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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 September, 2016

Red-legged Partridge: the French connection



With our native grey partridge now really scarce in this county if you see a partridge it is most likely going to be the red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa). That said, seeing a partridge at all in Dorset is not a common sight.
The red-legged is far more colourful than its grey counterpart and so identification should not be too difficult and if you do not get a clear view you will find that when disturbed the grey will readily take flight whereas the red-legged is far more likely to stay on the ground and run away in a small group (a covey).
If you are going to find partridge then it will almost certainly be on farmland as they are, of course, bred for shooting on estates and farms. Without this captive breeding for 'sport' there would be no partridge at all now as the red-legged was introduced for that very purpose. The species originates from southern France and Iberia and not being native they can suffer from the British climate and in bad weather in summer young birds frequently perish if wet and cold. Supplied food helps them trough the winter.
The red-legged partridge is also known as he French partridge because of the area of their origin.

Red-legged Partridge: the French connection

29 September, 2016

Ivy Broomrape: taking advantage



We are used to seeing ivy climbing trees but tend to forget that it is also a great ground cover plant able to colonise large areas of soil, stones and even rock and walls. This is because it uses other plants and structures for support and not for nutrients in the way parasitic plants do. It may be slightly ironic that there is a parasitic plant that takes nutrients from ivy rather than use it merely for support; that plant taking advantage is ivy broomrape (Orobanche hederae).
Although ivy is a very common plant ivy broomrape is not. It only grows on ivy that is spreading rather than climbing and tends also to be coastal. In Dorset we find it along the limestone areas of Purbeck and Portland. often where the soil is poor and not much else other than a strong plant like ivy can survive. It has a creamy flower in June and July and has no leaves; it does not need chlorophyll in leaves as it gets all the nutrients it requires from its host.
I was amazed to see that you can buy packets of seeds of ivy broomrape to plant in your garden and it is thought that this species is increasing in south eastern England partly due to this cultivation leading to it spreading into the wild.
Ivy Broomrape: taking advantage

28 September, 2016

Crosswort: the smooth bedstraw



Crosswort (Cruciata laevipes) is a member of the bedstraw family and so each flower is formed of four small petals, each petal opposite another in the form of a cross, hence cross-wort, the herb of crosses. The Latin name Cruciata means cross shaped. Each cross shaped flower is yellow and they form in rings around the stem just above where the leaves are. There can be three or four rings of flowers around each stem. 
Crosswort is generally a short plant, less than a foot tall, and has pale green leaves and a smooth reddish stem which leads to it being called the smooth bedstraw in some places, laevipes means smooth. It flowers in spring in April and May on grassy banks and along hedgerows in laces where the soil is chalk or lime. It always seems to grow in a cluster of plants, never alone.
Surprisingly perhaps for a fairly common herb it does not seem to have gathered an accumulation of country names nor does it seem to have been adopted as a herbal remedy. In Roumania, however, it is associated with fairies!
Crosswort: the smooth bedstraw

27 September, 2016

Carex binervis: the green-ribbed sedge



This is a species where the name gives you the key to identification which is not always the case in nature. The green-ribbed sedge (Carex binervis) has dark green leaves whereas many sedges are pale green or glaucous grey and it has ribbed leaves where many sedges are smooth. 
Sedges are interesting as they tend to have a single male 'flower' at the top of the stem and then female flowers below coming alternately from the stem.The shape, arrangement and combination of these two sorts of flower also help to identify it although, even so, sedges can be tricky chaps in my view! In green-ribbed sedge the male flower is tall and slender, the female ones more compact and yet quite large. Both sexes are a purple-brown and they look 'over' even when newly produced.
Green-ribbed sedge can be found on acid soils and, unusually for sedges, they prefer dry ground and so can be found on dry heath and acid grassland where other sedges are less likely to be found.
Carex binervis: the green-ribbed sedge

26 September, 2016

Broad-leaved Pondweed: superficial interest



It is very easy to look into ponds and lakes, even slow moving rivers, and see a lot of leaves on the water's surface and yet take no notice. If there were bright yellow or large white flowers we would take note; "what lovely water-lilies!". But just, apparently, leaves; who is interested?
These leaves can be produced by a number of plants but the pondweed family are responsible for many and as such are appropriately named. The broad-leaved pondweed (Potamogeton natans) is one of the most common species and has rounded green leaves, smaller than a water-lily but much larger than a duckweed. It is not just leaves, however, as it produces a few stout spikes of pale yellow flowers but the leaves still seem more conspicuous than the flower stalks.
There are several pondweed species, few are common and some are escapes from water gardens so in fresh water ponds and lakes the most likely one you will encounter is the broad-leaved pondweed.
Broad-leaved Pondweed: superficial interest

