Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Devil's-bit Scabious

Here's a scabious. Here's another scabious. What sort of scabious is this? 

It's a Devil's-bit Scabious, Succisa pratensis, of course! This is a particularly hairy one, but you can see the differences between this and yesterday's Small Scabious. (So I won't enumerate them.) It was growing a couple of metres away from yesterday's plant.

It's called Devil's bit because of the abrupt ending of the root, bitten off by the Devil for differing reasons depending on who you believe. In all stories the Devil was pissed off with the plant and trying to reduce it's vitality/ability to cure.

The Scabiouses are so-called because of the belief in their ability to cure scabies and other ailments affecting the skin.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Small Scabious

This is Small Scabious, Scabiosa columbaria. Key features are its markedly larger outer florets; the black bristle-like calyx teeth and the pinnatifid leaves (although these can be variable). 
It is a plant of calcareous grasslands and more common in the south-east.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Old Man's Beard

This is Old Man's Beard or Traveller's Joy, aka Clematis vitalba
It is one of our few woody climbers and thrives on disturbed chalky soil, hence its prevalence round these parts. 
In the garden it is a particularly persistent pest. You can see the opposite leaves clearly in the upper left photo. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dark Bush Cricket

This chap appeared on the back of one of the kitchen chairs on Saturday night, obviously keen to find its way to the sofa to watch one of the most memorable games of rugby ever played: England v Wales at Twickenham in the World Cup. Wales built from weakness, through adversity, to strength and final domination to beat England 28-25. It was an extraordinary match which took me back to my youth, supporting Wales at Cardiff Arms Park. 
You can tell he's a he due to the lack of ovipositor (the large, sickle-shaped thing that sticks out of the end of the female). He's a Dark Bush Cricket, Pholidoptera griseoaptera
You can hear its stridulations here:
British wildlife recordings

Lady's Bedstraw

This is Lady's Bedstraw, Galium verum. It has dark glossy 'leaves' which form whorls of six to twelve up the stems. In fact they are not all true leaves, which occur as opposite pairs; two are leaf-like stipules.
The leaves, on close inspection, are mucronate (end abruptly in sharp pointed tips).
It was, indeed, used to stuff mattresses, the coumarins in the plant acting as an insecticide against fleas. 
The yellow flowers were used to curdle milk and gave traditional Double Gloucester its colour.

Common Fumitory

This is the commonest fumitory, especially round the south of England. It is Common Fumitory, Fumaria officinalis. There are quite a few fumitories (Dense-flowered, Fine-leaved, Few-flowered, White Ramping, Purple Ramping, Tall Ramping, Common Ramping) and the key to telling them apart is to look at the sepals (the translucent, white, pointy 'shield' at the junction of the flower stalk and the flower in the top left picture) and the fruit plus bract. 
The fruit in Common Fumitory is a truncated sphere with fruit stalk longer than bract (bottom left (x20)). 
The family name comes from the Greek name for the plant which meant 'smoke'. The reason (so obvious when pointed out) is that the watery latex of the plant, when put in the eyes, causes them to weep, just like smoke. Good old Dioscorides; never one for arcane connections.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Tar Spot

Not the sycamore leaf, but the black spots. It is Rhytisma acerinum or Tar Spot. It is an ascomycete fungus and more specifically the fruiting body of the fungus. It doesn't harm the tree.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Creeping Thistle

Most of these have 'gone over' already but I came across one in reasonable fettle when I was doing the WeBS survey. It is Creeping Thistle, Cirsium arvense, and is one of our commonest thistles. It differs from Spear Thistle and Marsh Thistle in having smooth, furrowed stems. 
Despite being an important food plant for over 20 species of lepidoptera, many finches and other invertebrates, it is classified as an injurious weed under the Weeds Act (1959)!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Common Reed

This is Common Reed, Phragmites australis, which is a grass. It forms large beds on suitable substrate and has been of great economic importance historically, primarily as a roofing material. 
Ecologically reed beds provide habitat for a wide range of species. Three birds dependent on reed beds are the Bittern, Botaurus stellarius, the Reed Warbler, Acrocephalus scirpaceus, and the Bearded Reedling (aka the Bearded Tit), Panurus biarmicus. Many others are associated with them, e.g. Reed Bunting and Sedge Warbler.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Water Mint

I was down on the RSPB reserve doing a slightly overdue WeBS count and picked up a few species amenable to photographic capture. This was one: Water Mint or Mentha aquatica. It smells minty (being a mint).

