Oak Spangle galls

Galls smother the undersides of oak leaves this September in and around Charlton Down and further afield. The oaks in the Nature Reserve and in the grounds on the south side of Greenwood House are affected. The galls are common and I have often seen them in other years too. The exact shape is dictated by the type of wasp that has laid its eggs in the leaf. The ones like small rough brown discs with a raised centre are Spangle Galls made by the Cynipid wasp Neuroterus quercusbaccarum. The small round golden galls with a depressed centre, a donut-shape of silk threads, are made by the wasp Neuroterus nimismalis. Some leaves have both species of gall.

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Autumn Silhouettes 1

Thistle flowers going to seed, Hawthorn berries, and Blackberries in the hedgerows, and flowering Stinging Nettles in the fields, on the first official day of Autumn in Charlton Down.

Arable Weeds 3 – Nipplewort

This flower I am not a hundred percent certain about the identification but I think it is Nipplewort (Lapsana communis). It certainly is a common yellow flowered plant and is not confined to this particular habitat in the strip of arable weeds that I have been investigating. There are so many similar yellow flowered plants that I am never absolutely certain what they are. Anyway, this is my best attempt. If you know better, please do let me know.

Nipplewort is said to have useful medicinal and culinary properties.

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Arable Weeds 3 – White Campion

White Campion (Silene latifolia) occurs all over the place around Charlton Down and is more commonly found in hedgerows and verges, but there were a few among the Common Poppies and wealth of other types of arable weeds in the uncultivated border of a maize field. The white flowers stood out among the greens, reds, yellows and blues 0f other native wild plants with which they are intertwined.

Arable Weeds 2 – 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 1 – 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..

Brimstone Butterfly

There was a flurry of butterflies on my Buddleia bush yesterday. Lots of Tortoiseshells and Red Admirals as expected but also, for the first time, some beautiful Brimstone Butterflies (Gonepteryx rhamni). They looked very fresh – as if they had only just emerged. It made my day.

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.

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.