25 September, 2016

Ichneumon suspiciosus: an ichneumon fly



Although there are several similar species Ichneumon suspiciosus is one of the most common so applying my rule that I am statistically more likely to see a common species than a rare one I am going for suspiciosus. It has the half brown/half black abdomen, the orange legs and the yellow triangle just behind the head all of which tie in, I believe.
Ichneumons are parasitic insects and lay their eggs in the body of the larva of another creatures, moth caterpillars are the host of many including this species; the female ichneumons have a long sharp ovipositor for this very purpose. They are related to bees and wasps and that long ovipositor could be mistaken for a sting but, in general, they are harmless to humans although they can look pretty fierce!
Ichneumon suspiciosus: is very common on umbel flowers, especially hogweed, in summer and, unusually perhaps, the adult overwinters by hibernating just like queen bees and wasps

Ichneumon suspiciosus: an ichneumon fly

24 September, 2016

Leccinum cyaneobasileucum: the blue bolete



With names like Leccinum cyaneobasileucum it is little wonder that casual naturalists like me struggled to even pronounce the names of some fungi let alone remember them from one year to the next. In recent times the mycological movement have started giving "common" names to most species but this is one that seems to have been missed! This species does have a distinctive light blue colouring and that accounts for the cyan in cyaneobasileucum and as it is a member of the boletes group I am going to name this he blue bolete. 
Despite not being allocated a common name in my new field guide in the same way many others have this is a widespread and fairly common species of dry heath where birch is present. Indeed, the only specimen I have come across was in exactly that habitat at Arne. 
I have no idea whether it is edible so if you try it and survive with no ill effects please let me know!
Leccinum cyaneobasileucum: the blue bolete

23 September, 2016

Greater Celandine: the topic of cancer



Our common English names for plants and animals can be fraught with problems and cause confusion. I am sure we all know a celandine when we see one don't we? Or do we?
The lesser celandine is a common bright yellow flower of the spring; it has five petals and is a member of the buttercup family and one might expect the greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) to be similar but bigger. In reality it is totally different; pale yellow, four petals, flowers in summer and is a member of the poppy family! It is bigger than the lesser celandine, much, much taller. The lesser celandine is found in woodlands and places where the grass in thin whilst the greater is found on hedgerow banks, usually near housing. So, the same name but totally different flowers. 
Being a member of the poppy family the greater celandine is interesting medically. It is a poisonous plant but extracts from it have been used in herbal medicines for treating many conditions fr centuries. However, recent developments have shown that it may have the capacity to arrest the growth of cancer cells and tests are ongoing on this.
Greater Celandine: the topic of cancer

22 September, 2016

Mesapamea secalis: the common rustic



This may be the common rustic (Mesapamea secalis) and it is, indeed, a widespread and common species from June right through until October but you are unlikely to see it! The reason may be obvious when you look  my photograph and see that you chances of finding it in the day time are very slim as it is so well camouflaged that it can rest on a tree trunk or in scrub and you would never know it was there. It is attracted to light so you may see it at rest on your window. 
The colouration of this species can vary considerably from pale brown through to almost black but the rusty colour seems to be the one I have most often in my moth trap. What ever the main colour of the fore-wing the wight mark and the white dots on the curved wing edge are always quite clear.
There are actually three species, the common rustic, lesser common rustic and Remm's rustic which are indistinguishable without the use of magnification and, as regular readers of my nature notes know, taking specimens and looking in that degreee of detail is something I do not do so let us just accept that this is probably what I say it is as it is the most common of the three and if it is not then we will never know. 
The larvae feed on grasses and overwinter as a pupa.
Mesapamea secalis: the common rustic

21 September, 2016

Yellow Water-lily:the brandy glass



It is not unusual to find water-lilies in ponds and more often than not they are white ones which have 'escaped' into the wild. The yellow water-lily (Nuphar lutea) however is different and not just because it is yellow! It is a native species and I think I am right in saying it is our only native water-lily. Secondly, it seems to be more often seen in slow moving rivers rather than in ponds and all of my observations have been from the River Stour in Dorset. Then, the flower heads are on stalks rather than resting on the water surface; this reduces the resistance to the moving water and so protects the flower. The petals on white water-lilies tend to open out forming a star but on the yellow lily the curve upwards cupping the central stamens and style
The plant apparently has a faint smell of brandy and with the upturned petals making a cup shaped this flowers is nicknamed the brandy glass. 
Yellow Water-lily:the brandy glass

