Monday, 27 August 2007

Wild Flowers on the Cliff Top

The cliff top grass lands are still full of wild flowers. As I have said before I'm a very poor botanist so I was pleased when Phil Chantler showed me the Autumn Gentian, Gentianella amarella, below.

This small plant grows to a maximum of about 30cm and the individual flowers are about 2cm long.
In Roman times it was renowned as a medicinal herb and taken as a tonic to heal galls, or 'felons'; thus giving it the alternative name 'Felwort'. It produces pinkish purple tubular flowers from July through to October that are pollinated by bumblebees, and its seeds are dispersed by the wind. Autumn gentian favours short calcareous grassland on well-drained chalk or limestone soils and calcareous dunes or duneslacks. It is native to Britain, but can be found across Europe.

The Harebell, Campanula rotundifolia, is an attractive, delicate perennial of dry, grassy places, on both calcareous and acid soils. Widespread and mostly common. Rounded basal leaves soon wither; stem leaves narrow. It is seen from July to ­October.

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, looks like an umbell but is in fact a member of the daisy family. The individual flowers are about 5mm across but they are densely packed in clusters. It is rich in folklore and consequently is known by several different names. The first part of its botanical name Achillea is derived from the belief that Achilles used Yarrow to treat the wounds of his soldiers injured during battle. A direct translation of millefolium, the second or species part of its botanical name, is Thousand Weed, another frequently used name, which refers to the many slits on each leaf giving the plant the appearance of having thousands of leaves. Among the other many names this flower has includes Nose Bleed as it both suppresses and can cause a nose bleed.

A couple of other small plants were prominent and I hope I got the identification right. This is the Narrow-leaved Everlasting-pea, Lathyrus sylvestris, and according to the literature it is the food plant of the Long-tailed Blue Butterfly. I hope if one or preferably two find their way here they will use it for their off spring, but since it is a very rare migrant I think that this is wishful thinking!

Tufted Vetch, Vicia cracca, is a common scrambling or climbing member of the pea family (Fabaceae). The leaves and stems are fairly hairy, and there are numerous branched clinging tendrils that provide aid in climbing. The drooping bluish-purple flowers occur in long, one-sided clusters known as racemes. Between four and eight seeds are produced in a pod with a nail or claw-like tip. The name ‘vetch’ is derived from the Latin name of the genus ‘Viccia’.
Other Wildlife There have been a good selection of migrant birds around this weekend, mainly on Saturday and Sunday with a marked reduction today. I saw two Common and one Black Redstart, single Spotted and Pied Flycatchers and good numbers of Whitethroats, lesser Whitethroats and Willow Warblers. A group of Tree Sparrows, yesterday, gave it a real Autumn feel, but at least there were still a good number of Red Admirals, Painted Ladies and Small Tortoiseshells and a couple of Chalkhill Blues around.

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