Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Pollinators, or rather the lack of.

Earlier this week, the funding of new research into the disappearance of pollinating species was announced.

Great, but isn't it amazing that almost fifty years since the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring we still don't seem to have scientific evidence that the wholesale use of pesticides/herbicides/fungicides/rodenticides/anyothercide are in some way deleterious to all forms of wildlife especially when mixed together!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Yellow is the colour

Locally, south-facing chalk downland has turned yellow over the past couple of weeks. It seems to be a great year for Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Horseshoe Vetch (Hippocrepis comosa), Common Rockrose (Helianthemum nummularium) and in some places Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria), these coupled with the odd buttercup all have similarly coloured flowers and are in full bloom at the moment. Good news indeed for many invertebrates especially the different species of blue butterflies that variously utilize these as food plants.

An evening stroll over the North Downs scarp at Denbies, nr Dorking last week proved extremely yellow but also provided a variation of one of the
se that transformed a beautiful plant into a real stunner.
Common Rockrose normally has bright yellow flowers (above) with papery petals that benefit from close inspection. However, on this occasion I was lucky enough to find a much lighter variant (left), that seem to enhance the ephemeral appearance of the normal flower, almost poppy-like. Although this variant is not uncommon, on this occasion I only found one amongst literally thousands of the normal form, I have seen it before and it is well worth looking out for.

Absolute magic.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Southern Marsh Orchid

This time last year we made a visit to the Sussex coast to see a veritable confusion of Dactylorhiza species and hybrids.

This year we decided to simplify matters and so ventured to a site closer to home but still in Sussex where Southern Marsh Orchid (
Dactylorhiza praetermissa, right) grows alone. In a fairly small, boggy area surrounding a feeder stream to a pond there was a good show of several hundred plants.

It is an imposing species that unfortunately all too readily hybridises with other members
of the genus (especially Common and Heath Spotted) usually resulting in enormous variation in flower pattern and even difficulty in finding any "typical" examples of the parent species. The remarkable thing about the plants at this site was that uniformity of flower colour and lip pattern was very similar as the picture below of flowers from three plants covering the width of the population. Made identification rather easy, not often the case.

Incidentally and sadly, not so long ago there was a large population of this species on the southern side of Reigate Heath. Unfortunately now extinct because of the habitat drying out, apparently caused by water abstraction!!