Marsh Woundwort

Marsh Woundwort (Stachys palustris) growing right on the edge of the riverbank down by the Cerne and almost in the water. Related to Hedge Woundwort which is quite common in and around Charlton Down; both species members of the Nettle family Lamiaceae.

Water Figwort

Water Figwort (Scrophularia auriculata) is an interesting plant that I have previously not noticed on the Cerne riverbank. The books say it grows to 70cm in height but I am sure it is growing taller than that in the location where I spotted it. The stems are square in cross-section with ‘prominent wings’ – thin extensions growing outwards from each corner. The small flowers are up to 1cm in length and grow in spikes along the stem, each flower with a dark red or maroon upper lip and with a very strange appearance, quite unlike anything else I have seen. The fruits are greenish capsules that are thought to resemble small figs.

Wild Marjoram

Pictures of the Wild Marjoram (Origanum vulgare) at the Charlton Down Nature Reserve yesterday with a couple of the many insect visitors greedily supping up the nectar.

Greenwood Mini-Meadow Update

In the early evening light yesterday, after another very hot day, the Greenwood House mini-meadow was looking very flowerful with a profusion of the bedstraws, and the yarrows more in evidence among the dried grasses. I noticed for the first time some single stemmed specimens of Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea), and a solitary thistle (?Spear Thistle – Cirsium vulgare). Not bad for an area which has been left to its own devices for the first time after being mown constantly for about 150 years. These flowers were there all the time and never had a chance to flourish before now. This experiment has led to a quick increase in biodiversity for the grounds, and a wonderful larder for wildlife.

A Type of Mallow

There are various types of wild Mallow. This low growing one amongst the tall grasses, the Ladies’ Bedstraw and budding Wild Marjoram in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve is, I think, Musk-mallow (Malva moschata). There are only one or two plants there tucked well down in the herbage. Let me know if you think it is something different, please..

Nature on the kerbside

I love to see this. Nature creeping in opportunistically on the kerbside where there has been a degree of relaxation to the normal obsessive but unnecessary Spring and Summer tidying up of our streets by strimming and use of herbicides. It may only be temporary but plants including red valerian, purple loosestrife(?), plantains, birch, spurge, and escapee domesticated daisies, for example, have taken the chance at life around some of the bollards on the edge of the pavement in the centre of the village. Lovely. It enhances our environment, is a resource for wildlife, and increases biodiversity. Several people have noticed hummingbird hawk moths feeding on the valerian flowers recently.


I cannot remember noticing these exquisite pink flowers before. They are Corncockles (Agrostemma githago). There are only a few of them growing in ones and twos deep amongst the flowering grasses and the stems of cow parsley bearing green seed heads. They are difficult to spot, especially when the wind is blowing and the vegetation is swaying. The wind also makes it difficult to get a good shot. You have to wait patiently for the micro-second of calm between gusts before pressing the take button.

Corncockles are described as formerly widespread and common but now extremely scare and erratic because of agricultural herbicides. In this location, the nature reserve at Charlton Down, they have probably been seeded deliberately at some time.

Plants of a wasteground 2

This is an episode in the story of a patch of ground in the village where everything was untended and garden rubbish was dumped for many years. On my regular walks during the two year pandemic period of 2020 and 2021, I often passed by and looked over the fence to see what was new amongst the fast-growing vegetation of this wild place. These are close-up photos of some of the lovely plants that were growing there by chance.

Plants of a wasteground

There was once a patch of ground in the village where everything was untended and garden rubbish was dumped. It had been there a long time. It was bounded by a brick wall with a wooden door on one side and a bar fence on the other. Some roses draped themselves over the fence to partially screen the area. Most people walked past it and paid no heed; but it was a surprising place if you paused to look. There was a wonderful assortment of wild plants, many of them flowering, with additional stray cultivated ones. It was a great habitat in its own right, and provided food and shelter for many insects and birds. To most eyes it was a bunch of weeds, and as such it was routinely cut down as a control measure. The flowers always came back. Here are some pictures showing some of the plants that were growing there a couple of years ago.

Beside the Path 5

The bright yellow flower heads of Winter Cress (Barbarea vulgaris) make a bright splash of colour now the Dandelions are ending their first blooming. The day I went for the walk they had attracted dozens of flying insects that were competing for mates among the petals – all small Ichneumon wasps (Amblyteles armatorius) which are solitary parasites that inject their eggs in other species to develop. Online close-up image below.