20 September, 2016

Marssh Cinquefoil:the purple marshlocks



What a stunning flower the marsh cinquefoil (Comarum palustre) is! It is not a big plant and so certainly benefits from some magnification provided by a camera which then reveals its beauty. Maybe it is the unusual colouring of the petals that is repeated in the sepals, stems and some of the late leaves that makes this a bit special for me.
It is not a common species anywhere in Britain and is more likely to be found in the upper moorland bogs "up north" but it does also occur in wet fens and marsh at lower levels here in Dorset. It flowers from May until July and, because of its desire for a wet habitat it is not easy to find. I was very lucky to find this one on Wareham Common. I new it was there from the SSSI citation so I went looking for it and found just this one before it became too wet to go any further without my wellies on.
This plant is found across Europe and also in the USA where it is known as the purple marshlocks!
Marssh Cinquefoil:the purple marshlocks

19 September, 2016

Common Comfrey: a Russian agent in disguise



The common comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is a bit of a teaser! Although the usual colour of the flower is a creamy white it also occurs with pink or blue flowers, indeed sometimes a combination of the two. That is where the problem lies as the other frequently found comfrey, Russian comfrey has blue or pink and blue flowers! It is easy, therefore to confuse the two.
As is often the case with similar plants there are various small differences which the expert can spot straight away but for us casual observers this it is far more difficult. There is, however, a pretty good ready guide, although not totally conclusive, in that common comfrey is nearly always found in damp conditions, especially by still, fresh water. Being a garden escape one tends to find Russian comfrey near houses or along roadsides where garden rubbish has been thrown out.
There are a further eight comfrey species in my reference book but they are unlikely to be found in Dorset and many are, in fact, garden escapes and similar to Russian comfrey so, again, unless you are an expert you probably would not know it was one of these even if you saw it!
Common Comfrey: a Russian agent in disguise

18 September, 2016

Cladonia uncialis: a reindeer lichen



I have been used to seeing lichen in amongst the heather out on the Dorset heaths and wrongly assumed they were all the reindeer lichen, Cladonia portentosa, but I was wrong! It is not rare for me to be wrong but I still try to learn a little each day. In addition to portenosa there is this one, Cladonia uncialis. 
Although closely related and quite similar in appearance if you take the trouble to look you will notice that Cladonia uncialis has thin, fibrous strands whereas portentosa has wider and and more 'flowery' strands. That is not a good description but I cannot think of more suitable words without calling on the rather complex scientific language that surrounds lichen.
Cladonia uncialis is common on the heaths and is quite often in damp areas or even in wetter bogs, portentosa prefers things a bit drier.
Cladonia uncialis: a reindeer lichen

17 September, 2016

Celery-leaved Buttercup: the cursed buttercup



Everyone knows what a buttercup looks like don't they? Bold, bright, shiny yellow flowers that grow in fields and in hedgerows. The buttercup or ranunculus family is a bit more complex that than with several variations on a theme.
The celery-leaved buttercup (Ranunculus sceleratus) is one of those variations. It still has yellow flowers but the petals are quite small and the central 'works' are green rather than the yellow in many buttercups and they stand as a dome in the centre of the flower. The leaves are very serrated (see the Latin name sceleratus) on a tall, fleshy stem that can reach two feet tall. This not like the buttercup on your lawn! This is not a plant of grassy areas and verges, this is species found on muddy areas in marshes, usually fresh water but not always.
This is a very toxic plant, it is known as the cursed buttercup in India, and can cause blisters if handled and it certainly should not be eaten! That said it has medicinal uses and extracts of it are used to treat infected wounds.
Celery-leaved Buttercup: the cursed buttercup

