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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!

30 July, 2010

Skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata)

Another plant that thrives in damp places, be it salt marsh, river bank or pond edges. It has a preference for calcareous or neutral soils at low levels so it tends to occur near the coast, although low lying wet areas anywhere can provide a sighting.

The Skullcap is a short to medium plant with blue tubular flowers. Although the books describe it as common throughout England it is not a flower I encounter very often, It flowers from June to September so there is plenty of time to find it.

Greater Sea-Spurrey (Spergularia media)

Rummaging around on the salt marshes amongst the Glasswort, Sea-lavender and so on you may encounter this lovely little flower, the Greater Sea-spurrey.

Although the 'Greater' Sea-spurrey it is a small flower, usually white but it can also be pale bluish/pink.

It is a common flower of the coast, it loves salty conditions and it can also be found inland along the side of roads that are frequently salted in the winter months.

This is also known as the Greater Sand-spurrey in some books which can be confusing. There is a Lesser Sea-spurrey which is less common but the flowers of that are always pink.

29 July, 2010

Golden Samphire (Inula crithmoides)

The Golden Samphire is just coming in to its own as a flower now and is especially well established on the cliffs at Durslton; although it can be found on shingle banks and drier areas of salt marsh too.

Unrelated to Rock Samphire with entirely different flowers it has similar slender, fleshy leaves which is why I guess both share the English name of Samphire. The scientific names have a resemblance to with Rock Samphire being 'crithmum' and Golden Samphire being 'crithmoides' or 'crith like'.

Flowering from late July until early September the golden daisy flowers cannot be missed nor can they really be mistaken for anything else.

Rock Samphire (Crithmum maritimum)

This is a common plant of the Dorset coast around the shingle beaches but especially at the foot of cliffs and along land slips.

Rock Samphire is a member of the carrot family and is not related to Golden Samphire which is a daisy.

I believe the leaves of Rock Samphire was (is?) collected to eat in salads.

Flowering around much of the coast of England from June to August Rock Samphire is especially well established here in Dorset.

28 July, 2010

Sea Kale (Crambe maritima)

Sea Kale is a rare plant but it grows here in Dorset. A seashore specialist it has the capacity to grow on both shingle and sand. As a result this plant is most likely to be encountered on along the Fleet, especially towards the top and back of Chesel Beach.

The leaves are obvious for quite a long period of time but the flowers come in June to August.

This is a relative of the Kale that is grown as a food crop and has large 'cabbage' leaves and it is a member of the Cabbage family, the Cruciferae

Sea Beet (Beta vulgaris)

Looking down along the shore line, especially on mudflats or at the base of cliffs, you will undoubtedly soon come across this very common plant of the sea shore, Sea Beet.

Sea Beet is widespread along the coasts of Dorset and especially in our large harbours. It also had the ability to grow on sea walls and in some unusual places.

Not an attractive plant, perhaps, but the long yellowish flower spikes look quite impressive when they are all out together.

Flowering from July to September it is one you cannot miss on your day out at the seaside.

27 July, 2010

Common Sea-lavender (Limonium vulgare)

The salt marshes of Poole Harbour are now beginning to show some colour other than the dark green that usually abounds.

The lovely lavender blue of the Common Sea-lavender is now coming out and forming large tracts of blue on the marshes. This is becoming especially evident from the double-decker hide at Arne.

Not a lavender at all, the Sea-lavender is related to the pink Thrift we see on the cliffs in early summer, Sea-lavender flowers in July and August, especially along the south and east coast where mudflats abound.

Sea-purslane (Halimione portulacoides)

Once you get down on the shoreline in Poole harbour and elsewhere where it is muddy as opposed to sandy you find all sorts of plants not found elsewhere. It is a unique environment.

Plants need to be tough to with stand the high salt content of both the ground and the air and they also have to cope with occasional entire submersion in salt water.

Sea-purslane is another of those plants adapted to such a life style. They thrive in drier salt marsh areas but still around the high water mark so have to contend with a soaking from time to time.

Another plant that is not much to look at but not to be overlooked.

