Sunday, 7 October 2012

Review of the last part of the year

Five weeks away in Africa and France and the inclement weather meant that North Hants botany took a back seat for much of the summer.  A few trips out here and there did increase the list which now sits at 496 (41%).  

Recent highlights were the Marsh Gentians (Gentiana pneumonanthe) at Bartley Heath and the Chiltern Gentian (Gentianella germanica) on a grass verge of the A34.  Unfortunately the vast majority of these had finished flowering (14th September) so I'll visit the site again earlier next year.  I was far too late to find the burnt orchids (Orchis ustulata) on Ladle Hill, but did find the clustered bellfower (Campanula glomerata) and the autumn gentian (Gentianella amarella).  I was hoping to make it to 500 by the end of the year, but flowering is thinning out now so it will be back to hunting in February.   
Gentiana pneumonanthe

Monday, 16 July 2012

Marsh Helleborine

A visit to Mapledurwell Fen last week during another respite from the rain was made in the hope of finding the marsh helleborine.  The fen is managed by the Hampshire and IOW Wildlife Trust and is wet at the moment which the plants seemed to appreciate.  Among the profusion of other orchids were the helleborines, which were really nice to see.  Also seen for the first time were the bog pimpernel (Anagallis tenella), the large bird's food trefoil (Lotus pedicularis) and Hoary Wllowherb (Epilobium parviflorum) among others.  The marsh valerians were present but had gone to seed so I'll pop in earlier next year.  The main treat however was the Epipactis palustris.

Epipactis palustris (Marsh Helleborine)

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Loddon flood plain between Old Basing and Basingstoke

As we had 24 hours without rain for the first time for a long period, I briefly visited the Loddon flood plain again and was amazed at the height and density of vegetation that had grown since my last visit.  Clearly it had benefitted from the recent rainy season.  Identified my first Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadania conopsea) with specimens on the edge of the flood plain and at the entrance to the Lime Pits car park.  Lovely deep pink flowers living up to their name with a sweet fragrance.  Conspicuous on the damp areas by the river were several valerians (Valeriana officinalis).  Not really time for a good hunt around as the light was fading.

Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadania conopsea)

Sunday, 24 June 2012

A visit to Greywell Fen brings the total to 400

A visit to Greywell Fen this evening (when it was quiet as the England game was on) was very productive, bringing my total species to over 400.  The aim was to photograph the Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) which was difficult as the nearest ones were in very boggy soil and had to be taken using the telephoto.  The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust who manage the site had done some woodland clearance to extend the area of fen.  This coupled with the long spell of wet weather made the whole area very wet with much more open water than would be normal at this time of year.  Both species of watercress were there along with Viola arvensis.  One lovely moment was seeing a barn owl hunting along the bank of the Whitewater River, in the evening sunshine. 

Lychnis flos-cuculi (Ragged Robin) at Greywell

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Slender Bedstraw at Porton Down

The Slender Bedstraw (Galium pumilum) was probably the rarest plant nationally speaking that we saw on the visit.  It looks little different from other white bedstraws, but the tooth structure of the leaf is different, being toothed only towards the tapering base, and these teeth curving towards the base of the leaf.  It has recently turned up at a second chalk downland site in North Hampshire.  My illustration shows the UK distribution and two of my photos one of the leaf and the other of the plant at Porton Down. 

I was again surprised this morning at what one can find within walking distance of one's house.  On the verge of a residential street in Basingstoke I found a spike of the Lesser Broomrape (Orobanche minor) and the Ratstail Fescue (Vulpia myuros) both of which were new species to me.

                                              Orobanche minor (Lesser Broomrape)

Total species 1202
Found and photographed 385 (32%) - just 16 more species to one third

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Porton Down visit

Nearly two weeks ago now I attended a visit with the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust's botany group to Porton Down, at which I learnt so much and was introduced to some plant species that I'd never seen before.  Because the site has been owned by the Ministry of Defence for so long, the habitats are undeveloped.  I had never experienced such an unbroken expanse of chalk grassland, so rich in species.  Still over a week later I am still processing what I saw and adding to the list.  A few of the rare species were quite inconspicuous - I'll mention them another time. 

My list of orchids seen stood at one before the visit so the highlight of the visit was seeing the Lady Orchid, (Orchis purpurea) at its only site in Hampshire.    I will illustrate here the lovely Lady Orchid and the parasitic Bird's Nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis) which grows under the shade of beech.  The other orchid in full flower was the White Helleborine, but at least another four species were in leaf or bud. 

 Orchis purpurea (Lady Orchid)                       Neottia nidus-avis (Bird's Nest Orchid)

Friday, 25 May 2012

First Orchid

Very excited today to find the first orchid of the year which is probably the earliest one would expect to find.  The Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mascula) was flowering at the edge of woodland near Herriard taking over from the fading bluebells.  They were fairly close to a badger sett and several had been knocked over by their bumbling.  The smell of the flowers is described in my book as being like tom cats.  As most cats are spayed these days, this is a rarely experienced scent.  I could only describe it as a cross between mild urine and musk, which I suppose is the smell of tom cats.

Orchis mascula - the Early Purple Orchid

Alongside the pathway from the Viables Craft Centre to Loggon Road, Basingstoke were several flowering Sanguisorba minor subspecies muricata - the Fodder Burnett.  The female flowers were fully open at the tops of the heads but only a few male had opened around the base of the heads.