16 September, 2016

Russula caerulea: the humpback brittlegill



I am always nervous when I start to research and learn about new fungi prior to writing my nature note to summarise what I have found out. Why? Because true fungus identification means picking a specimen, turning it up side down to look at the underside, smelling it, possibly even tasting it, may be pulling it apart. I just cannot do that, I feel it has a right to its own life and I should leave it where it is. It is a personal thing I would certainly not criticise anyone for examining a specimen really closely, especially in the name of science.
So, with some trepidation I name this species the humpback brittlegill (Russula caerulea) and now await someone telling me its not! The russulas are very difficult to identify without the close examination I described above but most species of the family have a dimple in the top of the cap whilst the humpback has a small hump on its back! It is found in pine forests in late summer and early autumn so that fits with where and when I took this photograph.
It has a bitter taste so not one for the frying pan.
Russula caerulea: the humpback brittlegill

15 September, 2016

Marsh Woundwort: the marsh hedge-nettle



With its tall, purple flower spike marsh woundwort (Stachys palustris) is mistaken by some as an orchid but it far from related to orchids in the general scheme of things. On closer inspection it quickly becomes obvious that it is a member of the mint family. The tubular flowers arranged around a square stem and the hairy and mildly serrated leaf are all classic features of the mints (or deadnettles).
There are five woundworts altogether and they are vaguely similar but only this and the hedge woundwort are at all common and likely to be seen in Dorset. The field woundwort is now, sadly, very uncommon having once been a frequent  weed of cultivation. The marsh woundwort is most likely to be found in wet places; ditches and stream sides are the most frequent habitats for it.
Also known as the marsh hedge-nettle this is a plant very popular with insects, especially bees. Once pollinated the seed capsules fall in to the water and float away and when they reach a suitable spot germinate to form a new plant. 
Marsh Woundwort: the marsh hedge-nettle

14 September, 2016

Lacanobia w-latinum: the Light brocade



It is a shame that many moths are nocturnal and never seen. Some may not, at first glance seem very much to look as but even what seems a rather dull specimen reveals beauty when seen close up under the magnification of the camera lens.
The light brocade (Lacanobia w-latinum) is quite common, even if rarely seen, in southern England being on the wing as an adult from May through until July. Here in the south in good years there is sometimes a second brood in late September and on into October. It is moth who frequents dry, scrubby places where the larvae feed an a wide range of woody plants and so, in gardens near such habitat and with woody shrubs in it there is always a chance of seeing the adult at rest or at the window. The larvae pupates in the autumn and over winters as a pupa before hatching in the late spring.
Lacanobia w-latinum: the Light brocade

13 September, 2016

Ragged Robin: torn to shreds



Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) looks a bit like its close cousin, the red campion on which someone has decided to shred the petals with a razor blade! It is a member of the Campion family and was once a common flower of wet meadows, fens and damp places but as much of this habitat has been drained over recent years to make improved pasture it has declined considerably.
Favoured by some species of buttefly and long-tongued bees as a nectar source the ragged Robin is actually visited buy a large variety of insects which make it a valuable bnectar source in summer. In Dorset it can still be found along the margins of our main rivers and in meadows that remain damp through the spring, especially where flooding occurs during the winter. It flowers from May through to July.
Ragged Robin: torn to shreds

12 September, 2016

Cerceris arenaria: the sand tailed digger wasp



Being a species that digs a burrow for its young to develop in the sand tailed digger wasp (Cerceris arenaria) is found where the digging is easy. Quite rare nationally it is frequently found on some of Dorset's more sandy heaths, particularly to the north of Poole harbour, and along the sandy cliffs around Bournemouth and Southbourne.
Their striking yellow and black abdomen give the impression at first glance that they are the common wasp but on closer examination they can be seen to be a much more slender insects and the markings are quite different. 
The adults are on the wing in July and August and they have a real taste for weevils which, apparently, they carry back to their burrows upside down. I guess the underparts are softer and easier to grip?
Cerceris arenaria: the sand tailed digger wasp

11 September, 2016

:Annual Seablite: turning the tide



Once you start to look closely at the vegetation around the high water mark on salt marshes you start to find some more specialist species growing. Annual seablite (Suaeda maritima) may not be much to look at but it is a common and yet much overlooked plant because it does not have nice flowers! In fact, it appears just a dull, green, stringy mass! Look closely and you may find the tiny flowers.
Once the spartina grass has established on a muddy shoreline and started to bring some solidity to the mud so annual seablite is one of several species that can establish itself. This causes the ground level to rise above the normal water level to create the vegetative islands that you can see when you look over a salt marsh. Although resistant to salt annual seablite tends to grow above the high water line where it rarely gets covered.
This is a common plant in its chosen environment.
:Annual Seablite: turning the tide

10 September, 2016

Cuckooflower: the ladys smock



Walk through any of the meadows alongside our Dorset rivers in April and May and you will almost certainly see the cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis) so named as it flowers around the same time as the cuckoo returns to our shores in spring and is found in similar places that the cuckoo chooses to look for its host species nests to lay its eggs in. Also known as lady's smock, this a common plant of damp places and can be found along ditches and damp woodland as well as water meadows. The flowers of the cuckooflower are a very pale mauve/pink. 
 
