Down by the River

View looking north along the Cerne Valley from the river as it flows near Charlton Down. The river banks still look lush in comparison with the brown fields around which have recently been harvested or ploughed. The field peas in the adjacent field were noisily being cut and garnered by the machine as I took this picture yesterday, 20th August 2021.

Click on image to enlarge it.

Arable Weeds 3 – Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis) is one of those beautiful little wild flowers which seem utterly familiar, and makes me think of early childhood days and spending long hours out of doors in the garden. In a way, it is surprising that there were any weeds at all in our garden because Dad was out every day hoeing the soil to prevent anything establishing itself among the rows of vegetables and fruit bushes. Control was the name of the game. But we lived next to an open field, and intruders were bound to come in despite his control measures. Scarlet Pimpernel has dainty and colourful flowers which in reality are usually a pinkish orange but with a darker red centre (the petals can even be blue). Seeing these tiny flowers scrambling over the bare chalky soil in Charlton Down fields somehow makes me feel the same way that I did as a child discovering the natural world in a way that was mixed with fantasy and dreams.

Arable Weeds 2 – Common Field-speedwell

Common Field-speedwell (Veronica persica) grows on bare soil, cultivated arable fields and disturbed ground. It has a prostrate form, spreading horizontally over the ground surface. The small blue flowers will be a familiar sight to many, and it is part of the lowest growing of wild flowers in the plant association that characterises unsown field margins, almost forming a ground cover mat in some places..

Arable Weeds 1 – Common Fumitory

I have recently discovered a strip of cultivated field that has been left deliberately unplanted. It has been colonised by a wonderful array of wild plants that fall into the habitat category of arable weeds. They may have been seeded by the farmer but I think it could be a natural development. The more you look, and the closer you look, the more you see. There is a tremendous diversity of species. Many are completely new to me. I am having fun trying to photograph the different types and identify them. Unfortunately, this is not so easy if you are unable to kneel or crouch and are reliant on the camera zoom. Some flowers are minute. Anyway, here is the first picture and it shows the pink flowers of Common Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis).

Great Willowherb

There are 13 different types of Willowherb in the British Isles, mostly looking very similar, so I may not have identified this correctly, but I think it is Great Willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum). Like the more familiar Rosebay Willowherb, it is common around the village in unmanaged areas.

Summer Meadow Flowers

Purple/pink Knapweed, yellow St John’s Wort, and rusty-red seeded stems of Dock and Sorrel, with tall stalks of hogweed and their umbrella seed-heads, are thriving amongst the dry grasses in the place I call the Meadow on the edge of the village.

Poppies 2

Poppies 2 – Growing on the uncultivated margins of a field of maize near the village of Charlton Down in Dorset.

Ragwort

Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) is common around the village of Charlton Down. Its bright yellow flowers make a great splash of colour on the waysides, grazing land and uncultivated ground where it grows. It’s a plant that attracts insects for its nectar and pollen, and some of them like the Cinnabar moth caterpillars like to eat it, but there is a problem. It can be poisonous for grazing animals such as cattle and horses.

Himalayan balsam

Himalayan Balsam, also called Indian balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), is a striking tall plant with deep pink/purple flowers and reddish stems that has invaded British watersides and river banks. You can find it along the banks of the River Cerne at Charlton Down in the stretch running parallel to the field of peas. It is a species that was introduced to Britain in 1839 and has now naturalised and become a major weed problem in damp areas.

Stinking Iris

The Stinking Iris (Iris foetidissima) doesn’t have the flashy bright flowers of the wild Yellow Flag or colourful garden varieties. In fact its colouration does not make it stand out at all. I often think that the pale brown and faded purple of its petals make it look as if it is dead or dying when in fact it is in full bloom. It tends to conceal itself in dampish places and hides among other vegetation. The long sword-like leaves are characteristic, and these are sometimes crinkled or almost pleated in a characteristic way. The showy bit of the Stinking Iris is the bright orange berries that it produces in the autumn inside the large green pods that develop after the flowers are fertilised. The common and the Latin name of the plant refer to the unpleasant smell the leaves give off which attracts insects that like to visit dead things.