26 July, 2010

Shrubby Sea-blite (Suaeda fruticosa)

Related to the Annual Sea-blite and its near neighbour, Shrubby Sea-Blite is a nationally rare plant.

Shrubby Sea-blite grows a little further away from high water, usually in shingle areas.

At first sight it looks a bit like a heather and around Poole Harbour, in particular, you could be forgiven for putting it down as that. However, it is worth noting if you find it as it very localised in south eastern England.

Annual Sea-blite (Suaeda maritima)

Once you look more closely at the vegetation around the high water mark on salt marshes you start to find some more specialist species growing.

Annual Sea-blite is not much to look at but is a common and much overlooked plant because it does not have nice flowers! In fact, it is just a dull green weed!

However, once the Spartina grass has established and started bring some solidity to the mud so Sea-blite can then establish. Although resistant to salt it tends to grow around high water where it rarely gets covered.

This is a common plant in its chosen environment.

25 July, 2010

Common Cord-grass (Spartina anglica)

Where Marram Grass binds sand together so Spartina Grass (or Cord Grass) binds mud and silt together.

In Poole Harbour where the water is more subdued and less wave action than on exposed sea coast, silt from the rivers various that flow in to the harbour settle and creates mud. This mud is covered by salt water for around 12 hours a and uncovered the rest of the time Anything growing here has to be able to withstand these changing conditions and be resistant to salt water.

As with Marram on sand so Cord-grass can cope with unstable mud. It is a very successful plant of the shore line mud flats and is actually planted to achieve stability in these conditions.

Not an attractive plant but an essential part of the process where vegetation recolonises lost ground.

Marram Grass (Ammophila arenaria)

School holidays have started so I guess summer is well and truly with us and thoughts turn to the seaside. In truth, when you live in Dorset thoughts of the seaside are never far away!

The seaside is a complex place naturally speaking. Where salt water meets the land a unique environment is created, a harsh environment with ever changing conditions, especially with the influences of the tide.

Where sandy shores result sand dunes often follow. Not a lot can grow in sand but this plant, Marram Grass can In fact, so good at growing in sand and binding sand together from stopping it spreading it is actually planted for this purpose in some areas.

Marram Grass grows just about anywhere there is sand and so the sandy dunes behind Studland Beach are one obvious place to look for it.

24 July, 2010

Scalloped Oak (Crocallis elinguaria)

This is an attractively marked moth, it looks as though it is wearing a brown mask leaving just the centre of its eyes to showing. Whether this makes it look scary as a means of defence or whether the dark brown mask breaks up the outline and adds to its camouflage I do not know; possibly both!

The Scalloped Oak is a common moth and frequently turns up in the moth trap as it is particularly attracted to light.

It is single brooded and flies in July and August. It frequents a wide variety of habitat but likes to lay its eggs on deciduous trees and shrubs, but not exclusively oak as the name might suggest.

It overwinters as an egg and hatched into a larvae in April before emerging as this adult in July.

Common Rock-rose (Helianthemum chamaecistus)

The Common Rock-rose is a flower of calcareous soils and can be found from May to September on dry, grassy or shrubby areas in Dorset.

Not a rose at all, it is a member of a very small family of plants, the cistaceae. There are just four members of the family, and the others are more common in Europe and are very are here in Britain.

Rock-rose is a favoured food plant for some butterflies, especially Green Hairstreak.

Restharrow (Ononis repens)

Restharrow is a creeping plant found in clusters close to the ground. It looks like a low growing vetch and is, indeed, a member of the same family, leguminosae, otherwise known as the pea family.

Restharrow particularly likes calcareous soils so it is well at home in Dorset and it can be found on grasslands and downs across the county.

It flowers from June right through to September.

23 July, 2010

Yellow-wort (Blackstonia perfoliata)

This lovely yellow flowered plant, hence its name, Yellow-wort, has curious waxy grey-green leaves that form opposite pairs up the stem.

This flower certainly stands out because of those leaves that do not look real, it makes the plant look almost imitation and made of wax.

