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About Me

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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

10 March, 2017

Rough hawkbit: the answer lies in the soil



I think it is very easy to get dismissive, jump to a conclusion and move on when you see a flower. I know I do it, I try not to but I still do. With rough hawkbit (Leontodon hispidus) it is so easy to just dismiss it as a dandelion when, in reality, in the right environment it can be far more numerous than dandelions will be in their preferred environment.
Rough hawkbit and dandelions are closely related, they are both of the Leontodon genera, sub-species of the daisy family. They both have that classic yellow dandelion flower which turns in to a fluffy 'clock'. They both have a basal rosette of leaves which are toothed (dandelion - dent de lion - lion's teeth). However, there are differences if you look. Rough hawkbit has a hairy stem, the dandelion smooth. Rough hawkbit has a green stem, the dandelion often tinged purple or brown. Rough hawkbit has a smaller and much tidier flower as dandelions tend to have untidy sepals that turn down under the flower. There are other small differences too if you have a book with you to help you identify the two of them. 
Now here is the key for me, the answer lies in the soil! It is not possible to look at every low growing yellow-rayed flower to see if it is a dandelion or rough hawkbit. If you are on chalk or limestone grassland then expect rough hawkbit, if you are on heavier, more fertile soil (like my lawn) then think dandelion. I think I am right in saying that you are unlikely to find the two together so once you have identified one, the masses of others nearby will almost certainly be the same. 
Rough hawkbit: the answer lies in the soil

09 March, 2017

Graphocehala fenndui: the rhododendron leafhopper



The rhododendron leafhopper (Graphocehala fenndui) is described in my text book as having been introduced to Britain in the early 1900's from the United States. It does not expand on this statement so it is unclear whether it was an intentional or accidental introduction. One source on the internet says the first record was from Chobham in Surrey in 1934 so it appears that the bug found its own way here on imported rhododendrons for garden planting. 
It is a large species for a leafhopper but still a pretty small insect being less than half an inch in length. It is primarily green with red streaks and in the United States it is known as the scarlet and green leafhopper; it is pretty much unmistakable. It lives exclusively on rhododendron from which it sucks sap from the plant. Often, several will be found together on one leaf.
Although an alien species it is not considered invasive despite having done well here. As swathes of rhododendron are cleared from our countryside so the numbers of this little creature will decline too. It is thought to carry a fungus from one plant to another but between them, the insect and the fungus, they seem to have little impact on controlling rhododendron organically.
Graphocehala fenndui: the rhododendron leafhopper

08 March, 2017

Marsh Ragwort: poisoned lies



I am pretty sure most of us know ragwort when we see it; it is both common and infamous as supposedly being the cause of death of thousands of animals a year! I am, of course, being facetious but I do find some of the unjustified things said about our native flora and fauna rather irksome and feel an inbuilt need to come to their defence. 
If you do know ragwort when you see it, can you tell the difference between common ragwort and marsh ragwort (Senecio aquaticus)? I ask this because in my days leading walks I found a general 'ragwort is ragwort' belief amongst those with me and when I pointed out marsh ragwort there was both surprise that there are different species of ragwort and that, although similar, they are different. Marsh ragwort is much shorter than common ragwort and more branched, common ragwort tends to be an upright plants whereas the branched marsh ragwort is somewhat more disparate. Whilst the individual flowers are similar they form a much looser cluster on marsh ragwort than the much tighter cluster on the common ragwort. Marsh ragwort has a reddish stem and the leaves are a darker green than its cousin so there are plenty of differences. If you are still in doubt then common ragwort grows in dry conditions whilst marsh ragwort likes damp meadows and grassy places.
The question of toxicity is complex one and as I am not a chemist I am not going to comment but it seems marsh ragwort has similar chemical properties to common ragwort but, in general it, goats and pigs eat it with no ill effects, cows find it distasteful and horses and sheep refuse to touch it. On the other hand rabbits are fond of it, birds eat the seeds (and you can buy the seeds to feed to caged birds) and, of course, insects love it, especially the caterpillars of some moths which not only take pollen but eat the leaves. Studies show that a horse or a cow would need to eat 7% of their own body weight in ragwort before it would damage them. The case for the defence rests!
Marsh Ragwort: poisoned lies

07 March, 2017

Pelvetia canaliculata: the channelled wrack



Whilst bladder wrack is the best known of the wrack seaweeds the one most often seen is actually the channelled wrack (Pelvetia canaliculata). Growing freely near the high water line it is adapted to withstand long periods of exposure to the air without drying out. The weed that is out of the water the longest is usually blacker than the paler colour of that which is covered for longer. It does not have bladders for flotation as it rarely needs to float.  It may appear to have bladders at the ends of its fronds but the swellings are not full of air, they contain a jelly substance and are the fruiting body of the seaweed.
Channelled wrack grows in large masses and can be seen on sea walls, quays and piers as well as the upper reaches of rocky shorelines but each plant only grows to about 18 inches long due to the amount of time it is our of water. It is common around British shores and Dorset is no exception to that. In Scotland it has been used as cattle fodder but I was surprised to read on the 'justaseaweed' website that this is considered to be a super healthy food and by far our most popular sea vegetable. It apparently looks fantastic on a plate and is very quick to prepare needing only a few seconds of boiling. The culinary possibilities of this seaweed are limitless. I am sure they are right but as they are selling it I might try it with a pinch of salt!
Pelvetia canaliculata: the channelled wrack

06 March, 2017

Common Figwort: skin deep



Figworts are the prime members of the family scrophulariaceae which also includes toadflaxes, better known perhaps as snap-dragons! This relationship to snap-dragons gives a clue as the flowers you will find on figworts which bear a family resemblance.
There are five figworts in my field guide but only two would you expect to encounter in Dorset, water figwort and the common figwort (Scrophularia nodosa). As you would expect from the name the water figwort occurs in damp places such as ditches, stream sides and damp meadows so if you find a figwort in woodlands, hedgerows and shady dry places then it is going to be common figwort, easy really. Far more common than water figwort, common figwort is a tall plant growing to at least a metre tall on a strong, square, hairless stem which branches at the top and each branch bears a small, brownish-purple flower. It has quite large, pointed leaves with a serrated edge. It flowers from May until August and in the autumn the rounded seed heads are very visible.
Figwort has a bitter, unpleasant taste but it contains many chemicals and has long been used for medicinal purposes and it is considered, even today, as a cleansing and detoxification agent and is used externally to treat skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis and haemorrhoids. A jolly useful plant to have around! 
Common Figwort: skin deep

