Cleavers

Cleavers (Galium aparine) is a sprawling annual of hedgerows and disturbed ground. The stems are square and rough and their edges have backward-pointing bristles, as do all the surfaces of the leaves, and these bristles help the plant to gain traction and spread through the neighbouring vegetation, either horizontally or vertically. The bristles make Cleavers extremely clingy or sticky to the touch. They have tiny four-petalled white flowers. Usually the flowers are only just visible to the naked eye. The flowers develop into spiky coated seeds.

Identification from Collins complete guide to British wild flowers – a photographic guide to every common species by Paul Sterry 2006.

Columbine

Like deep purple and intense red jewels, the flowers of Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) are establishing themselves on the eastern grassy bank at the edge of the cricket pitch. They have been there for several years but this summer they are clearly in their element and the flowers are more numerous than ever. They are probably garden escapees – after all, there are similar perennial plants in the tidy cultivated patch by the cricket pavilion on the other side of the ground. However, the purple form of Columbine does occur as a wild flower in woods and on calcareous soils, although I have never seen them growing as natives myself. I am including them here because I like them so much and I like the splash of colour that they make as they glow in the sunshine against the green of the tall grasses..

Oxeye Daisies

This is the moment for Oxeye Daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare). It is their time in the sunlight; their moment of fame. Hundreds of thousands of them adorn roundabouts and roadside verges. Acres of embankments on the way to Weymouth are covered in them. Mile after mile of the route to Bere Regis is white with their blooms. And even in Charlton Down they are making a small appearance, most notably on the slopes around the cricket pitch – but sadly absent so far this year from the nature reserve where there was such a splendid showing last year – maybe they will put in a an appearance later because they can flower anytime from May through to September. They are so suited to the soils around here, and provide not only a beautiful display but also food for countless insects over a prolonged period, that it is tempting to wonder if we could not sow more of them, with other wild flowers, to enjoy nearer to Greenwood House.

Pine Flowers

At this time of year, if you crane your neck to look upwards as you pass the tall pine trees in the village, you will be able to see the flowers that later develop into the cones. I think the pines are all Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris). There is one very close to Greenwood House near the boundary with the cricket pitch. Another notable one is positioned near the top of Herrison Road, just on the corner of the lane leading to the allotments. The trees bear both male and female flowers in May. The male flowers are easier to see and consist of clusters of golden anthers set some way back from the tips of the twigs. The female flowers are present at the same time but difficult to spot as two, tiny, crimson-tinted globes at the very tip of a newly expanded shoot.

Information from Know Your Conifers by Herbert L. Edlin,, Forestry Commission Booklet No. 15, HMSO 1970.

Salad Burnet

You will have to keep your eyes wide open to spot this exquisite small flower in the grass. From a distance you might mistake the flowerhead for clover, but looking closer you will see the intricate structures that are characteristic of the species. The minute flowers are green and have red styles. Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor) is a perennial of chalk grassland and a few of these flowers can been seen in the rough areas of grass in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve at the moment.

Marsh-marigold

I think I must have blinked and missed the Marsh-marigold flowers (Caltha palustris) this year. There have often been quite a few of them in the shallower and narrower part of the pond in the local nature reserve. Maybe they are late with flowering because of the cold spring we have been experiencing. Or perhaps that end of the pond is now too dry despite all the rain we had a few weeks ago. I’ll keep my eyes open for them from now on in case they appear in June rather than April or May. These pictures are from last year on 18 April.

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.

Red Horse Chestnut

There is a group of tall elegant trees at the east end of Greenwood House near to the converted church. They have similar leaves to the horse chestnut but not identical. The flowers also resemble the horse chestnut and are clustered like decorative candelabra on the branches but are a beautiful deep pink with yellow patches. I noticed years ago that the fruits (conkers) from these trees were mostly ovoid and spineless, and were empty and sterile. I wondered what variety they were and had previously concluded that they were probably Indian Chestnut Trees. Now I think differently. They are more like Red Horse Chestnut trees which are a hybrid between a Horse Chestnut and a Red Buckeye. What ever they are they are exquisite.

Horse Chestnut Flowers

Horse Chestnut trees (Aesculus hippocastanum) are a main component of the local landscape in Charlton Down and the first dramatic sight as visitors pass into the centre of the village along Sherren Avenue. One or two of these trees have succumbed to the problems of old age and been felled in recent years but new trees have also been planted, for example, to the south of Greenwood House, so that succession of these lovely trees is guaranteed into the future. After a slow start this very cold Spring, the elegant pink and white pyramidal clusters of blooms are now finally out and decorating these splendid trees.

Hawthorn Flowers

Hawthorn is ubiquitous with the English countryside, particularly in hedgerows. It flowers later than the blackthorn and can look equally spectacular as the blossoms thickly cover long curving branches of the last year’s growth. David Hockney famously painted a series of works featuring springtime hawthorn wreathing the hedges that line rural roads in Yorkshire (Hawthorne blossom near Rudston). However, it doesn’t blossom if the hedges are cut back over the winter months. Locally this means that this year is not as good as last year for these small white flowers, sometimes tinged pink, which provide sustenance for so many insects, and indirectly for the birds. And subsequently this coming autumn there will be fewer berries to feed the wildlife too. It is just a fact of country life that hedges need to be trimmed to keep the growth thick near the base so that they are effective barriers, and visibility is not obstructed for motorists.