I would normally walk right over these tiny plants but, after my outing with my botany mentor on Thursday, I now know to look more closely at what’s growing under my feet. These two plants may not look like much but they are nationally scarce and just as fascinating as the more colourful and showy flowering plants that most easily catch our eye.
Trifolium suffocatum Suffocated clover
Suffocated seems an apt name for this little beauty, surrounded and almost overpowered as it was by the species-rich grassland in which it was living. Luckily, it seems to thrive on a good stomping by humans, in places like picnic sites and car parks, as this was growing in a much-trampled area of the south Wales coastline. Luckily, too, we visited at the right time, as this little clover does not hang around long: its seeds usually germinate in the autumn, it flowers between March and May, and then ‘disintegrates’, according to the Online Atlas of British and Irish Flora. The flowers, which are white and tiny, are contained in the burr-like clusters you can see in the photo above.
Poa bulbosa Bulbous Meadow-grass
The exceedingly dry April weather meant we didn’t get to see this second scarce plant at its best: though we counted 27 flower heads, the plants themselves had mostly dried up, though you can still see the bulbous bases that give it its name. Though it’s called a meadow grass, it actually seems to prefer rather infertile sandy soils, living, according to the Atlas, in ‘open sparse grassland’ and even ‘on bare sand in dune systems’. We found ours in a car park adjacent to a beach and dune systems but it wasn’t actually growing in those dunes.
Though this grass can spread through the wind blowing the bulbs around, the plants that live in south Wales are also all viviparous: the flowers are ‘replaced by tiny plantlets which are capable of rooting and becoming established as individual plants’. I thought the flower heads (inflorescences) were particularly lovely with their shades of purple, green and cream.