05 March, 2017

Crepidula fornicata: slipper limpet





I learn a lot by doing my nature notes and knowing virtually nothing about sea shells and the creatures that live in them this particular area has been an eye opener! This particular shell is one often found on Studland beach but I had no idea what it is (was?).
As far as I can establish, based in the shelf that seems to cover the open section, this is the slipper limpet (Crepidula fornicata). It is an invasive species that came to our shores in the nineteenth century and has become abundant around the south, west and east coast of England. It is prolific and can form large reefs of shells, usually beyond the tidal zone and so are constantly under water. They grow in towers with the females at the bottom of the tower and the males at the top with those in between progressively becoming less female and more male as they go up the tower. It is a complex and strange process which, even having read about it, I cannot understand nor explain so if you are interest you will need to look it up in a book or on the internet!
It is an edible shell fish and is described as being different in taste to most other shellfish. It is considered 'versatile' and can be used as a meal on its own, as an appetiser when used in small quantities or it can be combined with other foods to make a mixed meal.



Crepidula fornicata: slipper limpet

04 March, 2017

Field Rose the trailing rose



Given that the common dog-rose can often occur in white it would be wrong to say the the easiest way to identify the field rose (Rosa arvensis) is to look for a white wild rose! Quite often white roses in the countryside will be field rose and it is a good start but it is not enough on its own to be sure.
When in flower the recognised botanical way of separating them is to look at the centre of the flower amongst the orange stamens and there is a column longer than the stamens (this is the style) then it is field rose. Less scientific methods can be used, however, as, whilst similar, they are not the same! The field rose tends to be a low, sprawling bush growing to little more than three feet tall as it has quite weak stems and this leads to its other common name, the trailing rose. The dog-rose, on the other hand, is a much stronger plant that produces long, prickly runners. At a closer level the leaves of field rose are  a dull green where are dog-rose is a much stronger dark green on the top and a greyish green below. Field rose is also less prickly than the dog rose.There are many other small differences if you feel inclined to examine the two species with a good book at your side.
Whilst both occur in hedgerows the dog-rose is the better climber. Both can also be found in woodland or scrub habitats. 
Field Rose the trailing rose

03 March, 2017

Fucus spiralis: the spiral wrack



No one who has been to the seaside can have failed to see well the known bladder wrack seaweed which is very common around the shores of Britain but there are actually five species of wrack seaweeds and, whilst bladder wrack is the most common, it is often the spiral wrack (Fucus spiralis) that one is more likely to see.
Bladder wrack gets its name from the air filled bladders that form on its fronds and one might think that spiral wrack has bladders too at the ends of its fronds but it has not. What apppear to be bladders at the tips of the fronds are, in fact, the fruiting bodies which are full of a jelly-like substance not air. 
Each of the wracks has a tendency to grow in different habitats, some grow in the upper tidal reaches and so are dry for much of the time, others like the lower levels and to be covered in water most of the time and the bladder wrack grows midway between the two and needs the air bladders for flotation being under water for much of the time. Sprial wrack, however, grows at the high water level, is covered less frequently than bladder wrack and so has no need for the bladders.
Fucus spiralis: the spiral wrack

02 March, 2017

Common Centaury: man nor beast



One of the flowers you have to be able to recognise if you are in Dorset and have an interest in such things is the common centaury (Centaurium erythraea). It is frequently encountered both on calcareous soils and on acid too. You can find it on the grassy downs at places like Durlston and you can encounter it on the heaths, often by paths where the soil is sell worn and the vegetation is thin; it seems to like sandy, dry soils.
An attractive plant, it recalls gentian when you see it at first and it is indeed a member of a sub-order of the gentian family. The flowers are pure pink (occasionally white)and grow in small clusters of three or so at the top of each branch of the stem. Generally not growing very tall it can actually be only a couple of inches tall but is usually between six to ten inches, rarely bigger. The small leaves are in pairs at the junction of each stem branch. 
There are six centaury species in my guide but two perennial do not occur in Dorset and another is yellow! Slender centaury only occurs on the under cliff near Lyme Regis and so you really only have a choice of two here. The only other possible centaury you could confuse it with is lesser centuary which has flowers that are deeper red, have more pointed petals and are smaller. The also occur on longer stalks making the flower head more open or fragmented. Lesser centuary is also quite rare here.
The origin of the name is unclear. The centaur was a mythical Greek creature which had a horse body but a mans upper body in place of a horse's neck and head, it was neither man nor beast. This plant bears no resemblance to that!

Common Centaury: man nor beast

01 March, 2017

Buccinum undatum: the common whelk



The spiral shell of the common whelk (Buccinum undatum) is probably familiar to most of us as it can be found washed up on beaches and rocky shore lines anywhere around the British coastline. It is an important commercial species being a popular shell fish food but populations have declined dramatically since the 1970's and this is believed to be entirely due to over harvesting.
The whelk is also well known for its egg cases which can also be found on beaches; they look like polystyrene packaging!  Many of will have seen this on the strand line of beaches but perhaps not realised that it is a natural substance and not man-made.The whelk lays eggs in masses of these cells during the winter but many perish. The empty cases found on our beaches are called wash balls.
Not only is the whelk captured for food but it also because it produces a purple dye which has been used to dye material.  
Buccinum undatum: the common whelk

28 February, 2017

Wild Parsnip: good news bad news



It, like me, you struggle to tell one umbel flower from another then you will be relieved to find one that is quite unmistakable; The good news is that whilst the bulk of the umbels (or carrot) family are white the wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is yellow. The bad news is that there are a couple of other yellow carrot family members too. That, though, should not be a major issue and a cause for confusion.
Wild parsnip is a bit like a yellow hogweed with a dense cluster of flowers. Whilst the cluster is formed of flowers from several small stems spreading out they form a relatively consistent or .condensed' flower head. There is space between the clusters but not a lot when compared to the two possible other yellow species, fennel and pepper-saxifrage. In these two other species each stem is some what dispersed from its neighbour giving a very different look to the flower than that of wild parsnip. There are other difference too, of course, but unless you are really keen there is not need to look any further. Before someone points out that Alexanders is yellow I would say that it is more green than yellow whereas wild parsnip is a bright, strong yellow.
The wild parsnip flowers from June until September and is a popular plant with pollen feeding insects. It is best left alone though as if you touch it you can develop some rather nasty blisters on your hands.
Wild Parsnip: good news bad news

