If you would like to read my Dorset nature notes about any of these featured species or sites please click on the post title
- 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!
28 March, 2016
27 March, 2016
The golden spindles fungus (Clavulinopsis fusiformis) is aptly named; golden spindle shapes coming out of the leaf litter on acidic soils hence it can be found in wooded areas of heath, such as that found around the Purbeck area. It comes out in autumn and is very common but becuase of its size it must be frequently over looked. It is very similar to the yellow club and one or two other species so you need to be careful; ideed, I hope I have got this right!Clavulinopsis fusiformis: the golden spindles fungus
25 March, 2016
24 March, 2016
These dandelion look-a-likes are notoriously difficult to identify. They look similar and they have similar names; hawkweeds, hawkbits, hawksbeards, just where do you start? Indeed, for the casual observer like me it is almost impossible to approach these flowers with any confidence at all.
The usual rules can be applied, however, and by taking in to account habitat, the time of year it is in flower and how common a species is helps to narrow down the field to a limited choice. With the narrow-leaved hawkweed (Hieracium umbellatum) these rules help because it occurs on dry heathland where it is quite common. From there it is just a question of telling it apart from the limited number of species occurring in such conditions. It then becomes relatively easy because narrow-leaved hawkweed is a tall plant with a tight cluster of small, dandelion-like flowers at the top of the stem and a series of opposite, narrow and pointed leaves occurring along the full length of the stem, bigger leaves at the bottom getting smaller as you go us. This array of leaves up the stem gives rise to its other common name, leafy hawkweed.
Even with this series of diagnostic steps it is still easy to get it wrong but don't worry, even experts can struggle with this family of plants!Narrow-leaved Hawkweed: the leafy hawkweed
23 March, 2016
21 March, 2016
20 March, 2016
19 March, 2016
18 March, 2016
17 March, 2016
This being lesser skullcap (Scutellaria minor) it does not take a Sherlock Holmes to deduce that there is also a skullcap which is bigger! Skullcap (the larger one) is found near streams and fresh water and, whilst not common, is certainly far from rare. Its lesser cousin, however, is much more restricted in its preferences and so is found far less often.
Lesser skullcap is a member of the bugle family and has the familiar trumpet-shapes flower associated with such species. It is a delicate, sprawling little flower, pink or mauve in colour and the stem is square but, very thin, and also of a pinkish colour. The leaves are pointed and have clearly defined veins. The plant has a mild, minty scent; it does not seem to be the herbal remedy that its larger cousin is, probably because it is not big enough.
It flowers from July through until October and can be found in damp, acidic conditions on heaths and in woods.Lesser Skullcap: a flat minor
16 March, 2016
15 March, 2016
Once upon a time our countryside in spring would graced with the lovely yellow wild daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus); now I am not absolutely certain there are any true wild daffodils left in Dorset. I have found some that display the characteristics and have recorded them as the real thing but I have a feeling I may be wrong!
As is slowly happening with primroses and bluebells, imported species and cross bred species that we like to have in our gardens are slowly inter-breeding with the wild stock and changing the wild species forever. Virtually all daffodils you see along roadsides and waysides in March and April are there as a result of dumped garden rubbish or by cross-pollination by insects going about their normal business.
The wild daffodil is generally a more delicate flower than the bold specimens we have in gardens although now, of course, there are small varieties of narcissus too which are becoming popular. The wild daffodil has a darker trumpet that the surrounding petals and the flower heads tend to point gently downwards rather shyly than look you boldly in the eye. It is sad that the real thing is not seen more often.Wild Daffodil: true or false
14 March, 2016
12 March, 2016
11 March, 2016
10 March, 2016
Greater stitchwort, sometimes called shirt buttons, is very much a flower of woodlands and hedgerows so to find that its cousin, lesser stitchwort (Stellaria graminea) prefers grassy places, usually on acid soils is quite a surprise. This explains, however, why one often finds lesser stitchwort on heathland.
Whilst having similar characteristics to greater stitchwort lesser is, as it name suggests, a much frailer, with narrower stems and smaller leaves. The petals are much finer too giving it a very different look, whilst still feeling familiar. The narrow white flowers lead to its other common name, starwort.
It flowers from May until August (greater stitchwort flowers earlier than this) and is quite common in the right habitat.Lesser Stitchwort: a stitch in time
09 March, 2016
08 March, 2016
Usually we look at the blossoming flower of a plant and decide what it is; after all quite often a flower's colour, shape, number of petals and so on are going to be unique to a particular species. Sometimes though the answer is staring at you from another part of the plant than the flower.
This is certainly true in the case of silverweed (Potentilla anserina) which has a bright yellow, five-petalled flower that actually resembles various other flowers including buttercups and cinquefoils. Look past the flower head to the leaves and their silvery-grey sheen, especially on the underside, and the answer is obvious; it is a silver weed!
Silverweed can be found in short grassy habitats and dry, bare patches anywhere but roadsides and waysides seem to be its stronghold and it can be a very common plant in these conditions. It flowers from May through until August and in some years on into September and beyond.
In folklore it was supposedly thought to ward of evil spirits and in herbal medicine it has been used as cure for digestive and gynaecological health problems. In Tibet the roots are eaten as a vegetable! Whatever next?Silverweed: leaves you in no doubt
07 March, 2016
05 March, 2016
03 March, 2016
Most people with a garden will be familiar with the small, pernicious weed, groundsel; an untidy and fast spreading plant that is difficult to eradicate from well kept flower beds! Well, imagine a bigger version of that; it exists but, fortunately, will not normally bother you as you lovingly tend your flower borders.
The larger version is called heath groundsel (Senecio sylvaticus) and it grows in dry, sandy places and so ii Dorset is often found on heathland but not always. Interestingly perhaps, sylvaticus means 'of woodland' and yet it is rarely found in woodland habitat unless the tree canopy is open and the soil sandy. It is known in some places as the woodland ragwort because, like ragwort, it is a member of the daisy family but for me that is where the similarity between the two ends!
Apart from favouring different growing conditions and being somewhat bigger, usually at least a foot tall, its flower heads are much more conical; wide in the seed box and narrow at the petal tips. It also tends to be more upright than the common groundsel which can be a bit droopy.
Quite common, indeed it can locally be very common, it flowers from June right through until September.Heath Groundsel: the woodland ragwort