Photomicrograph of female flower of Sanguisorba minor muricata showing the twinned stigmas and styles looking like two red fountains

Total species 1202
Found and photographed 342 (28.5%)

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Up Nately - last day for coat and hat?

Monday evening and a trip to Up Nately to stroll along the canal.  Discovered a calcareous flush near the old brickworks with three species of sedge in flower, Carex flacca, C. acutiflorus and C. disticha.  This last one is common in such habitats but was new to me.  Alongside the canal were Carex sylvatica, C. remota and C. pendula.  So much vegetation seems poised to flower and with the first significantly warm day today means it is just coming up to the busy time.  I'm gradually getting the grass species sorted one by one.  I last tried this twenty years ago but this was before scanners and digital photography so a lot was done just by memory.  This time it is very different, with the ability to keep on coming back to the images you've seen.

Carex disticha

Total species 1202
Found and photographed 338 (28.1%)

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Worting Woods and my own back yard

Eventually got round to identifying the water plants in my pond, which added Ceratophyllum submersum, Elodea nuttallii and Lemna minuta to the list.  Another visit to Worting Wood today to try to find the toothwort but failed again.  Among other species found Myosotis discolor, Veronica montana and Moehringia trinervia.  

A patch of Moehringia trinervia - the three-veined sandwort

This is one of those rather confusingly named species.  A number of the leaves had five veins rather than three and it was growing on a woodland ride overlying chalk rather than sand.  Note the un-notched petals are much shorter than the sharp-pointed sepals.  Some flowers had three and others four styles.

Total species 1202
Found and photographed 332 (27.6%)


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The One Quarter Mark reached

Since my last post I have passed the 25% mark, adding 19 species to the plant list with photos added to the identification keys.  A pleasant visit to the wet flush on Silchester Common found several sedges in flower along with Pedicularis sylvatica (Lousewort), Eriophorum angustifolium (Cotton Grass) and Salix repens (Creeping Willow).  It was the first time I had found the cotton grass and creeping willow in flower as I had not been onto a damp heath habitat in early May before.  A visit to the footpath along the southern edge of Worting Wood was made on the 11th May to look for Lathraea squamaria (Toothwort) which I had previously seen there two years ago but I failed to find it this time.

              Carex nigra photographed from the boardwalk bridge on Silchester Common

Total species 1202
Found and photographed 322 (26.8%)

Friday, 4 May 2012

Early flowers on the Loddon flood plain

The middle of the week saw a brief respite from the intermittent rain and I managed to get out to the area around the River Loddon between Basingstoke town centre and Old Basing.  I was delighted to see the sporophytes of Equisetum telmateia in amongst the dead remains of last years grasses.  I had seen the vegetative growth before but never the spore-producing shoots.  Carex flacca was in full flower and Carex paniculata was beginning to flower, with the male flowers just beginning to extend their anthers.  Other nice sightings were Geum rivale (Water Avens) which was in flower alongside the board walk across the damp area and Caltha palustris not far away.  I also photographed Primula veris on the flood plain.  I had delayed on this one because I wanted to have photographs of how this species differed from the primrose in leaf.  These five species took my total to 303, that is just over the quarter of the species in North Hampshire.

Sporophyte of Equisetum telmateia

Friday, 27 April 2012

A good week for plants; botanist gets a soaking

Not a good week for botany - got soaked four times on the cycle to or from work this week.  Plants seem to be lapping it up and the prospects of a productive May onwards look excellent.  Found Cochlearia danica in flower alongside the main road from Basingstoke town centre towards the west and sorted out Veronica filiformis and Pentaglottis sempervirens both in flower near the Milestones Museum.  This together with a white-flowered variety of Lunaria annua at the entrance to the Harvester Restaurant brings my total to 299, so just two to go to reach 25%.

     Veronica filiformis showing the long elongated (filiform) stalks to the flowers and young fruit

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Fritillaria in a Basingstoke roundabout

No botany in Hampshire in the last week due to a much needed holiday.  Went to Tunisia and got acquainted with some of the Mediterranean flora along with archaeology and a rest.  Just before going I spotted the local council had done a mixed planting in the roundabout outside the Basingstoke Leisure Centre which included Fritillaria meleagris.  On returning I tried to find marsh marigold in Glebe Gardens in the centre of Basingstoke but it wasn't apparent this year.  Cardamine pratensis and Carex acutiformis were in flower so they were added to my list which now stands at 293 species.  Just eight more species to reach the 25% mark.

Fritillaria melagris in a Basingstoke roundabout

Friday, 6 April 2012

Euphorbia amygdaloides - wood spurge

Just thought I'd post this photograph of the wood spurge from Pamber Forest as it seemed to capture something of the plant

The project overview

I've set myself a two-year challenge of photographing and compiling identification guides to the plants that grow in North Hampshire, UK.  Last year I condensed down the standard UK plant keys from Clapham, Tutin and Warburg to include just the species that occur in North Hampshire.  I then had to add to these as there were a number of plants not included in that work.  I consulted the Botanical Society of the British Isles website which gives listings of species occurring and then edited the list taking out hybrids, casuals and the members of the large genera of dandelions, brambles and hawkweeds.  Having done this it left 1203 species.  In the last part of last year and the early part of this year I have photographed a total of 284 species. 

Today a short visit to Pamber Forest added Oxalis acetosella, Anemone nemorosa, Euphorbia amygdaloides, Viola reichenbachiana, (shown above) Ranunculus poeticus and Callitriche platycarpa.  This means the running total is now 290 species (just over 24%)