27 February, 2017

Laminaria digitata: oarweed



Oarweed (Laminaria digitata) probably gets its common name from its shape but given it can form large masses of entangled weed it may have got its name from oarsmen having problems rowing through it with it catching their oars in the water! My reference material is not clear on the subject.
Oarweed certainly resembles a large paddle. It has a long, broad 'blade' up to 4 feet long and a shorter 'handle' about a foot long. The blades are large leathery structures that collapse under their own weight at low tide in to a slimy, slippery blanket on rocks making them perilous to walk across. They form large colonies and provide shelter for many other underwater creatures and plants.
Common around rocky coasts and not uncommon in Dorset.
Laminaria digitata: oarweed

26 February, 2017

Wild Clary: salad days



As with many of the wild varieties of the garden cultivated culinary herbs, wild clary (Salvia verbenaca) is a member of the labiate family; a family that includes mint, marjoram, thyme, basil and others. Otherwise known as the deadnettle family, it has a number of species of wild herb or flower with common characteristics including tubular flowers, hairy and square stems and pointed, serrated edged leaves.
Wild clary is the most common of the clary species you may find in the wild,  my field guide lists six of them but four are clearly escaped cultivars. Wild clary and the rare meadow clary are the only natives ones. Meadow clary is unlikely to be found in Dorset so wild clary is the only one we need to consider. It grows to about two feet tall, produces several stems and each four or five has whorls of  purple/blue tubular flowers. The flowers can be seen from June until September and later in this season some seed heads will be seen as well as active flowers. It can be found in bare patches amongst the grassy areas on lime soils, often near the coast.
The scented flowers are popular with bees and, as well as being used as cooking herb the leaves used to be popular in salads. it has medicinal properties and is considered good for stomach disorders although Culpepper suggests uses of it for a whole catalogue of complaints.
Wild Clary: salad days

25 February, 2017

Ostrea edulis: the native oyster



Once abundant around our shores human harvesting of the native oyster (Ostrea edulis) means it no longer is so. Nevertheless, if you do a spot of beach combing for shells om beaches where where the sea floor is flat and soft, sandy or muddy, you can find them.
The native oyster is much smaller than the Pacific oyster which was introduced and cultivated for human consumption back in the 1920's. The native oyster rarely grows above four inches across and is also rounder and flatter than its distant cousin. It has a slate grey colouring with blue or brown highlights. 
The native oyster has a different flavour to the Pacific oyster and is considered excellent eating by those who know about these things but their decline and their rather small size means that the Pacific oyster now accounts for over three quarters of our consumption.
Ostrea edulis: the native oyster

24 February, 2017

Ladys Bedstraw: lie back and relax



The lady's bedsrtaw (Galium verum) is the only member of the bedstraw family which is yellow and, therefore, should be easily recognised. Most bedstraws are white, some are pink or purple and crosswort is green but none are bright golden yellow like this one.
A plant that is common on grassland, especially on lime soils, it is a sprawling, medium sized plant. My book suggests it can grow to a metre tall but I have never seen it that size, usually a foot or so at the most. It flowers from June until September and the yellow spikes are a mass of smaller four petalled flowers. The leaves occur in whorls around the stem at the point the stem branch to form flower heads. The leaves smell of new mown hay and once a upon a time the plant was used to stuff mattresses and the smell of the leaves was supposed to enhance sleep and repel fleas! Naturally, this is how it came by its name.  This is another interesting fact from Wikipedia; lady's bedstraw was used as a sedative and considered effective in reducing pain during childbirth and another reason for its name.
Red and yellow dyes can be extracted from this plant and, in Gloucestershire it was used to colour their cheese.
Ladys Bedstraw: lie back and relax

23 February, 2017

Halidrys siliquosa: the sea oak



Sea oak (Halidrys siliquosa) is common around the coast of the British Isles, usually covered by sea water and only seen at very low spring tides. However, remnants do wash up on the beach and can be from along the strand line from time to time, just like this piece.
Sea oak grows in big bushy structures up to a metre in length and is made up of constantly alternately branch strands. It is not as 'fleshy' as many seaweeds but it does have lance shaped bladders at the tips of each frond to aid buoyancy in the water. The speed of growth and the size it grows to is generally governed by the amount of sunlight it gets.
Extracts of this sea weed are used in skin conditioners and it is semi-cultivated for this purpose
Halidrys siliquosa: the sea oak

22 February, 2017

Common Valerian: let us sleep on it



There is something slightly odd about this rather lovely plant, the common valerian (Valeriana officinalis). According to my field guide it can be found on dry grassland and in damp woods. Maybe I am reading that wrongly but it seems the two habitats are as different as you can find; dry opposed to damp and grassland as opposed to woodland. Looking at the places it occurs it does seem to be that I have found it in both situations so there must be some basis to it but it still seems odd!
Common valerian is a tall, erect plant growing to as high as six feet in favourable conditions. The flower head is a loose cluster of individual five petalled flowers that start in bud as dark pink but become a much paler shade when open. The sweet scented flowers are at their best in July but can be found in June and August too.
Whilst not common it is far from scarce but it is one of those flower that is always a joy to find; a little bit special perhaps.
Apart from its uses in perfumery the roots are rich in chemicals and have various medicinal uses. It was once thought to be a cure for insomnia but there is, apparently little evidence to support that!
Common Valerian: let us sleep on it

21 February, 2017

Cerastoderma edule: the common cockle



I suppose, thanks to Molly Malone wandering through the street of Dublin selling them, that cockles and mussels are are best known shell fish. They are also the most common. A walk along Studland beach will reveal the familiar empty shells that have washed up from the sandy bay; they are the only ones with growth rings running along the shell rather than in concentric circles.
The common cockle (Cerastoderma edule) was once very common in sandy bays and estuary mud flats but are less so now due to over predation  by human beings who, strangely in my view, seem to like to eat them I tried them once and thought they were made of rubber soaked in salt and vinegar. That said I have memories of childhood holidays with my uncle, who lived in Scotland, where we would go cockle digging, shell them and hen use them as fishing bait - we seemed to have fsh for dinner every night.
Cockles can bury themselves in the sand at low tide but only down about six inches. When the tide is in and they are on the top of the sand to feed they can, apparently, jump to avoid predators; not a lot of people know that! 
Cerastoderma edule: the common cockle