Common on the coasts of Britain, especially on calcareous cliff downland, it flowers from June right through until October.

You can find it all along the Dorset coast and on the Purbeck Ridge at this time of year.

Small Magpie (Eurrhypara hortulata)

Although bearing the name Small Magpie, this moth is not related to the Magpie Moth (Abraxus grossulariata ) at all. In fact they are not part of the same family with the Magpie Moth being a geometrid and the Small Magpie being a pyralid.

The Small Magpie is a common moth of woodlands and areas with lots of shrubs and so also favours gardens as well as hedgerows.

The caterpillars can be found on members of the nettle and mint family and they make little 'nests', from a collection of leaves held together by silky spun webbing; a sight you often see when out for a walk.

The oth flies from June in to August and is quite numerous at this time of year.

White Lipped Snail (Cepaea hortensis)

Walk along any hedgerow with lush vegetation at the moment and you will see lots of these snails. Hogweed leaves, nettle leaves, brambles, thick bladed grasses; any plant with good nutritious leaves and this snail will be quite at home.

They can occur quite high up on some plants and so are obviously very good climbers.

The White Lipped Snail also comes in all sorts of colours too, from this striking 'Everton Mint' pattern to much paler browns.

This is one of the most common creatures around at the moment but because they snails and not very popular I think they get rather over looked.

22 July, 2010

Slender Thistle (Carduus tenuiflorus)

This is possibly the most difficult thistle to identify because it looks, at first glance, like the very common Creeping Thistle. However, it does not grow in the same dense clusters as the Creeping Thistle and is somewhat shorter too. The flower heads are a paler pink and come in narrower 'brushes'.

This is an uncommon species in Britain and is found mainly near the coast, especially on cliffs in the south of England. There is a lot of it on the cliff tops near St Adhelms Head and it also occurs on the Purbeck Ridge at Ridgeway Hill. I expect it does occur elsewhere but those are the only two places I have seen it so far.

It flowers from June to August and is at its 'best' about now although this is a plant that is never really at its best, it is a bit of a nondescript thistle which not much going for it!

Woolly Thistle (Cirsium eriophorum)

Everything about the Woolly Thistle is big. It is a big plant with big flower heads which turn in to big woolly seed heads later in the season. It is the 'bigness' of the plant that distinguishes it from other thistles.

This is not a common plant, I have only seen it at Durslton but I suspect it does occur elsewhere in Dorset on the calcareous soils of the downs and cliffs.

Flowering from July until September it is September that the very large, white woollen seeds heads, looking a bit like cobwebs, appear. It is popular plant with bees and other insects and I have seen three bumblebees on one flower head, all different species but all absorbed in the lovely deep purple coloured flowers.

Musk Thistle (Carduus nutans)

This is my favourite thistle. It has the most lovely soft purple pads which bumblebees just love to snuggle in to and gorge themselves on the nectar and pollen.

The Musk Thistle is also known as the Nodding Thistle because the head tilts over and then, as the breeze blows it nods, up and down. It is the turned down head that makes this species distinctive from the others.

A thistle that likes chalk downland and is relatively common on the Dorset Cliffs, the Purbeck Ridge and the inland chalk grasslands, but is a local species rather than a common one. Where it occurs it is frequent but is restricted in where it occurs.

21 July, 2010

Dwarf Thistle (Cirsium acaulon)

The Dwarf Thistle is also known as the Stemless Thistle because the single flower head is down amongst those prickly leaves that form on rosette on the ground.

This plant is also known as the Picnic Thistle as the first time you notice it is when you sit down on the ground to eat your sandwiches when you are out for a walk!

The Dwarf Thistle is common in Dorset and the rest of the south of England, found primarily on short turfed calcareous soils, so the chalk and limestone of Dorset is ideal for it.

Flowering from June until September, when no flower is present it is easy to dismiss it as an emerging Creeping Thistle.

Marsh Thistle (Cirsium palustre)

The Marsh Thistle is another common member of the thistle genus which is mainly found, as the name implies, in marshes, damp meadows and grassland, by rivers and ponds, damp wood;and areas; indeed anywhere the soil is damp (some of the time at least).

