Selfheal

After the recent rain, and thanks to a slightly longer time between mowing, large patches of small purple flowers are suddenly appearing in the grassy areas around Greenwood House and the Gym. I thought how attractive these looked yesterday, alongside the daisies, buttercups, plantains, and birds-foot trefoil. I was happily going to post pictures of them thinking they were Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) but I have just discovered that I am completely wrong. They are different. I think they are Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) which is far more interesting. They are one of our native edible plants and are reputed to have medicinal properties. If I have got the identification wrong, could you let me know?

CD Meadow Walk 1

Some pictures from a few weeks ago when I strolled around the place I call ‘the meadow’ – which was originally, in the old Herrison Hospital days, known as the incinerator field! All the shrubs and grassland plants were burgeoning. Guelder rose, buttercups, vetch, umbellifers, sorrel, grasses of many types, sallow or goat willow catkins fallen to the ground, a poor dead vole, and a red and green early instar shield bug on a colour-coordinated grass flowerhead.

Remember you can click on any image to enlarge it in a gallery

Red Admiral

A beautiful Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) butterfly, basking in a shaft of sunlight on the tall hogweed flowers to the south of Greenwood House yesterday evening.

Blackberry 1

Another of the commonest wild plants is the bramble (Rubus fruticosus)and it can be quite a nuisance too. Its sprawling, spreading, intertwining growth habit means that it spreads with ease and can soon reach out over paths and catch you as you walk by. You can’t miss them in Charlton Down. No-one ever seems to manage them – even while there is a great eagerness to mow down and cut back every other sign of natural wildlife on a regular basis. We more than tolerate them for the promise of the berries to collect in the autumn. Buds quickly turn to blooms (white or pink), and flowers rapidly convert to green fruits. Whether these develop into luscious black berries is another matter. So weather dependant. My mouth is watering at the prospect of collecting in due course the fruit from the orchard too, for making blackberry and apple crumble!

CD Nature Reserve 1

Some views of the Charlton Down Nature Reserve yesterday evening when the sun was still bright and warm and the light brought out all the colours.

What is Biodiversity?

For National Biodiversity Day, many organisations have posted on-line features and films about what biodiversity is and what it means for humankind and the planet. They are much better at defining the problems and solutions than I am. The Natural History Museum in London, for example, produced the following simple explanation and video. At a time when the natural world around us is clearly and rapidly changing, I think it important to notice what is happening right here, right now, and consider the ways in which we can take responsibility for promoting biodiversity on our own doorstep, even if the means available to us as individuals may seem to be small and insignificant considering the enormity of the problem.

What is biodiversity?

Butterflies & Us


Peacock butterfly on ragwort last summer in Charlton Down

I know that most people living in Greenwood House do not have their own gardening space but many have window boxes and outdoor pot plants, so this may be of interest. Also, over the past 18 months or so, if we hadn’t realised it previously, we certainly learnt how connecting with nature outdoors – walking around the grounds and surrounding countryside – can enhance the way we feel both physically and mentally. Nurture for Nature – Taking care of yourselves and our pollinators this spring is a campaign by the organisation Butterfly Conservation. They consider how important it is to support and encourage wildlife such as butterflies and moths for their sake and for our own. Linking to the Butterfly Conservation website lets you see a short introductory video and download a beautifully illustrated leaflet that includes a prescription for being outdoors – the science behind wellbeing in nature; how to find mindfulness outdoors; species to spot this Spring; grow your herb garden; go wild for flowers; gardening tips; family-friendly fun; and why butterflies and moths matter. It is well worth having a look.

If you are interested in learning more about butterflies and how to identify them, I have a glossy foldout Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Ireland produced by the Field Studies Council to give away free to the first one of my neighbours in Greenwood House (Charlton Down, Dorset) to contact me with their flat number so I can put it through their letterbox.