Plantains

Humble plants, often overlooked, but very common and found growing all over the place. They come in tall varieties and short ones. Lawn mowers try to exterminate them but they keep returning. I am talking about Plantains (Plantago spp.). They may not be very pretty and colourful but they are interesting and attractive in their own way. The cream flowers borne on tall stalks certainly provide a useful feeding station for insects.

Frome Water Meadows

A few pictures from a gentle evening stroll among the Frome River Valley water meadows, on the northern edge of Dorchester, and just a few miles from Charlton Down. The fields are looking particularly glorious right now with thousands and thousands of bright yellow buttercups. Despite the overcast skies, it was a very enjoyable walk in very pleasant company with the added delight of observing clouds of newly-emergent dancing mayflies.

Dock Bugs

I was looking at the fresh new leaf shoots on some rapidly developing brambles yesterday when I suddenly realised that I had rudely interrupted a pair of mating Dock Bugs (Coreus marginatus) – a type of Shield Bug. They are herbivorous true bugs (Hemiptera) between 13 and 15 mm long, and they feed on the leaves and seeds of dock and sorrel plants; common throughout Europe, Asia, and northern Africa; and often found in dense vegetation like hedgerows and wasteland. This pair kept walking around on the blackberry leaves, joined together in tandem, and were not at all disturbed by my attentions.

Rosy Garlic

From a distance I thought at first that these delicate pink flowers were Lady’s-Smock also known as the Cuckoo Flower, but closer inspection showed that they were Rosy garlic (Allium roseum) a member of the onion family which has naturalised in the south of England. I found these flowers along a lane-side verge beneath a hedgerow on the edge of the village. It could have been an escapee from the allotments but not necessarily.

Hedgerows and verges are a wonderful place to find wild flowers. If you are a fellow resident living in Greenwood House in Charlton Down (Dorset) and are interested in finding out more about them, I have a free fold-out Field Studies Council “Guide to Hedgerows” to give away with lots of interesting information about plant and animal life in this biodiverse habitat. Just e-mail me on winderjssc@aol.com and I’ll pop it through your letterbox.

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.