20 February, 2017

Round-leaved Cranesbill: to round it all off



Members of the geranium family, cranesbills get their name from the long pointed seed box that recalls the bill of the long-legged and long-billed bird, the crane. My field guide lists sixteen species of cranesbill and a further four of the similar storksbills and that presents quite a choice to the new botanist. As always in these situations the task is never quite as daunting as it might seem as not all occur in Dorset and some are quite rare and unlikely to be encountered without a specific search for them
The round-leaved cranesbill (Geranium rotundifolium) does not occur across all of the United Kingdom but it does occur frequently in Dorset. It is quite common on hedge banks and in other grassy places where the grass is not too dominant and allows flowers to come through. The clue to identification does lie in the common name; it is round leaved. The leaf is not actually truly round, it is lobed having five separate lobes joined for about half way along the edge of each so the leaves are 'roundish!'. However, amongst cranesbills this leaf formation is unique, most are serrated or, at least, lobed but not joined. The nearest similar species would be the hedgerow cranesbill but this is a much bigger plant with bluer flowers, has seven leaf lobes and is quite downy.
Geraniums are popular garden plants and the round-leaved cranesbill is one of those that adorn cottage gardens. As a result, you may encounter it as a garden escape in other locations than its preferred habitat and it does seem to be spreading its range.
Round-leaved Cranesbill: to round it all off

19 February, 2017

Chorda filum: bootlace seaweed



The bootlace (Chorda filum) is very distinctive because, yes, it looks like bootlaces! The long thin strands. slimy to the touch, are unlike any other seaweed species. Seen washed up on the strand line on sandy beaches is fine but sadly most of us will never see bootlace at its best. For that you need to go snorkelling, something I have never done and will never do now.
Bootlace grows in clusters along the lower shore and down to about five metres and when afloat in water the strands, which can grow up to an amazing twenty five feet long, stretch out in masses along the flow of the tide. It is, apparently, quite a sight and bootlace has earned the name of mermaid's tresses although it is also known as dead men's ropes!
It grows well during the summer months and then in autumn it starts to break down and this is the best time to see it on the shore. By winter it has totally gone and will start the cycle again the following spring.
Chorda filum: bootlace seaweed

17 February, 2017

Mugwort: the natural insect repelent



It seems to me that mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is one of those plants never seems to flower because when it does flower its flower does not really look like we think a flower should look! I do not know whether that makes sense but I know what I mean ...
Mugwort is a member of the daisy family but daisy is not what you think of when you see it. The plant is a bit untidy and grows to between four and five feet tall wither several stems coming from the same root and each stem has several flower spikes coming from it at the top. Before the flowers open they are creamy white buds; when open the are a yellowish drown and then when they have gone over they are a darker brown. There is little or no colour at all which is unusual for daisies., Each flower within a flower spike is quite small, a bit like groundsel when seen close up, and is hardly a striking flower that you want to pick ans put in a vase! The flower spikes appear from July though until September and are faintly aromatic. The leaves are dark green and smooth on top and white and hairy underneath and the stems are generally tinged with red.
Mugwort grows in quite large patches on roadsides and on waste ground and is quite common in Dorset. Why mugwort? It was once known as midgewort as it supposedly repelled midges and over time midgewort became mugwort.
Mugwort: the natural insect repelent

16 February, 2017

Ensis ensis: the razor clam



If you go beach combing surely one of the most obvious and easily identified shells you may come across is the razor clam (Ensis ensis).  Looking a bit like a 'cut throat' razor it is not hard to see how it got its common name! There are two similar, but less common, species.
Able to bury itself deep into the sand or silt for protection it is more likely to be found on sandy beaches than rock shorelines and it is quite common right around the British Isles but in Dorset Studland beach is the best place to find it. When disturbed at low tide, even by the vibration of approaching feet, it is a very effective burrower and so is rarely seen alive unless one goes digging for it, you are most likely to encounter the empty shell on the sand of the beach at low tide. As it burrows it ejects a spout of water and leaves a distinctive keyhole shape in the sand which is a it of a give away to its presence! If it is seeking to hide from danger leaving a trademark indicator is not really such a good idea.
There are various recipes for cooking razor clams on the Internet so they are obviousness edible so if you have a liking for shell fish go looking for those keyhole shapes in the sand at low tide. You will have to dig deep, they can burrow to to half a metre deep.
Ensis ensis: the razor clam

15 February, 2017

Water Avens: cure all



Water avens (Geum rivale) is another one of those flowers that are members of the rose family but when you first see it you probably not make the connection. As you look closer so the characteristics of the rose group of plants become more apparent.
First of all, we associate roses as being woody, shrubby plants whereas water avens is far from that. It is a small vascular plant growing to about a foot tall, occasionally  in favourable conditions a bit higher.  It has a soft, flexible stem, this is reddish in colour and downy but, unlike rose shrubs it has no thorns. Each plant has multiple stems and each divides with each then producing a flower which is a characteristic of roses. The flowers bend the stem over and they appear to be bells; when you look at the bell closely you will find the five petals that roses feature. Further down the stem the leaves are trefoil, come to a pint and have a serrated edge, again recalling roses. 
Water avens can be found in damp, shady places, often in woodlands, in marshes and by streams. They flower from April through until September and we have a lovely bunch by our garden pond. In general I have not found this to be particularly common in Dorset. It can hybridise with wood avens, the result being a flower not very much like either! It appears the name 'avens' may be of Anglo-Saxon origin so this flower has been around for some time!
Wikipedia gives a series of other names for this plant including cure-all and yet gives no information about its medical properties or benefits. I guess if it cures all that is enough said, it cures all!
Water Avens: cure all

14 February, 2017

Ulva lactuca: the sea lettuce



The sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca) can be found all around the British Isles and can be seen on all kinds of shore lines from sandy beaches to rock cliffs, from shallows to deep water. Most frequently it will be seen as fragments washed up on the tide strand line. It grows in large in large drifting forests.
The sea lettuce has broad but very thin 'leaves' which are bright green, the stipe which attached it to its footing is very short. If thoroughly cleaned sea lettuce can be eaten raw just like lettuce you might grow in your garden or buy in the supermarket but, of course, it is not related. It was just named sea lettuce because it is green and edible. It can be cooked and used to make soup, or can be served boiled with fish or meat. In some areas of the world it is harvested and used as a crop fertiliser. A versatile plant to have around even if you rarely see it!

