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"A Nature Observer′s Scrapbook"


Daisy Daisy


Bellis perennis

The common daisy.

Well, not so common.

As can be seen, this was a multi-headed one. First I had ever seen. It appeared to have developed multiple flower heads (seven, all with fewer petals than normal), each with its own calyx, all from a central parent calyx.

A new species? Umbellis perennis?

The basal leaf rosette was comparitively small and gave the impression that it knew that something wasn't right!

12.09.2004Hay meadow 10m south of hand gate.
24.08.2005Plenty of daisies in the same area as last year but no multi-headed ones. We therefore conclude it was a one off aberration - and no new species.

monstrose Black Bryony

Black Bryony (monstrose)

Tamus officionalis

We must have about 12 Black Bryony plants established in the hawthorn hedges. There seems to be a fair mix of both male and female types.

This particular male plant developed one isolated monstrose stem. It's lower growth appeared quite normal but the last four or five feet became progressively flattened and ribbon like. Leaves and flowers were small and weak.

Monstrose growth, caused by cellular deformation at the growing tip, is not uncommon in cactus and succulent plants - and is often a cultivated feature in these perennials. But I suspect that in plants, such as Bl. Bryony, which regenerate each year, once the affected stem has died off the deformation mechanism will die too and will not reappear next year.

12.07.200460 paces west of meadow southern gate.
12.09.2004That particular stem was the first to die back.
24.08.2005No abnormalities seen this year. But the female plants are all bearing a good crop of big berries.
15.05.2006Amazing how quickly new growth shoots up through the hedgerows.
12.05.2012All the Black Bryonys are thriving annually with no sign of any aberrant monstrose tendencies.

Water Avens

Water Avens

Geum rivale

This is a plant which varies greatly in height. It starts to flower in April at a height of only 3 or 4 inches when the surrounding vegetation is short. But competition for light will cause later flower heads to grow to some 18 inches. Flowering will last 6 to 8 weeks.

It is somewhat localised in its territory but can be quite prolific in a favoured spot. I have found it at two sites locally, one with about 30 plants on a roadside ditch bank and another larger colony (of several hundred plants in 2003 after a wet winter, but significantly fewer in 2004) on a damp (but not wet) verge.

With its subdued colouring and drooping flowerhead habit, it is not a plant which grabs attention on its own, but the large colony presents a soft purple haze which is hard to miss. The flowerhead is quite different to its much more common relative, the erect, yellow flowering Wood Avens/Herb Bennet, Geum urbanum.

And, just to add more interest, when Water Avens and Wood Avens are found close together it is quite likely that cross breeding will occur resulting in drooping yellow flowers with pink sepals.

14.05.2003Roadside ditch bank.
10.04.2004Roadside ditch bank.
24.04.2005Both local roadside verge colonies have come into flower two weeks later, but in larger numbers, than last year.
04.05.2006Roadside ditch bank colony just blooming and the large colony is thriving in the damp spring weather.
23.04.2007After a shower broke a spring drought the roadside ditch bank colony was in flower.
20.04.2009Roadside ditch bank colony in flower.
09.05.2009Two plants with clear yellow blossoms amongst the sea of pink..
24.05.2011The Water Avens colony is slowly expanding and several yellow flowered 'crosses' are now to be seen.
17.05.2012Another good year for the established colonies.

Common Horsetail Common Horsetail

Common Horsetail

Equisetum arvense

Alleged to be one of the most primitive plants still in existence. Every gardener knows that the roots extend to Hell in the center of the Earth! It is extensively mis-named as 'Marestail'.

The plant is best known for its invasive green, leafless, branching non-flowering stems. These are sometimes preceded by solitary non-branching fertile stems, up to 9 inches tall, which are topped by 'cones' made up of rings of spore containing capsules.

Each spore capsule is for all the world like a clenched fist. As it ripens, if the weather is dry, the fist rotates upwards and the 'fingers' open to release the grey/green dust-like spores to the wind. The spores are therefore very effectively protected from rain until they are due for release.

10.04.2004Fertile stems coning, north east corner of field.
24.04.2004Non-fertile stems appearing.
04.04.2005Fertile stems coning, six days earlier than last year.
01.05.2006Fertile stems coning, later than usual and not as prolific.
10.04.2007Fertile stems coning and 10 days later the non-fertile stems appeared.
07.04.2009Fertile stems coning and very prolific. Non-fertile stems appeared 2 weeks later.
15.05.2012After a warm dry March, Equisetum arvense is nowhere near as prolific as in the past.

Musk Mallow

Musk Mallow

Malva moschata

This was another first for me. And it took me quite a while to identify it. It struck me as a bit incongruous for a flower of about 2 inches in diameter to be found on a plant with such delicately cut foliage. The plant itself was probably no more than 12 inches high.