This plant has a tall central stem (which is very prickly) from which other stems occasionally shoot out to the sides and the the end of each stem you get this tight cluster of small purple flowers, just a few in flower at any one time.

A common thistle across the county, it flowers from July to September. It is really distinctive once you recognise its main features.

Soldier Beetle (Cantharis rustica)

Whilst less common than the abundant soldier beetle, Rhagonicha fulva, Cantharis rustica is still a common beetle.

Another lover of the flowers of the carrot family but also a great devotee of thistles,in this case Creeping Thistle.

Soldier beetles derive this nickname from their bright colours which are said to resemble military uniforms.

Look out for this beetle in July and August when it is most abundant.

Hoverfly (Syrphus ribesii)

These black and yellow 'wasp' mimic hoverflies can be a problem to identify however, most have four black rings (or stripes depending on your point of view!) but this one has five so this is probably Syrphus ribesii.

To add weight to the diagnosis, Syphus ribesii is one of our most familiar hoverflies and is often abundant in gardens and hedgerows. So the odds are on S. ribesii as well as the number of stripes and it being in an appropriate habitat.

It has multiple broods and so is around most of the summer from as early April right through to November in mild autumns.

19 July, 2010

Speckled Bush-cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima)

This bush-cricket is superbly camouflaged for its life on nettles, brambles and other rough vegetation. The speckles on its body casing enable it to blend in with the shrubby environments it lives in.

This is a common species of bush-cricket here in the south of England but, despite that they are rarely seen because of their preferred habitat is ideal for hiding them.

The best way to at least establish their presence is to listen for their 'song', a very short and feeble scratching sound repeated every few seconds and I have to use a bat detector to track them down as my hearing can no longer detect them.

They are active now and will be right through until the autumn, October certainly, possibly even in to November.

Bluebottle (Calliphora vomitoria)

As this series looks at the nature of Dorset one cannot pick and choose what to include. Bluebottles, like the Rat, are amongst the most despised, even hated, forms of wildlife. There link with spreading disease is the obvious reason for this.

There are several very similar species of Bluebottle and I cannot be absolutely certain that this is Calliphora vomitoria but, as that is the most common it possibly is.

Vomitoria says it all really! The females are attracted to fish and meat for egg laying and houses are a pretty good place to find such things. They also lay on carrion outside of houses too of course.

They are around most of the year, whenever the weather is mild.

Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea)

Another species from the natural world we love to hate. Ragwort pulling is an autumn preoccupation around farms and nature reserves.

Common Ragwort presents us with two problems. Firstly it is poisonous to cattle and horses and so there is always a risk if these animals are around the plant. In reality, it seems to me cattle eat everything around the Ragwort and leave the Ragwort well alone.

The other problem is its capacity to set seeds and spread. It is a prolific plant and in some years it can be more abundant that others but it is always abundant! You can find it on waste ground, hedgerows, pastures, dunes, downland; just about anywhere, especially if the ground is regularly disturbed or the general vegetation is sparse.

Hated by humans it may be but it is adored by insects and is another plant worth closely watching if you like insects.

18 July, 2010

Knapweed Broomrape (Orobanche elatior)

No, I have not started photographing dead plants! This is a real, live specimen and yet there is no trace of any green on it at all.

The broomrape family are parasitic plants and the Knapweed Broomrape is, naturally, parasitic on both species of knapweed, but mainly Greater Knapweed.

Because it is a parasite deriving its nutrients from its host plant it has no need for chlorophyll and so it is not green, the colour chlorophyll would give it.

Knapweed Broomrape is an uncommon plant found mainly on the calcareous soils of southern England and so can occasionally be found in Dorset on the cliffs and downs where there is, of course, Knapweed.

17 July, 2010

Silver Washed Fritillary (Argyniss paphia)

I always have a sense of excitement when I first see a Silver Washed Fritillary. It is such a beautiful creature; a large butterfly with intricate markings and an absolute joy to behold.