13 February, 2017

Birdsfoot Clover: a parking find



This is a flower I never new existed until I bought a book of wildlife walks in Dorset which describes several walks and provides a species list for each. Looking at the walk at Abbotsbury I saw, along with four other species I had never seen, the birdsfoot clover (Trifolium ornithopodiodes). Not surprisingly, perhaps, at the first opportunity I was there looking for it!
Birdsfoot clover is a low, prostrate plant sprawling across the ground; It likes dry, bare, sandy places that are wet in winter yet parched in summer. Usually found near the sea, mainly along the southern coasts of England and in to Wales, it has a particular fondness for car parking areas (obviously not tar-maced ones!). I do not think it is common anywhere. There are two forms, white and pink, and my specimen was going over when I found it but I think it was probably the white variant. It flowers in June and July and then goes to seed with the seed heads vaguely resembling bird's feet so hence the name. It is also known as fenugreek.
The leaves are edible but you would need a lot of hem to make a meal! It does not seem to be of particular interest as a herbal remedy for anything.
Birdsfoot Clover: a parking find

12 February, 2017

Mytilus edulis: the common mussel



Whilst some people love a bowl of moules mariniere I have to say I am not keen! I prefer to see the common mussel (Mytilus edulis) in its natural environment on our coasts and sea shores. We plunder our seas enough for things to eat and it is taking its toll on the natural underwater world.
The common mussel is indeed common, in fact, it can be abundant in places. They grow mainly on rocks where they can attach themselves firmly but also grow on larger stone in more sandy and muddy situations. They can be seen on the inter tidal zone being able to close up and await the returning water when the tide turns. They also grow under the low water mark as well. Whilst we are probably all familiar with the mussel shell we may not have noticed that colour can vary from grey to dark blue to even purple; sometimes all on one shell. 
I was interested to read in my RSPB Handbook of the Seashore that mussels spawn in both spring and in the autumn producing free swimming larvae which then settle after a couple of months where they start to grow their shells. 
Mytilus edulis: the common mussel

11 February, 2017

Wild Basil: just what the doctor ordered



When you look at the packets of herbs on a supermarket shelf and see mint, parsley, thyme, marjoram, basil and others it is easy to forget that these herbs grow in our own countryside. Not always the cultivated varieties of course but none the less related and often the source of the cultivated strain. So it is with wild basil (Clinopodium vulgare).
As with many of these herbs basil is a member of the labiate family, otherwise known as deadnettles; it is part of a sub-family of calamints. They generally have trumpet shaped flowers, in the case of wild basil this is purple-pink, square stems and downy, veined, oval, opposite pairs of leaves with a serrated edge. Wild basil grows to about a foot tall although in favourable conditions it can grow taller and flowers from July to September in dry grassy places; usually on lime or chalk. 
As with many of its relatives, in addition to its culinary value it is considered a herbal remedy for a number of conditions stimulating the heart to healing wounds to reducing flatulence. A tea made from the leaves is both tasty and, it seems, a cure for many ills. Just what the doctor ordered!
Wild Basil: just what the doctor ordered

10 February, 2017

Callophyllis laciniata: fan weed



We can all look at the surface of the sea and be amazed by the blue, silver, white and other colours as the waves pulse through it and the sun and sky reflects on it but not many of ever get to see the beauty that exists below the surface. The best most of us can hope for is a glimpse of what lies below from what has been washed ashore and left on the tide strand line. Walk along the sandy beach at Studland and you will find an array of sea shells and sea weeds that give you a glimpse of what like is like in the water.
Amongst the sea weeds you will find this delicately coloured sea weed, fan weed (Callophyllis laciniata). In the water it varies in colour from bright pink to dark red and even brown. In the air those dominant colour fade into more subtle shades. On the beach it displays an iridescent colouring that is not seen under water. Fan weed grows attached to other sea weeds, such as kelp, and often you will find it with its host on the beach. It is not parasitic, it just seems to find it easier to anchor itself by a thin thread to other weeds that try to find a foothold in the sand or on rock. It is common all round the British Isles in clear water to about 30 metres deep.
Callophyllis laciniata: fan weed

09 February, 2017

Yellow Vetchling: the yellow flowered pea



Whilst immediately identifiable as a member of the pea family there is some thing very different about the yellow vetchling (Lathyrus aphaca) compared to other peas. The visual difference is, technically quite complicated!
I have to depend on my book here for an explanation. Whilst the yellow flower retains the characteristic appearance of a pea the leaves have become tendrils for supporting the plant and the stipules (the branches that lead to the leaves) have become broad, triangular pseudo-leaves. What appear to be leaves do not resemble those of a pea flower leaf at all; they are harder and seem waxy and the triangular shape is not in keeping with its cousins. Whist unusual features this does make the plant easily recognisable. Yellow vetchling flowers from June until August and is found in dry grassy places on limestone or chalk; in my experience this seems to usually be by the sea.
Although a pea the peas from the pod are best left alone. Although safe to eat in small quantities when young when they turn brown they become hazardous and can affect the nervous system if eaten in large quantities.
Yellow Vetchling: the yellow flowered pea

07 February, 2017

Angulus tenuis: thin tellin



I had seen these shells on Studland beach for years and thought they were just cockle shells until one day I was browsing the books in the National Trust shop and found a copy of the RSPB Handbook of the Seashore. Next time I went walking along the beach I took more notice, or more to the point I took some photographs, and soon discovered that these small, smooth shells are all that remains of a bi-valve creature, thin tellin (Angulus tenuis).
Thin tellin shells are about an inch across and can be quite colourful in delicate shades of pink and orange but sadly this one had obviously been on the beach for sometime and lost its colouring. It is a smooth shell that has concentric rings and it the colouring comes in bands in line with the rings.
At sea the animal lives just under the surface of the sand where it partly emerges to siphon sea water for microscopic food when the tide is in and then it hides away when he tide goes out and uncovers it. It can live for up to en years if not predated.
Angulus tenuis: thin tellin

06 February, 2017

White Water-lily: padded up





I think I am right in saying that there are no native British species of white water-lilies (Nymphaea agg). Imported for water gardens in past times they have established themselves in ponds and lakes pretty much everywhere; indeed we have them in our garden pond. There are various species you may encounter, mainly of the family Nymphaea and rather then attempt to write abut all of them I have grouped themselves together which is where the agg. in the scientific name comes from - aggregated.
Although introduced there do seem to good for native wildlife. Hoverflies, dragonflies and damselflies like to bask on the leaves which are also popular with pond skaters who want to haul themselves off of the water surface for some personal grooming. Water snails are frequent on the undersides of the pads and frogs often hide by them whilst cooling off in the heat of the day. I am not sure the flowers are quite so beneficial as the leaves but they do add a touch of glamour!
I believe the species in my photograph is Nymphaea alba which is one of the most common.



