It’s been a couple of weeks since I last checked which wildflowers are still flowering so, as I wandered the countryside this week, I kept my eyes open for what was still about. Perhaps surprisingly, as it has been a bit colder and frostier, those plants still flowering are pretty much the same as on my New Year’s plant hunt, with one exception. I’ve not discovered any Red Campion locally but found a couple of plants in bloom on Wednesday during my walk from Parc Slip Nature Reserve back to the railway station in Tondu. It’s the first flower shown below, and the others are all the locals I’ve spied.
It’s certainly getting a little more difficult now to find any wildflowers in bloom but, tucked away from the prevailing westerlies and battering rain in small sheltered niches, a few wee beauties still persist.
And, of course, the winter-flowering species, like the Winter heliotrope pictured above, are just beginning their flowering period. I managed to find several large swathes of this invasive plant in and around Penarth this week. My other finds are shown below.
I’ve blogged previously about the wildflower and invertebrate delights of the local zigzag path that leads from Penarth down the cliffs to Penarth Marina. It’s a path I walk at least once a week so, during Friday’s wander, I decided to see what wildflowers were still in bloom there for this week’s Wildflowerhour and its Winter 10 challenge. And here they are …
Here are this week’s still-flowering wildflowers for Wildflowerhour’s #Winter10 challenge, found during my perambulations around my local patch. These are (I think): Dove’s-foot crane’s-bill (above), Bush vetch, Common chickweed, Daisy, Herb Robert, Ivy-leaved toadflax, Petty spurge, Red campion, a sowthistle (possibly Smooth sowthistle) (must pay more attention to the leaves next time), and Yellow corydalis.
If you’ve been following for a while, you’ll know I’ve been trying on and off to learn the names of, and a bit more about, the British wildflowers I find on my meanderings. And, to that end, I follow a weekly happening on Twitter called #wildflowerhour. You can read more about that in my previous blog here. During winter they run a challenge to find and name at least 10 wildflowers each week and share them on social media using the hashtag #winter10.
Earlier this week, I decided to see what I could find as I walked firstly through Lavernock Nature Reserve and then homeward through Cosmeston Lakes Country Park. And, er, actually, for this week my hashtag needs to be #winter11. These are they: Blue fleabane, Bramble species, maybe a Hawkbit species, some kind of Buttercup, a Dandelion species, a Daisy and Devil’s-bit scabious, Yellow-wort, a thistley thing and Red clover, and Common ragwort. You can see I’ve still got some learning to do!
There’s just something about a blue-coloured flower that catches my eye and this Chicory grabbed me by the eyeballs as I walked home from Penarth Marina yesterday.
Although Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a native British wildflower, these particular plants were not truly wild; they’re growing in a series of large wildflower beds planted around the edges of Penarth Marina Park. (Interestingly, the park itself is also artificial – it was once part of the inner basin of Penarth Docks, then became a rubbish dump, before being repurposed as a park in the 1980s – details and photos here.)
Chicory, also known as Succory, used to be widely cultivated. Its spears (buds) and leaves were eaten, and the dried and ground root has been used as a substitute for coffee. I think I’ll stick with my cup of tea, thanks.
In case you think I’ve made a profoundly important botanical discovery, perhaps I should clarify that title: although I have noticed this plant growing in one particular place at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park during my walks in the past couple of weeks, Monday was the first time I had a close look at it, took some photos and worked out what it was, and it is a plant I had not previously seen.
This is Blue fleabane (Erigeron acris), a member of the daisy family, though why it is called Blue fleabane I have no idea as the flower petals I’ve seen are pink, and both my plant ID guidebook and the various online sites I’ve looked at describe them as lilac or purplish.
This is a coastal plant, which usually grows in dry areas of grassland, on sand dunes or on stone walls. That fits with the site at Cosmeston, where it’s growing in a very dry, stony location and it’s probably only a mile to the sea as the crow flies. As you can see from the fluffy seed heads in my photos, it’s actually at the end of its flowering period – usually between July and September – so I have been very remiss in not noticing it before now.
Last week we had our first two named autumn storms, this week we’ve had glorious clear days but rather chilly overnight temperatures, so I think it’s fair to say autumn has well and truly arrived. Amazingly, though, wildflowers are still blooming in large numbers. Here are the species I’ve found during my walks around Cosmeston Lakes Country Park this week.
This beauty is definitely a Mallow (Malva sp.) but it seems paler than the Common mallow (Malva sylvestris), whose flowers are usually a much deeper pinkish-lilac with even darker stripes.
I found it growing on Penarth’s rail trail, a railway line to Barry that fell foul of the Beeching cuts in the 1960s and has since been converted, in part, to a much-used walking and cycle path. The trail is edged on both sides by houses so this plant could very easily have flitted over a back fence or been dropped as seeds by birds. Whichever, its flowers are a very pretty addition to the foliage that lines the trail.
This lovely blast of botannical sunshine I found flowering on the clifftops at Lavernock is Rock samphire (Crithmum maritimum).
I’ve never eaten it – apart from the occasional blackberry at this time of year, I’m not a forager – I like to leave things to be appreciated by everyone and eaten by the wildlife that needs it more than me (anti-foraging mini-rant over!) – but I believe it can be eaten as a vegetable and is also used in pickling.
In fact, according to the Oxford Dictionary, the word samphire was once sampiere, from the French (herbe de) Saint Pierre or ‘St Peter(‘s herb)’. And in my trusty Flora Britannica, Richard Mabey writes
In the nineteenth century rock samphire from Dover and the Isle of Wight was sent in casks of brine to London, where wholesalers would pay up to four shillings a bushel for it. Shakespeare knew the plant from the south coast, and in King Lear, in a scene near Dover, has Edgar say to Gloucester, ‘half way down / Hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade!’
Even if I did want to try this particular Rock samphire, its location is completely inaccessible to all but the most foolhardy. But one huge bonus of photographing a plant that grows along cliff edges is that sometimes, if you’re really lucky, a cute and curious little Rock pipit will pop up to see what’s happening.