Wild Marjoram

Wild Marjoram (Origanum vulgare) is one of the most prolific wild herbs in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve and becomes dominant in the undisturbed meadow section after the Yellow Rattle has finished flowering. The plant likes to grow on dry grassland on calcareous soils. The stems are often reddish. The flower buds when small are a deep reddish purple, but as the buds open the petals are seen to be a much paler pinkish-purple. It has a pleasantly aromatic smell and it often forms large swathes in the grass, alongside other scented wild flowers like Lady’s Bedstraw.

Knapweed

The purplish-pink fine-petalled flowers of Common Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) are starting to open up in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve. They look a bit like thistles among the taller grasses. The flower buds look strange with their dark brown spikey bracts. Insects love the flowers.

Field of Peas

Pictures from a walk yesterday afternoon into the fields around Charlton Down, towards the River Cerne where it borders onto a large field on sloping ground where the farmer has planted a crop of Field Peas. I think that they are being grown for animal feed but at the same time will help fertilise the soil because legumes fix nitrogen from the air and store as a compound in the roots. I haven’t seen peas as a crop here before. This field had barley last year. I really like the way the skies seen so expansive over the fields, and the cloud formations were wonderful.

Nature Reserve Flowers

Our local Charlton Down Nature Reserve is a small space with about half of the area left untouched at this time of year. One grassy patch now has a multitude of flowers and looks very colourful and attractive. The general low cover of Yellow Rattle is dying back with their characteristic seed pods forming; and taller flowers such as Knapweed, Oxeye Daisy, Wild Marjoram, Birds-foot Trefoil, and Ladies Bedstraw are flowering, mostly behind an outer border of tall grasses, dock, and umbelliferous plants.

Bladder Campion

Here is another member of the Campion family. I have already shown the Red Campion and the White Campion, and this is the Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris). These specimens were photographed at various times this summer and last, and were growing at the base of the hedgerow that lines the lane by the allotments in Charlton Down.

Hoverflies

There were loads of Hoverflies swarming around and settling on the Hogweed flowers in the hedgerows the other day when it was mild and the sun was trying to shine. They look a lot like bees (Hymenoptera) but they are flies (Diptera) so they do not sting. I think at least some of these hoverflies are Episyrphus balteatus known as Marmalade Hoverflies and many of them migrate to Britain each year from the continent.


Hover-flies and other insects on hogweed flowers

CD Field Walk 1

The barley is growing fast. The stalks and the grain are still green but the ‘whiskers’ have turned colour. Acres of soft golden haze cover the slopes. undulating like waves on the sea as the wind ripples through the crop. Clouds scudding-by create moving shadows to darken the fields, emphasising the vibrancy and golden glow when the sun reappears. It is such a pleasure to see all this – the wider panorama as well as the moving textures and nuances of hue on the smaller scale. We are privileged to be able to walk around the fields that surround Charlton Down and observe the changes to the farmed landscape from season to season.

Best appreciated full-size.

Poppies 1

Just two poppy flowers actually. Standing out as bright red jewels beside two tall thistles in a field of ripening rape seeds. Rather battered poppies flapping this way and that in the wind. Somehow, minute beetles still managing to cling on tight, and hoverflies quickly darting within whenever they could. The petals looked like crumpled tissue paper, sometimes with angular folds reflecting light like the fragmented patterns of a kaleidoscope.

White Bryony

White Bryony (Bryonia dioica) climbs with long spiralling tendrils through hedges and woodland margins and can reach a height of about 4 metres. The creamy petals of the small flowers with their green veins and hair-like structures look rather alien. The leaves are from 4 – 7 cm across and divided into 5 lobes. In the autumn the plant can be seen more readily because of the strings of bright red berries.

White Bryony is flowering right now in the hedgerow along the lane by the allotments; entwined amongst the branches of an Elder on the field boundary of the CD Community Orchard; and in hedges of the fields surrounding the village of Charlton Down where there are footpaths that people often follow on their walks. The flowers attract a wide variety of flies, bees, and other pollinating insects. I was pleased to see a foraging red-tailed bumble bee although it buzzed off rather quickly so the shot is a bit of a blur, but you can see what it is nonetheless.

Bryonia is an emetic. That means that taking it orally can induce vomiting. It’s also a diuretic, meaning it can increase urination. This is why some people take Bryonia for relief of constipation, an upset stomach, or fluid retention. Bryonia root may also have anti-inflammatory effects.

Bryonia: Purported Benefits and Potential Side Effects (healthline.com)

Snail 1

Have you noticed how often small terrestrial snails can be found clinging to the tall stems of hogweed? These are usually Banded or Brown-lipped snails with yellow shells and distinct markings. This one, I am not so sure which species. There are so many Helicidae to choose from in Britain. It could be a Banded or a Brown-lipped snail (Cepaea nemoralis or Cepaea hortensis). Their shell makings are varied and include forms with no dark markings at all or interrupted bands. What is remarkable in this individual is that the shell is see-through and the flesh inside is clearly visible – the folded lobes the digestive gland. What lovely creatures these are. I like to watch them extrude their reticulated body and inch upwards on the stalk, with tentacles extended, black dots for eyes on the end. I have previously only noticed translucent shells like this on semi-aquatic species of snail living on the marginal vegetation of the pond in the CD Nature Reserve.

You can click on the image to enlarge it.