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Red Admiral

This was taken back in mid-July but I saw one the other day so thought I'd mention it. An unmistakable butterfly known to most people, the Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta, is not resident but comes up from Southern Europe to breed, the offspring returning in the Autumn. That's quite a journey for a small bird, let alone a butterfly.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Common Yellow Sedge

I keyed this out to Common  Yellow Sedge and a couple of people agreed (including a BSBI expert). It is particularly diminutive, growing as it does in closely cropped turf in the Ashdown Forest. It's Latin binomial is Carex demissa.

Matt Bolete

This lovely mushroom was growing in Pete's woods. It is a Matt Bolete or Boletus pruinatus. Despite its appearance it is edible. 
Now is the best time for Bolete or Cep or Porcini mushrooms. Of course you have to avoid eating the naughty ones.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sloe Bugs

My old friend Pete finally took me to see his 'new' woods out near Heathfield today. It was a beautiful morning and during a beating of the bounds I noticed these two up to no good on some old Marsh Thistle heads. There isn't much sexual dimorphism but from their behaviour when first seen I'll wager one's a male and the other female. 
They are Sloe Bugs, Dolycoris baccarum, although they are usually not found on Blackthorn (sloe) but rather on a wide range of plants, with an apparent predilection for Rosaceae.
Besides the chequerboard markings, the identification is clinched by their hirsute nature (zoom in on the image) and black and white antennae.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Garden Spider

This is a male Garden Spider, Araneus diadematus, also known as a Cross, Diadem or Crowned Orb-weaver spider. It is one of our commonest spiders in the UK. The females are larger and have rounded abdomens: they occasionally eat the male after mating. These spiders can bite if provoked. It is like a mild bee sting.

Meadow Clary

Meadow Clary, Salvia pratensis, is a common plant in the horticultural community but is also found as a garden escape. In the south of the UK it is considered native in the wild. It grows in the verges around our house but here is a rather magnificent specimen growing in front of the Parliament buildings in Budapest. 
It differs from Wild Clary in having less deeply toothed leaves and long projecting styles.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Horse Chestnut or Conker tree

This poor tree was nearly dead on the slopes beneath the Fishermen's Bastion in Budapest. It is desperately flowering again despite being in fruit.
Aesculus hippocastanum is from round these parts, relatively speaking: the Caucasian Mountains. Its natural habitat is the sides of gorges or cliffs. I prefer to call it a conker tree.
posted from Bloggeroid


This is Spindle, Euonymus europaeus, growing in secondary woodland above the Danube in Budapest. (Very nice thank you. I can recommend it.)
It has very hard wood which made it great for making spindles. Turner was the first to call it a Spindle tree but borrowed from the Dutch. The flowers and fruit are much more spectacular than these photos suggest. I clearly remember the first time I came across it on the edge of a ride in some ancient woodland near where we were living in Sussex back in 2007; it was so garish I concluded that it couldn't possibly be native. I was shocked when I discovered I was wrong.
posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sea Club-Rush

This is Sea Club-Rush growing at Blackpill on Swansea Bay. It's binomial is Bolboschoenus maritimus. It likes brackish environments and has two distinctive leaf-like bracts, one considerably longer than the other. The corners of the triangular stems (sedge family) are scabrid (great word).
Meant to post yesterday but traveled to Budapest and got distracted.
posted from Bloggeroid

Friday, September 11, 2015

Sea Sandwort

Quick one tonight as in a bit of a rush. This is one from the coast at Burry Port on the north shore of the Loughor Estuary. Sea Sandwort or Honckenya peploides. I think the binomial is better than the common name for this one. It is actually a member of the Campion family, although it would be hard to place when you come across it no in flower.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Greater Plantain

I think I've done Ribwort Plantain, the commonest plant in Europe I heard or read somewhere. And I've also done Buck's Horn Plantain. 
This is Greater Plantain, also everywhere near you now in flower. It's binomial is Plantago major. The leaves have been used as a wound poultice to promote healing and reduce infection for centuries, but they are also edible.

Creeping Willow

Missed yesterday so here are two: Creeping Willow, Salix repens. It is a very variable plant with a recognised subspecies found in dune slacks which has silvery hairs on both sides. This is not it. This is one I found growing in one of the plots I'm surveying in Ashdown Forest for the National Plant Monitoring Scheme.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Grey Dagger

I noticed this moth larva enjoying our Victoria Plum on Sunday. It's a Grey Dagger, Acronicta psi. Its close relative, the Dark Dagger, A. tridens, is impossible to distinguish as an imago (unless you get up very close and personal, and examine the genitals). The larvae are, however, easily told apart.
It is common, being found throughout the UK, with a predilection for most deciduous shrubs and trees.