with a few almost indiscernible black spots on the wings. The thorax looks as if it is covered in deep brown fur with yellower hairs underneath . There are not many British moths this dark. [The female Muslin Moth, in contrast, is white with more spots on her wings, and the antennae are long and slender].

The caterpillars are said to feed in July, sometimes earlier, and August, and seem to thrive on the foliage of many kinds of low growing plants, such as dandelion, dock, plantain, chickweed, and also the leaves of birch and rose. In the village right now there are lots of low growing plants of this kind on which the female moth can lay eggs because of the “no mow May” campaign that has led to some wilder patches of ground being left untouched for the time being. Unfortunately, most of these temporarily thriving habitats will be cut down before the caterpillars emerge.

Beside the Path 6

This shady place beneath a horse chestnut tree on a sunny day looks a little magical to me with the sun shining through the leaves.

Best seen full size.