It is essentially a butterfly of woodlands, especially areas of well established woodland, both deciduous and coniferous. This is certainly a butterfly of the south and there are several sites in Dorset where it can still be found.

Not as common as it once was, where it does occur it can be quite numerous, especially at the peak of its flight time, the whole month of August.

It had just the one brood each year and the eggs are laid in the crevices of tree bark (notably oak) and that is where the larvae return to to hibernate before emerging as adult butterflies the following summer.

Sloe Shield Bug (Dolycoris baccarum)

This purple or red tinged shield bug can be found now and throughout August on shrubs of the rose family and that includes, of course, the Blackthorn or
Sloe bush. They feed on both flowers earlier in the year and on fruits which are forming now.

Shield bugs are members of the sub-order heteroptera, and are 'bugs' in the true sense, hence the name Sloe Shield Bug.

Shield Bugs are so aptly named with the body casing definitely resembling a shield but they come in all shapes and sizes, but always looking a bit like they are carrying a shield on their back.

There are several different species, this is one of the most common.

16 July, 2010

Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

There can be few more distinctive hoverflies than Episyrphus balteatus because the thick and thin pairs of black lines on the abdomen are quite unique.

It is, however, a small, slender insect and one you might not even take a second look at unless you are really keen!

Not only is it distinctive, it is also very common and you can find on all types of flowers and all kinds of habitat.

It is believed to hibernate and so can occur at any time of year if mild, sunny days occur in late autumn, early spring, or even in winter. There is also evidence to suggest that numbers in mid to late summer are boosted by significant numbers of inward migrants from Europe.

15 July, 2010

Common Dodder (Cuscuta epithymum)

The Dorset heaths are a really different sort of habitat to almost anywhere else with some unique species to be found.

Whilst Common Dodder is not totally a heathland species it seems most often to be found there. This is because it is a parasitic plant that grows on gorse and heather species.

It was once found in corn fields and pasture, clovers are another host, but it has been almost totally eradicated from food growing areas now by spraying.

Dodder is a member of the bindweed family and produces the same 'streamer' stems along which the tiny pink, five petalled flowers grow in July and August

The stems are red/brown and so merge in with the heathers where it is most commonly found. That, and he tiny flowers, mean that Dodder can be very easily overlooked.

Flesh Fly (Sarcophaga carnaria)

The Flesh Fly is not a popular insect! It is frequently found around houses but rarely inside however it is big fly and people just don't seem to like flies.They have a bad history I suppose.

There are several species of Flesh Fly and they are very similar but the most common is Sarcophaga carnaria and I am assuming that that is what this one is. The red eyes, speckled abdomen and large feet as well as the large size make them easily identifiable as a genus, even if not as a species.

This fly breeds in carrion and the female gives birth to young larvae rather than laying eggs which is quite unusual in insects.

Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris)

The Small Skipper is a common species of the Dorset hillsides, downland and open countryside with a special interest in damp areas.

Flying in July and August it particularly favours knapweeds and thistles but this one on Common Fleabane has produced the best photographic result for me so far.

For their larvae's food plant they use a range of grasses which include various bromes, Timothy Grass and Catstail. The hatched larvae build little tents for shelter by pulling several blades of grass together, this is quite typical of skipper species in general.

14 July, 2010

Cream Spot Tiger (Arctia britannica)

This tiger moth is a visitor to the moth trap in July and August but I have found it on a couple of occasions during the day, seemingly fast asleep on hedgerow flowers.

The Garden Tiger is quite easily recognised by that intricate black and white pattern on its wings although the actual pattern itself can vary between insects. It can vary in colour too from black through to chocolate brown

It is a common species and widespread species occurring in all sorts of habitat and is quite at home in gardens and parkland as it is not over fussy about a particular food plant; it is quite happy on almost any wild or garden plant where it can get sufficient nectar.

Hoverfly (Epistrophe grossulariae)

Another wasp-mimic hoverfly that can present a headache for the amateur naturalist! There are several similar species and it is one reason why a camera is a great aid to identification. Once you have a photograph they can fly away and it doesn't matter!