This is a favourite food plant of the orange tip butterfly and if you watch closely for a while you will see orange tips laying eggs on the plants. After the butterfly has gone, take a look on the plant stem and you will see a small egg, appropriately orange in colour.
 
Apparently, this flower is supposedly sacred to fairies and it is very unlucky to bring it in to your house so leave it well alone!
Cuckooflower: the ladys smock

09 September, 2016

Hawkweed Oxtongue: a hawkweed-like non-hawkweed



Hawkweed oxtongue (Picris hieracioides) is described in my field guide as our most hawkweed-like non-hawkweed! Well, that is a great help on two counts; what does a hawkweed-like hawkweed look like and how do you tell this hawkweed look-a-like from true hawkweeds?
Although nothing like a dandelion I describe these hawkweeds and their relatives as being dandelion-like. By that I mean flower heads made up of a cluster of narrow yellow petals coming from a single seed box at the top of the stem. It is there the similarity stops but it is amazing how many people think these hawkweeds and the like are actually dandelions!
Hawkweeds, Hawkbits and hawkbeards account for about fifteen similar species of flowers we see in Dorset and the differences are, at first, hard to take on board but with practice it gets easier! Hawkweed oxtongue is a tall plant, it has a red stem which branches and branches again (just like a tree) and on each branch is one yellow (as opposed to golden) flower head. It is found in grassy places usually on lime so look for it on Portland and along the Purbeck coast.
There are other differences to the various similar species but the ones I have listed will get you started.
Hawkweed Oxtongue: a hawkweed-like non-hawkweed

08 September, 2016

Sweetbriar: smelling of roses



Wild roses are not the easiest of species to tell apart but, as always, there are clues to help and at the primary level there are, actually, only five alternative to choose from. If you wish to specialise then going to sub-species level is a bit more difficult!
The main clue that this is sweetbriar (Rosa rubiginosa) is its fragrance, other wild roses apart from the burnet rose have no scent. Secondly, the burnet rose is white whilst the sweetbriar is a wonderful shade of pink. Sweetbriar is a species of chalk downland growing in low dense, scrubby bushes whereas dog-rose tends to be more of a climber in hedgerows. Field rose is white. 
So, if you are on chalk downland and find a lovely pink wild rose with a sweet smell then you have found one of three species of sweetbriar. Small-leaved and small-flowered sweetbriar are sub-species but the flowers are much paler.
Sweetbriar: smelling of roses

07 September, 2016

Crabro cribrarius: the slender-bodied digger wasp



Digger wasps are another challenge to the very amateur naturalist so to find one with a distinctive feature is a real help! The slender-bodied digger wasp (Crabro cribrarius) is one of those species due to the antennae which are crumpled, by that I mean quite short and bent. The remind me of the wing mirrors on modern day coaches!
Being a digger wasp it excavates a burrow as its nest and so it will be found mainly where the soil is soft and that can be coastal areas where there is sandy soil although it will be found in other environments too including chalk grassland. The burrow has several chambers for the young wasps which the adult wasp provisions with small flies. 
This is a larger wasp and could possibly be mistaken for the common wasp but closer on inspection those crumpled antennae are unmistakable. It can be seen from June until August and whilst you might see it on the ground you are more likely to find it feeding or hunting for flies on hogweed and similar flowers.
Crabro cribrarius: the slender-bodied digger wasp

06 September, 2016

Carex sylvatica: the wood sedge



By far the most common sedge one will find when walking in woodland is the wood sedge (Carex sylvatica).  It occurs in damp places in woodlands which are frequently alongside paths and where it occurs it can be quite abundant.
This is a relatively easy plant to identify as, being a sedge, it does not have a flower although it does have a fluorescence; pale yellow catkin-like 'spikes', similar to some grasses. It has numerous thin-pointed pale green leaves giving the whole plant a kind of 'bushy' appearance and it can grow to two feet tall but in my experience I think one foot is about the norm.
Whilst being predominant a deciduous woodland plant it does occur amongst conifers but usually where deciduous trees were once present or where there are deciduous trees close by. Being a shade loving plant it is also grown in gardens as ground cover in sheltered places. 
Carex sylvatica: the wood sedge