So far as I could tell it was a solitary specimen. There did not appear to be anything vaguely similar in the locality.

30.07.1999Benniworth Springs conservation area, TF 194 807.
09.10.2004Benniworth Springs conservation area, 10 yards east of previous sighting.

Burdock Burdock fruits

Lesser Burdock

Arctium minus

One solitary plant appeared, growing in the marl in front of the Kennel block. but it quickly established itself and grew to 4' 6" tall, with a 5' spread.

The central leaf rosette produced large 15" long Rhubarb like leaves and the red ribbed stems growing from the rosette were surprisingly stiff.

The local conditions were obviously to its liking and it produced a profusion of flower heads with strongly barbed bracts.

The flowers were a great attraction for a wide variety of insects.

After flowering the fruit heads closed up to form tight spiky spheres.

1997 / 1998Large colony seen on North side of Dog Kennel Farm, in Willingham Woods.
01.08.2004Strong solitary plant in flower by Kennels.



Dipsacus fullonum

More often seen in dried flower arrangements, this biennial plant is quite spectacular in the wild. Fleshy basal leaves usually die off before the plant flowers, leaving a prickly flower stalk some 2 - 6 feet in length.

The spiky flowerhead can be 2 or 3 inches tall, cupped in a ring of stiff narrow leaves. The individual pale purple florets tend to open in a band around the middle of the flower head and attract a wide range of insects.

It is not uncommon for the dead flower stalk to remain erect throughout the winter.

30.07.1999Willingham Woods, TF 138 879.
August 2005A solitary plant has appeared on a local roadside verge.

Spotted Orchid

Common Spotted Orchid

Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Summer 2002 was a disappointing year for Spotted Orchids on the local protected verge. But after a very wet autumn and winter, over 100 plants bloomed in 2003.

And it was even better in 2004. From mid June to early July 150 flower heads were counted and many must have been missed. The plants seemed stronger and the flower spikes fuller. And they were seeding well.

This is not to say that they compare with the truly marvellous display to be seen in Chambers Wood and elsewhere.

17.06.2002100+ in bloom on South side of Local Protected Verge.
23.06.2003Local Protected Verge.
15.06.2004 to early JulyLocal Protected Verge, good display on South side. None seen on North side..
29.06.2005 to early JulyLocal Protected Verge, good display on South side. 213 counted. None seen on North side.
Late June to early July 2008Local Protected Verge, good display on South side. 150 counted. None seen on North side.
Late June to early July 2009Local Protected Verge, poor display on South side compared to previous years, only 15 counted.

Pyramidal Orchid

Pyramidal Orchid

Anacamptis pyramidalis

This orchid also appears on the local protected verge but is not as prolific as the Com. Spotted Orchid.

I can remember seeing some several years ago but, no specimens at all were found in 2002 and only half a dozen or so appeared in 2003.

Like the Spotted Orchids, the Pyramidal Orchids fared better in 2004. 15 were counted on the South side and 4 were found on the North side.

17.06.20023 in flower on South side of local protected roadside verge.
15.06.2003Local protected roadside verge.
15.06.2004 to early JulyLocal protected roadside verge. 15 found on South side, 4 on North side.
29.06.2005 to early JulyLocal protected roadside verge. 4 only found on South side.

Bee Orchid Bee Orchid

Bee Orchid

Ophrys apifera

The Bee Orchid is found throughout the South and East of England on calcareous (chalk and limestone) grassland, dunes and quarries. It is classed as rare in Wales and Ireland and is not found at all in Scotland.

The plant forms a basal rosette of leaves from which an erect flower spike arises. In ideal conditions this can grow to a height of 40cm (15 inches) and can carry as many as 10 individual flowers. The one pictured here was only 20cm tall with 4 flowers.

Where this one came from was rather mysterious. I had not seen it in my locality before it was found for the first time in a hay meadow, right in front of a gate that we had been using daily for 16 years. And I am sure that we would have noticed the striking flower had it appeared previously. But then, if it was a new plant, that might account for it's small size.

Looking into pollination and seed distribution revealed that despite the flower looking as though it might have evolved to attract insect pollinators, this is rarely the case. The plant normally self pollinates and relies on wind dispersal of the seeds - up to 10,000 of them! However, one cannot rule out the possibility that a seed may have been picked up by an insect and brought to this location. We will never know.

Date Sighting
18.06.2009 New sighting in NE corner of hay meadow.
June 2010 Seven flowers produced in its second year.
2011, 2012 No sign of it at all.

Common Twayblade bud Common Twayblade flower

Common Twayblade

Listera ovata

The first time I stumbled across this plant, the flower spike was way past its best - but it was 'different' enough for me to want to keep an eye out for it in future.

In 2004, I counted myself lucky to relocate the same specimen earlier in the season and was able to monitor its development from budding to full bloom.