This one needed some real time spent pondering the books at home. In the end those parallel and even spaced black lines on yellow clinched it for me, Epistrophe glossulariae.

I found this one by chance along the path from Ringstead to Osmington as it lapped up the last of the sun before it set beyond Weymouth. Just as the book says, it was along a woodland edge but near umbel flowers.

This is a local species and it was certainly a new find to me. They fly from June to October but July and August when the Hogweed, Wild Carrot and Wild Parsnip are at there best is the most likely time to find them.

Viper's Bugloss (Echium vulgare)

Although called Viper's Bugloss this flower has absolutely nothing to do with snakes! It is covered in bristles which make it feel quite prickly but I suspect the name comes from the flowers which look like the open mouth of a snake with the stamens giving the appearance of a snakes tongue. Well, if you use your imagination it does anyway.

Viper's Bugloss is a plant that is found on dry grasslands, especially on sandy or chalk soils, as well as dunes and cliffs and so Dorset is a county well suited to host good numbers of them.

They flower from June through to September and are out now. They are this most vibrant blue colour and can hardly be missed.

13 July, 2010

Scarlet Tiger (Callimorpha dominula)

This impressive moth is a species that flies freely by day and, when you find it, you will usually find it in large numbers.

The Scarlet Tiger is very much a moth of the river bank, water meadows, marshy areas and sea cliffs. Not found very often, the species is very local and seems confined to south and western Britain. The lush vegetation along the Dorset rivers such as the Frome and Stour are good places to find them.

Single brooded, they fly on sunny days in June and July. They lay their eggs on waterside plants such as Comfrey, Meadowsweet, Hemp-agrimony and so on as well as nettles and brambles.

Scorpion Fly (Panorpa communis)

I have headed this species up as Panorpa communis but there are several very similar species so I may have the species wrong, but the genus Panorpa is undoubtedly right.

The Scorpion Fly is not a true fly, ie a member of the order Diptera, it is more closely related to lacewings and caddis flies.

Although pretty nasty looking individuals they are quite harmless and do not live up to their name, Scorpion.

They are usually found in woodland and shady places and feed on dead animal matter and rotting fruit. You can see them from May through until August.

Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara)

Until I started out attempting to identify all aspects of nature some 25 years ago I always thought that this plant was Deadly Nightshade! However, one of the first unusual plants I found back then turned out to be, on investigation, Deadly Nightshade and so I had to hastily modify a fair number of records I had made of this one to Bittersweet. It was a bitter-sweet experience!

Bittersweet, also known as Woody Nightshade, is a member of the Nightshade family and is also related to the Potato. The flowers and berries are very similar to those you might find on Potatoes growing in your garden or allotment.

Flowering from June through until September in a wide range of habitat Bittersweet is common here in Dorset.

12 July, 2010

Hoverfly (Scaeva Pyrastri)

My, what big eyes you have? In fact this hoverfly is a bit starey!

This is a hoverfly I do not have to rush off and get my book to identify. Whilst many hoverflies or wasp mimics and are yellow and black Scaeva Pyrastra is clearly black and white and the only hoverfly with these markings.

It is a relatively large and conspicuous hoverfly that can be found on flowers almost anywhere, including gardnes, on waste ground, meadows, hedgerows and woodland edges and rides.

It is quite common but its numbers are often boosted in July and August by immigration and in some years there seem to be many more than in others.

Stinking Iris (Iris foetidissima)

This lovely looking flower is common in woods, scrub and hedgerows, especially near the Dorset coast, and is on flower now.

The flower itself is also known as the Roast Beef Plant as, when crushed, it gives off the scent of fresh meat. It is thought the smell attracts flies and the flies help with the pollination process.

In the autumn these flower heads will have three distinctive green pods, each with a line of bright red berries in.

You win both ways with Stinking Iris, attractive flower and attractive seed head.

11 July, 2010

Peacock (Inachis io)

Peacock (Inachis io)
Originally uploaded by Peter Orchard
Despite the lovely summer weather so far we have seen very few butterflies, especially in the garden so the arrival, albeit briefly today, of a Peacock we hope as the herald of more to come.