05 September, 2016

Hypena proboscidalis: the snout moth



It is not hard to see how this species became labelled the snout moth (Hypena proboscidalis). It has a long proboscis protruding from its head, this also accounts for the scientific name 'proboscidalis'. 
There are a number of species in the snout moth family but this is by far the most common and also the largest. There are two broods each year and as the broods overlap they can be seen on the wing from June right through until October. What is interesting is that the first brood adults are larger than the second brood adults.
Being fairly dark in colour and well camouflaged they are rarely seen unless disturbed during the day. They are a nocturnal species but are readily attracted to light.
The larvae feed mainly on stinging nettles and the offspring of the second brood over winter as a pupa before hatching to give the first brood in late spring the following year.
Hypena proboscidalis: the snout moth

04 September, 2016

Yellow Loosestrife: the King of Sicily



In researching this little piece about the yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris) I discovered two things that surprised me! Firstly, because we have some in our garden I suppose, I thought that any specimens in the wild were garden escapes but that is not so; it seems to be a genuinely wild, native flower. Secondly, probably because it shares part of its name and occurs in similar habitats, I assumed it was related to the more frequently found purple loosestrife but again, I was wrong, they belong to different families.
Yellow loosestrife is a rather lovely flower with spikes of bold yellow flowers, little wonder it is grown in gardens. It is a tall plant growing to 1.5 metres high and it can stand proudly high above the other plants nearby and it can be seen from some distance.
Apparently Lysimachus was a Greek King of Sicily and loosestrife is a direct translation of that. How it comes to be name of a genus of flowers is another matter!
Yellow Loosestrife: the King of Sicily

03 September, 2016

Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage: sepals no petals



Where you find shallow water in streams you will sometimes find a mat of leaves with small yellow flowers amongst them, this is the opposite-leaved golden saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium). The leaves are visible for much of the year but the flowers only from February until May. I have said that the flowers are yellow but that is not entirely true, it is the impression the plant gives. In reality the plant has no petals but it does have yellowish green sepals and bright yellow anthers.
This is quite a distinctive plant and quite unmistakable when you find it. The opposite-leaved  golden saxifrage is common across Dorset in suitable habitat but the alternate-leaved golden saxifrage is absent from the county, it is a mountain species, and so confusion should not arise.
Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage: sepals no petals

02 September, 2016

Lesser Burdock: natural velcro



Lesser burdock (Arctium minus) is complicated! There are actually three subspecies of lesser burdock and the differences are minimal unless yolu are something of an expert botanist with an eye for detail. My field guide, "Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland" by Marjorie Blamey, Richard Fitter and Alastair Fitter describes these differences. The subspecies Arctium minus ssp minus has flower stalks of less than 1cm with the florets sticky or downy. The ssp nemorosum has flower stalks of less than 1cm with the florets never sticky or downy! This subspecies is sometimes called the wood burdock. The third ssp pubens (sometimes called the intermediate burdock) has flower stalks between 1cm and 4cms.
The first of these is the most common and I am afraid I cannot even begin to try and sort out which of the many burdock plants I see belongs to which subspecies so I record them all as lesser burdock!
It gets its name for from the seed heads that have hooks, just like velcro, and attach themselves to passing animals and human clothing, These are called burrs hence the name burdock. 
Lesser Burdock: natural velcro

01 September, 2016

Haresfoot Clover: a living fertilser



Haresfoot clover (Trifolium arvense) is a species of clover you will find in dry, sandy places where there is little grass, or only thin grass, to compete with. It can grow in quite harsh conditions being found even on sand dunes apparently although I have not encountered in quite such an extreme environment.
It is a low growing plant with an oval shaped flower, most clover flower heads are much more rounded. The flowers do actually look hairy or fluffy so it is easy to see how the common name was derived. The species flowers from June to August but each individual flower head does not last very long.
Like most members of the clover family, indeed much of the wider pea family, it enriches barren soils by fixing nitrogen which helps other crops grow so it has been planted on such soils with other crops so as to improve crop growth. Haresfoot clover itself has also been sewn as a fodder crop for sheep and goats in some places.
Haresfoot Clover: a living fertilser