White Water-lily: padded up

05 February, 2017

Common Hempnettle: also available in white



Hempnettles are stout, untidy plants with large trumpet, shaped flowers. My reference book shows four species of British hempnettles with the red hempnettle and the large flowered hempnettle not found in Dorset so if you find a hempnettle here you have a choice of two, the bifid hempnettle and the common hempnettle (Galeopsis tetrahit).  The latter two are very similar but the common hempnettle is much more common and found in a wider range of situations.
Common hempnettle can be quite variable. The flowers can be purple, sometimes a paler pink and they even come in white. e white ones are not uncommon and the first time I encountered them in Wareham Forest I was convinced it was a new species for me but after failing to find a white one in my book I then discovered that variations occur in the common! The plantsgrow to about a metre tall and tend to flop over despite their thick stems. The leaves are not dissimilar to the leaves of the stinging nettle but in the case of hempnettle do not give you a nasty surprise. The plant is quite hairy and the flower head is quite prickly, especially when in seed.
Quite often found in damp places in ditches, fens and by streams but they also can be found on heathland and arable land too. They flower from July until September. The plant is poisonous but chemicals can be extracted from it for various medicinal uses.
Common Hempnettle: also available in white

04 February, 2017

Habrosyne pyritoides: the buff arches moth



Most moths tend to be fury or covered in find scales so it is unusual to find one with a smooth, polished finish! The china doll surface of this attractive moth is quite unique to the buff arches (Habrosyne pyritoides). 
A nocturnal species that flies from the Middle of June until the end of August, possibly in to September down here in Dorset where it is thought it can have two broods a year. The food plant of the larvae is bramble and as bramble is widespread and common so too is this moth. It favour open woody and scrub habitats and gardens near these habitats will often also be home to them. The larvae overwinter as a pupae, safe from cold weather.
Some people think moths are dull, boring creatures. If that is you then think again and take a look at this stunning little insect.
Habrosyne pyritoides: the buff arches moth

03 February, 2017

Vervain: the holy herb



Vervain (Verbena officinalis) seems to be something of a paradoxical plant. It can grow to well over two feet tall, it has a sturdy branched stem and whilst not big leaves they are certainly in keeping with the overall stature of the plant and yet on the flowers are really small. The plant has flower spikes on several stems, often two or three inches long, and yet each one will have just two or three small flowers open at any time. A plant this size should several big bold flowers and that is not what you get. The tiny flowers are a pale mauve, possibly lilac is good description, and each flower has five small petals. Surprisingly, although few in number and insignificant in size they stand quite clearly against the drab, dark green of he stems and leaves.
In my experience vervain is not common in Dorset. It likes dry, bare patches amongst otherwise grassy places and has a preference for lime-based soils. It is more common across south eastern England than it is here further west.
Vervain is the sole British member of the verbena family. It has long held associations with healing and has spiritual connections. It was known as the holy herb and legend has it that it was used to treat the wounds of Jesus after he was removed from the cross. The small sparse flowers were said to be the tears of Mary. The plant has been used in herbal medicines for the treatment of infections in wounds.
Vervain: the holy herb

02 February, 2017

Tortula muralis: the wall screw moss



With a name of the wall screw moss (Tortula muralis) it is not hard to work out where you are likely to find this moss; 'screwed' to the top of walls! 
Once a scarce species of limestone and sandstone rocks this species is now far more common in towns and cities than it is in its natural environment. The use of limestone and sandstone as building materials has meant spores have been transmitted with mined rock and quickly take hold in their new environment. Unaffected by pollution and without competition it is very, very common now on brick and stone walls everywhere.
It is not the only species of moss you will find on walls but it grows in small cushions with stalks coming out of it and that, as well as its abundance, makes it easily identified. The other species that form cushions is quite rare and the other common wall mosses do not form cushions so you can be fairly sure that you are right.

01 February, 2017

Hoary Plantain: enough to turn you grey



If you look at the distribution map for hoary plantain (Plantago media) on my main page for it (see link below) you should notice something straight away if you are thinking as a naturalist should! The marker pins for sites where I have seen run along the Dorset coast and then up towards Salisbury; the limestone and chalk ridges of Dorset. Hoary plantain only occurs on calcareous soils and is a sure indicator of alkaline conditions under your feet. That in turn should set you thinking about what other plants you might see.
Plantains are not the most exciting of plants lacking lovely. colourful flowers and foliage. Instead they have a crusty looking flower on a single stem with the leaves forming a rosette at the bottom of the stem almost unnoticed. The hoary plantain does fair better than its cousins in the 'looks' stakes having a largish flower with lots of light grey hairs which makes it look very distinguished! The term hoary means greyish white and so it is quite appropriate to apply it to this plant. This colouring is sufficient to differentiate the hoary plantain from its cousins. It flowers from May until August.
Hoary plantain is edible and has long had medicinal applications with evidence to suggest it was a well used plant even in Roman times in Britain. It has been used to treat wounds and toothache with the seeds being a laxative. How effective it is I have no idea
Hoary Plantain: enough to turn you grey

31 January, 2017

Macrophya duodecimpunctata: a sawfly



As I attempt to write about the 1,500 plus species of animals and plants I have found in Dorset since I started looking in 2007 I occasionally come across a species about which it is almost impossible to say anything and I just do not no where to start, That is where I find myself with this sawfly, Macrophya duodecimpunctata.
I suppose, for a start, we do know it is a sawfly which means it is related to bees, wasps and ants in the family Hymenoptera. Sawflies are so named because the females have an ovipositor adapted for sawing into the stem of a chosen host plant in which to lay her eggs. In this case the host plant is usually a sedge and therefore the favoured habitat is marsh and I found this one along the marshy shores of Poole Harbour at the Eastern end by Holton Lee. It is in flight as an adult from May to July. The National Biodiversity Network distribution map shows a sketchy distribution with most records from coastal areas and records from Dorset seem quite sparse. Elsewhere on the Internet however it is described as locally common in southern England and then, on another website, it is considered uncommon!
To look at is about 6 inches long and the female has a primarily black body but has two clear yellow spots, one on the back of the thorax and the other at the base of the abdomen; duo being two and punctata meaning spots. Where the decim, presumably ten comes from I cannot work out. The antennae have yellow bands. That is it, I can find nothing else!
Macrophya duodecimpunctata: a sawfly