July and August sees the emergence of several species and August is generally the best month in our garden.

The larvae from the broods laid by overwintering hibernating insects are beginning to hatch now and the Peacock should, we hope, be a common sight now right through until October, perhaps even beyond.

The food plant for the larvae of the Peacock is the Common Nettle but the adults will nectar at any suitable flower including thistles and knapweeds.

The Peacock is a very common butterfly in Dorset and can be seen in grassy habitats everywhere including gardens,hedgerows, woodland rides and glades, as well as on our chalk downlands and cliffs.

The Peacock is very often the first butterfly of the year as the do hibernate and ca

Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

Although the Purple Loosestrife is a flower of rivers and lake sides the best specimens at the moment seem to be in our garden pond!

Some seed collected whilst out on a walk some years ago means we are now treated to a most glorious display of the lovely purple spikes every summer in July and August.

These are very much part of the wildlife theme in our garden as these tall, multiple, flower heads are adored by bees and hoverflies and on warm days you can hear the buzzing of bumble bees and honey bees from some distance away!

Whilst I would never advocate the collecting of plants from the wild, collecting some seed and helping them to germinate and establish in a suitable environment where they are benefit to other creatures cannot be a bad thing.

10 July, 2010

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

Open grassy fields, downlands and even heathland are the place to look for this brilliantly coloured butterfly.

It is not a common species but widespread and is not unusual in suitable habitat in Dorset.

It is unusual in that it has three broods a year, possibly even four in hot years with an Indian summer. That means that you can see them any time from May right through to November. In good years there will be more adults flying from the later broods so the seem far more common in late summer.

The larvae feed on Sorrel and other species of Dock and the overwinter as a larvae which hibernates.

A lovely treat to behold when it opens its wings to soak up the warmth of the sun.

Labyrinth Spider (Agelena labyrinthica)

The Labyrinth spider is a spider of the open heaths where its makes its distinctive 'nest' on heathers and gorse, usually low down near the ground.

The centre of the web is a funnel in which the spider waits. Around the entrance are lots of single strands, a bit like trip wires, that stop insects from an easy escape and gradually bring them nearer to the central funnel from where Agelena can strike!

I have heard people refer to these as Funnel Web Spiders which, of course they are not. Funnel Web Spiders are renowned for being very poisonous where as this spider is quite harmless (to humans).

The are extremely nervous creatures and quickly retreat in to their funnels which makes photographing them very difficult.

Bog Aspodel (Narthecium ossifragum)

The boggy areas of the Purbeck heaths are now brightened by the golden yellow flowers of the Bog Aspodel.

Flowering in July and August it brings much needed colour to the otherwise drab appearance of this landscape as we await the carpets of purple from the heathers.

Bog Aspodel is not uncommon in the right habitats which in Dorset are damp heathland, elsewhere they can be found on the moors of the north country.

A member of the Lily family the have star shaper flowers with six points. Golden yellow to start the plants turns orange as it ages.

09 July, 2010

Bog Myrtle (Myrica gale)

The Internet can share photos, video and sound but sadly not smell (well, not yet anyway).

I know this photo is not going to flagged as a favourite by anyone as Bog Myrle is not a particularly beautiful plant; in fact its a bit plain ans boring with flowers that are hardly discernible. However, once the flowers are pollinated and they become seed heads, if you pick one and crush it they give off the wonderful aroma of pine. In fact, the leaves do too.

As its name implies, it can be found in boggy areas on any low lying, damp heathland.

If you find it, have sniff!

08 July, 2010

Oblong Leaved Sundew (Drosera intermedia)

The Oblong Leaved Sundew is very similar to the Round Leaved Sundew but the leaves are less rounded and more oval in shape.

Found on acid soils in boggy areas of heathland it is less common than the Round Leaved Sundew and it seems to like wetter areas rather than damp, often growing in shallow puddles or pools.

Both Oblong Leaved and Round Leaved Sundew have small cream/yellow flowers from June through to August. Its an interesting balance needing insects to cross pollinate with other plants to produce seed but also needing insects for food!