It is a member of the orchid family.

The flower spike can reach 300mm tall but, I suspect that competition for light amongst the surrounding plant community will have some effect on this. The flower spikes I have found were of the order of 200mm tall.

The flowering period is from May to July and, out of flower, the plant could easily be overlooked as its two small oval leaves could readily be mistaken for many other common plants.

Which probably accounts for this 'rarely' observed plant being officially classified as - 'not uncommon'.

09.06.2003Solitary plant on Protected Roadside Verge.
13.05.2004Same plant found in bud and pristine condition - with two small companions!
27.05.2004Now in full bloom - and five smaller plants found close by.
2005None seen at all in 2005.

Adders Tongue

Adders Tongue

Ophioglossum vulgatum

This plant consists of a single fleshy leaf and a spike or spadix - that's the spore bearing filament reminiscent of an adders tongue (except that it isn't forked!).

I had never seen it until I stumbled across it while looking for something else in 2002. That year I only found about 13 plants in all. But, in 2003, after a very wet autumn, I found well over 100 in the same location.

With no prominent flower to attract attention (and often no spadix either) this plant is easily overlooked and may well be more common than is thought. However, when the spadix is present, it may last a considerable time from May to August.

15.06.2003Protected Roadside Verge.
04.05.2004Young foliage and (already) small spadix to be seen on PRV.
15.05.2004In a grass meadow that I have walked every day for ten years, I've just found dozens of young plants. A large pond has been installed in the adjacent property and the meadow is now much wetter in parts than normal. But I presume these plants must have lain dormant for many years.
03.05.2005Last year's large colonies in the meadow and the Protected Verge are re-appearing after some timely showers of rain. As observed above, small spadix are appearing simultaneously with the young foliage.
08.05.2006Young foliage found in the meadow.
12.05.2007After a dry spring, some rain brought foliage out in the meadow.
20.04.2009First small leaves spotted in hay meadow. Some, no bigger than 25mm already bearing a small spadix.
16.05.2012After a cool wet April, many Adders Tongue showing in the hay meadow.



Gallium cruciata
- also Cruciata chersonensis (laevipes)

Gallium - from the same family as Cleavers,
cruciata - from the whorl of four leaves arranged, cross shaped, about the four sided stem. The tiny flowers are also four petalled in a cross shape. It is reputed to grow up to 2 feet tall with compact flowering stems. But, in my locality it struggles to reach 9 inches. Both leaves and stems are hairy but not hooked like Cleavers. The seeds are smooth.

It is classified as 'common' which can probably be translated as 'widespread throughout the UK', but I have only found one clump of it on one roadside verge near my home. Joan Gibbons' 'Flora of Lincolnshire', pub. 1975, suggests that it may be in decline.

It seems not to be a vigorous plant and is easily overgrown by other vegetation. On the otherhand, its close relative, Cleavers, galium aparine, seems to find conditions to it's liking and is rampant in the same area.

26.04.2004One clump on roadside verge just coming into flower.
13.05.2004Photograph taken showing clump well in flower.
09.05.2005Same clump as last year but not so vigorous.
09.05.2006Not seen at all in 2006.
09.05.2009That which was lost is found. A few spindly flowering plants found.
09.05.2010Not seen at all in 2010.
04.05.2011Two small clumps, in same area as before, flowering healthily.
16.05.2012Same two plants as before, after a weak start now looking healthy and in flower.
27.05.2012Despite being overgrown, still looking very healthy.

Hoary Plantain

Hoary Plantain

Plantago media

This is a plant that I have often admired - but never on my local patch. And then, what do you know, it turns up not 25m from my front door. Goodness knows how often I must have mown its budding flower spikes off, thinking it was the less attractive P. major. Or maybe it was the rabbits which have been decapitating it, because within 24hrs of taking this picture, the flower heads were gone and all that was left were the flower stalks, the basal rosette of leaves and rabbit droppings.

It is a plant which prefers calcareous soil and is to be found throughout Lincolnshire. Out of flower, it can be recognised from the more common Greater Plantain, P. major, by having rather more pointed leaves which sprout almost stemless from the central rosette. I've seen it said that another clue is the soft downy appearance of the leaves but that sometimes occurs on P.major, too. The pubescence is also found on the lower portion of the flowering stem.

Unlike the other plantains which have rather insignificant flowers and rely on wind pollination, the Hoary Plantain has scented flowers and is insect pollinated - if the rabbits give it half a chance.

Despite being mown flat and run over by three 20ton pea harvesters the same plant flowered again some six weeks later - and this time it was protected from the rabbits!

02.07.2005 Found on the grass verge 25m from front door.
17.08.2005 Flowered for a second time.

Salad Burnet - newly opened flowers Salad Burnet - male flowers Salad Burnet - female flowers

Salad Burnet

Poterium sanguisorba

The unopened flower heads of Salad Burnet look, for all the world, like unripe bramble fruits. But their colouring is rather inconspicuous and they can be easily overlooked.