30 January, 2017

Salad Burnet: one for the pot



When I first started taking an interest in plants it took me a while to make the connection between habitat and vegetation. Looking back I find that quite strange as I readily accepted that I would find robins in gardens, nuthatches in woodland and redshank on mudflats. If birds have favoured habitat then why not plants? Now when I walk on to chalk grassland I expect to see certain species and salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor) is certainly one of them.
The burnets are members of the rose family but do not look much like the roses in your garden. The flowers are rounded with little sign of petals, they are quite nondescript really. It is when you look at the leaves you see some similarity with roses in general. The plant itself is quite bushy but rarely grows to two feet tall. It may not look much but at least it is distinctive and easily recognised once you know it.
Why does the common name include salad? The answer is quite obvious, it was once used in salads it having a mild cucumber taste. It was also widely used as a culinary herb in place of mint. Medicinally it was made into a tea and used to cure diarrhea! One for the pot?
Salad Burnet: one for the pot

28 January, 2017

Ceratodon purpureus: the fire moss



The definitive guide to British Mosses and Liverworts is by E V Watson and I have had my copy sines the 1980's; it is essential bed time reading for insomniacs! It is a text book containing incredible detail on what must be a thousand moss species and is a quite remarkable book on a subject that not too many books get written about.
Mr Watson says that this species, the redshank moss (Ceratodon purpureus), is one of the two most common species of moss in the British Isles, the other being hypnum cupressiforme. Is is, however, a very variable moss and can easily confuse the beginner ... all mosses confuse the beginner in my opinion. All is not lost for us mortals starting out looking at mosses though as this particular species likes bare ground, especially burnt ground on heaths. We have lots of heath in south eastern Dorset and bare patches where conservation work has involved burning heaps of cut gorse or rhododendron means that you can encounter suitable habitat with this moss on it quite frequently. It is widespread and also grows on walls and pavements and is one of the most common mosses found in towns and cities being totally unaffected by pollution.
As its scientific name purpureus implies this plant has a reddish or even purple colouring to it.   
Ceratodon purpureus: the fire moss

27 January, 2017

Zigzag Clover: round the bend



An odd name for a flower perhaps but an appropriate one. Zigzag clover (Trifolium medium) gets its name from the stem which goes one way to a leaf joint, then turns and heads off in another direction to the next leaf joint and so on, the stem grows in a zigzag.
The flower head itself is not unlike red clover but that said it is quite easily distinguishable. The zigzag-clover is a darker pink and the individual florets are more open and spreading without white marks; it is quite obvious when you see it. Unlike red clover which has a reddish stem, zigzag has a pale green stem and pale green leaves, the higher leaves being a little darker than those below. It often grows in large 'clusters' whilst red clover often covers a large area but each plant is separate.
Once quite common in pastures in the British Isles it is now far less so due to habitat loss. It likes heavy clay soils and so it is not particularly common in Dorset.
Zigzag Clover: round the bend

26 January, 2017

Pseudoterpna pruinata: the grass emerald moth



The caterpillars of the grass emerald (Pseudoterpna pruinata) feed on gorse, broom and petty whin and so your best chance of seeing it in Dorset is on the extensive heathland areas. Given its food plant and likely habitat calling it the grass emerald seems a little strange!
This is a pretty, delicate moth that is a delightful shade of pale green when newly emerged, hence the name emerald, but the green fades as it ages and can become grey over time which might make identification harder unless you good a good look at it. It is considered a common day flying species but it tends to rest during the day and unless flushed, when it will then make a short flight to another plant and rest again, it may well be overlooked. Indeed, despite spending many hours on heathland I have only encountered it once in exactly the circumstances described above.
The adult is on the wing from late June through until August and the small green and pink caterpillar emerges in late July onwards. It is somewhat unusual in that the caterpillar hibernates during the winter.

Pseudoterpna pruinata: the grass emerald moth

24 January, 2017

Water Figwort: the shoreline figwort



The figworts are quite unusual looking flowers that really stand out from the rest and are quite unmistakable once you recognise them. Realistically, you are only going to encounter common figwort and water figwort (Scrophularia auriculata) in Dorset and if you cannot tell the flowers apart the habitat is usually enough to help you. Water figwort is usually found in wet places, stream sides, ditches, pond edges and so on whereas common figwort prefers drier conditions in shade so is more likely to be found in woodland and shaded hedgerows.
Water figwort grows to about four feet tall. It is a robust plant with the flowers appearing at the top of the stout, square stem (which is usually a reddish brown colour). The dark reddish brown flowers can be seen from June through until September.
Strangely, this is also known as the shoreline figwort which implies salt water but this is very much  fresh water plant.
Water Figwort: the shoreline figwort

23 January, 2017

Eilema depressa: the buff footman



The footman moths have quite a distinctive rounded shape to the end of their wings and that helps when homing in on an identification. There are several footman species so it is good to have a starting point when trying to narrow down to the one you are looking for. 
The buff footman (Eilema depressa) is typical of the range, with the rounded wings, and it is generally a buff colour so that is it, job done! I say generally buff coloured but caution is needed because it can vary from a pale grey through to a darker, almost slate grey colour. The variations are apparently more frequent in the larger females. The buff or straw colour is the most common however.
This is a nocturnal species flying in a single brood in July and August and sometimes into September if the conditions are favourable. It is very much a species of mature woodlands as the larvae feed on lichens and algae that occur on mature trees. That said, it is quite a common and widely distributed species so they do turn up in gardens.
Eilema depressa: the buff footman

22 January, 2017

Anabolia nervosa: the brown sedge caddis fly

There are several species of insect that spend most of their life in water as a larvae before climbing in to the open air, pupating and then emerging as a flying adult with the sole purpose of mating and then dying when their part of that process is complete. Dragonflies and damselflies are probably the best known examples along with mayflies of course but caddis flies do this too. Caddis flies are insects of fresh water rivers and are best known for the habit the larvae have of coating themselves with sand grains to protect them from predation.
There are about ten species of caddis fly and this one is the brown sedge caddis (Anabolia nervosa). The adult has wings about half an inch long and are quite a small insect. Like mayflies large numbers tend to hatch at the same time and so finding them is not difficult as one tends to encounter a swarm of them. Most numerous in August and September, widely distributed in or rivers and not uncommon.
Anabolia nervosa: the brown sedge caddis fly

21 January, 2017

Marsh Mallow: sugar and spice



What does marsh mallow mean to you? Is is surely a soft, spongy, sticky, sickly piece of confectionery., I remember the dome shaped, chocolate covered ones wrapped in silver paper I used to have in my lunch box back in my school days. You can still buy them but I think they are known as tea cakes these days.
Actually a marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis) is a plant of the malvaceae family, the mallows. It has large pale mauve or pink flowers in July and August and the main plant itself can grow to to nearly five feet tall with a strong central stem to bear the weight and support the multiple flowers. The stems and leaves are a velvety grey colour which helps to make the plant quite distinctive, No longer a common plant, it is found in damp places, usually near the sea.
So is there a connection between marsh mallow and marsh mallow; the confection and the plant? I was surprised to learn that a sweet, sugary spice can be obtained from the roots of the plant and that this was the basis for the confection until around 1950 when someone came up with today's alternative. Originally the marsh mallow substance made from the plant was used as a traditional medicine for coughs and sore throats.
Marsh Mallow: sugar and spice

20 January, 2017

Acronicta leporina: the miller



People with the name Miller are usually given the nickname of dusty, a throwback to the days when each town, and even village, would have had their own flour mill powered by water or wind. Naturally, the chap who tended the mill would get covered in a fine white/grey powder from the milling process. One look at this moth, then, and it is not hard to see how it became known as the miller (Acronicta leporina). The miller is predominantly has a greyish white colouring with occasional black marks on the forewings. It has a slightly furry head to compound the connection with milling as it looks as if the covering on the head could well be flour! The underwings are shining white.
Flying from late May until early August this is a nocturnal species which you may discover at rest by day. The one I discovered had found a white background to rest on to try and hide itself from potential predators. A widespread species found in a variety of scrubby habitats which would readily include a garden with lots of shrubs although they are generally associated with birch and alder. The larvae overwinter as a pupae ready to emerge in spring.
Acronicta leporina: the miller

19 January, 2017

Glasswort: the salt in the wounds



It seems to me that although glassort (Salicornia dolichostachya) is a very simple name it reflects what must be quite a complex story.  It is certainly a simple plant, basically just a green plant with no apparent flower, upright and branched, a bit like a small cactus I suppose. It starts green in May then turns yellowish before reaching reddish brown by September. It is plant found solely on saltmarsh and is very common at the western end of Poole harbour and it also occurs on tidal mudflats elsewhere in the county.
I cannot find much else to say about the plant itself other than it has a salty taste (from the sea water of course) and is used in salads in posh restaurants around here. In hope of more I turn to the Internet and, sure enough, there is stacks of information about this plant and its relatives. Its resistance to salinisation is being studied in some depth to see if it has genetic content that might help make crops salt resistant in other parts of the world where the soil is becoming more saline as the level sea rises. It is all very complicated but it is all there to read in papers if you are interested!
And glasswort must have some connection to glass? Sure enough, its ashes where used in the production of glass until the middle of the 19th century when better chemical formulae were created.
Glasswort: the salt in the wounds

18 January, 2017

Long-stalked Cranesbill: at the end of their tether



Gardeners will now the cranesbills better as Geraniums, there are many cultivated forms some of which occur naturalised in the countryside now, usually near human habitation and often as a result of someone dumping garden rubbish! The long-stalked cranesbill (Geranium columbinum) is not one of these, it is a native species found across southern England, throughout much of mainland Europe and in to north Africa.
Whilst the flower is much like other wild cranesbills they occur at the end of long stalks, hence their name and hence the best way to identify them. An upright plant that can grow to as much as two feet tall, but usually much less than that, the flowers look quite delicate tethered to the end of the long stalks and one wonders how they manage to stay there with bees and flies visiting for pollen. The plant produces flowers from May until August and when they go to seed they produce they have long, pointed seed cases, just like a crane's bill! The leaves are very fragmented and could be confused with cut-leaved cranesbill and that is why the long flower stalks help to distinguish the two.
Long-stalked cranesbill can be found in bare patches on grassy areas with a distinct preference for limey soils.
Long-stalked Cranesbill: at the end of their tether

17 January, 2017

Dexiosoma caninum: a parasitic fly



There are hundreds of species of flies in this country and identifying them is a job for the experts but a small number can  be named by outright amateurs with some certainty. As always, it is a matter of not just looking at the small picture but looking at the surrounding bigger picture. However, with so many species of flies there are countless species about which we know very little.
What do we know about this species? All I can establish is that it is called Dexiosoma caninum with no common English name. The species name, caninum, obviously has something to do with dogs but the fly itself does not seem to! My field guide to the insects of Britain by Paul Brock says that this species is between 8 and 13 millimetres in length which is about half an inch which is quite big for a fly. It has long legs in relation to its body. It favours woodland and the low vegetation below the trees with a particular fondness for bracken. It can be seen from June through until September and it is believed to be a parasite of beetle larvae. Actually, that is quite a lot of information about a fly!
My photograph shows an attractively marked fly on bracken in the woodland by East Stoke fen in June. I think I can conclude from that that this is. indeed, likely to be Dexiosoma caninum.
Dexiosoma caninum: a parasitic fly

15 January, 2017

Sea Bindweed: the princes flower



You find sea bindweed (Calystegia soldanella) by the sea. I Know that is stating the obvious but as, superficially, it is very like field bindweed it is one of the quickest ways to tell them apart. Sea bindweed is found mainly on sand dunes and occasionally on shingle all around the coast if Britain but it is not actually common anywhere.
Both sea and field bindweed are low, sprawling plants sending out several stems across the ground from which the heart shaped leaves appear and amongst these the pink and white flowers. Sea bindweed flowers are probably a bit bigger than those of the field bindweed and the petals are a delicate combination of pink and white whereas the field bindweed can be all white, all pink, or a combination of both. The field bindweed is a weed of cultivation on farmland  and in hedgerows and will never be found in the same habitat as the sea bindweed. Sea bindweed flowers from June to August.
In the USA this is called the beach morning glory but the accepted morning glory in the United Kingdom is a blue and white cultivated plant of of the same family. In Scotland it is known as the prince's flower as apparently Bonnie Prince Charlie sowed some on the island of Eriskay in 1745 when he landed to start what we know as the Jacobite rebellion. I am not sure I believe that; a rather strange thing for him to do?
Sea Bindweed: the princes flower