Each flower head can carry both male and female flowers. The sequence of images shows how the plant can appear quite differently at various stages of development.

Upper image - newly opened florets.

Middle image - the male flowers carrying a cluster of long stamens.

Lower image - the female flowers, each with two feathery, reddish purple stigmas.

Until 2004, this was another species of which I had only found one clump locally, but two other small clumps have now appeared close by.

I have to admit that I have problems finding it year on year. It only grows about a foot high, is easily camouflaged by flowering Ribwort, etc. and from June onwards is swamped by long grasses.

13.05.2004Northern end of Smith's wide roadside verge.
20.05.2005A fourth clump has appeared to enlarge the colony at the northern end of Smith's wide roadside verge.
28.05.2006The local colony seems to be thriving and slowly expanding.
14.05.2007The local colony thriving and now in bud.
15.05.2012The local colony continues to thrive and slowly expand and is again in bud.

Dyer's Rocket, Weld Dyer's Rocket, Weld

Dyer's Rocket, Weld

Reseda luteola

With conspicuous flower spikes standing 2-3 ft tall from June to September, and being found on chalky calcareous ground throughout England and Wales one could be forgiven for thinking that this is a common and abundant plant. Certainly, in areas suited to it's requirements it does appear to be abundant. But in my calcareous locality I had never seen it until I stumbled across it at a Nature Reserve some 5 miles from my home. The tall, slim, gracefully arched flower spikes are very eye-catching.

In days gone by the plant was commonly used to produce a rich yellow dye called Weld which, when mixed with the blue dye from Woad, resulted in a classic green dye referred to as Lincoln Green - reputed to have been used as the colour of choice associated with Robin Hood and his Merry Men!

It is a biennial plant, producing only leaves in its first year. It then flowers and fruits the following year - and then dies back.

19.05.2011 Flowering abundantly at the Kirkby Gravel Pits Nature Reserve.

Star of Bethlehem

Star of Bethlehem

Ornithogalum umbellatum

From Feb I had been watching a dense clump of crocus leaves (narrow, dk green with a pale mid stripe) which stubbornly refused to flower - until mid May when they identified themselves as ...... Star of Bethlehem.

There were three clumps at the western end of the Protected Roadside Verge (PRV) and one large colony at the small spring fed pond at Hameringham Top.
Subsequently, the PRV was designated as a Roadside Nature Reserve (RNR) and there now appears to be only one of the original three clumps remaining.

17.05.2004PRV, Grid Ref TF 308 659.
2005 and 2006PRV, Grid Ref TF 308 659. Foliage seen but has not flowered.
09.05.2009PRV, Grid Ref TF 308 659. Clump in bud but becoming submerged in grass.
17.05.2011RNR, Grid Ref TF 308 659. One clump blooming nicely.

Ground Ivy

Ground Ivy

Glechoma hederacea

This is a very common perennial plant, to the extent of being invasive in garden lawns. It's common name relates to its low creeping habit, its readiness to branch and root at every opportunity and it's year round green presence.

It's reputation is such that it rarely gets the chance to flower in the garden, which is a pity because it is very attactive in bloom. Despite it's low ground creeping habit, it will produce a carpet of mauve flowers on sturdy stems up to 20cm tall from March to May. As the surrounding vegetation threatens to swamp it, it will clamber up through long grass and hedge bottoms to reach it's share of the sunlight.

It also plays host to the ground ivy gall wasp - see this link to Ground Ivy stem gall and the Ground Ivy gall fly - see the Ground Ivy Lighthouse gall on the Galls Page 2.

05.04.2005 Very common, flowering everywhere.
August 2005 Found climbing to a height of 1.25m through a cupressus hedge.

Welsh Poppy

Welsh Poppy

Meconopsis cambrica

The yellow Welsh Poppy is native only to Wales, SW. England, W. Ireland and W. France. Elsewhere in the UK it is assumed to be an introduced domestic cultivar rapidly becoming an 'established alien' species. It now has a strong base throughout W England and has found its way as far north as Shetland.

It favours a damp environment and I found it on the bank of a field drainage ditch. It is reputed to flower from June to August, but the plant I found was blooming happily in mid-December in a sheltered spot under a Hawthorn hedge.

Welsh Poppy

Colour apart, the Welsh Poppy looks quite similar to the common red poppy in shape and conformation, although, perhaps not quite so tall and vigorous. One of the defining characteristics is the shape of the seed capsule. In the Common poppy this is a squat cup shape. But, in the Welsh Poppy, it is distinctly elongated as can be seen in the lower image.

Date Sighting
12.12.2009 Blooming well on the sheltered bank of a field drainage ditch.

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