For those who have not read our previous monthly reports, the Sid Valley Biodiversity Group is carrying out a year-long survey of the valley’s herbaceous plants recording what is in flower each month.
This is a citizen scientist project with volunteers from the group noting which flowers they see when out walking around the town and in the countryside. This is not totally random, apart from casual walks, a number of sites around the valley have been selected for regular survey to represent a range of habitats including the beach, hedgerows, heath, and open grassland, the sites are spread to cover the valley from north to south and east to west.
The observations are logged into the iNaturalist online database, either directly through a phone app out on the walk or back home on a computer or tablet. The iNaturalist system allows us to sort observations by month, location, or species, it also allows for a degree of validation for the observations which is important as we are all amateurs.
After April’s cold dry spell, the month of May has been only slightly better for wildflowers, there were a few days where you would have needed a winter coat. The volunteers have recorded 148 species in flower this month, 59 are new to the observation list, 89 have been recorded in previous months, 45 species had been observed previously but they were not recorded in May. So far this year 193 species have been recorded in the valley. The full list is an appendix to this report, colour coded to distinguish early flowers that seem to have finished, those that have been flowering for longer than a month, and those that have just started to flower or have only just been observed by the volunteers.
The hedgerows continue to be the stars of our floral treasure chest, the burgeoning green growth being studded with the likes of Greater Stitchwort, Wild Strawberry, Green Alkanet, Yellow Archangel, and Red Campion. The Cow Parsley has grown to its full frothy height and the clinging and clambering tangles of Cleavers or Goosegrass are dotted with many tiny, four-petalled flowers.
These are being joined by their cousin Sweet Woodruff, and the Bedstraws are growing well and will flower in June.
Two more members of the Crane’s-bill family have opened their five petalled flowers this month, the Dove’s Foot and Dusky species. Several members of the Pea family have joined the list. The tiny flowers of the Black Medick (possibly named after its black fruits), Lesser Trefoil, and Hairy Tare will feed tiny solitary bees and other insects, while the Honeybees will welcome the arrival of the nectar rich White Clover.
The grasslands have been slow to start this year, but the parkland of the Knowle is awash with a sea of the Wedgwood blue Germander Speedwell. Speedwells were mentioned last month but we have now observed nine species of Veronica in the valley. Some, such as the Wall Speedwell which is growing quite appropriately on the wall of the church burial ground in Church Lane, have tiny flowers that hardly open fully. Others, such as Germander Speedwell and Brooklime put on a colourful display, but it is worth taking a closer look to see the neat arrangement of the different sized petals and the two stamens that protrude like a pair of horns.
There is a single Common Spotted Orchid hiding in the Knowle park, the flood alleviation work has obliterated the area where several grew in former years, hopefully some may return in years to come. The single plant hasn’t opened it flowers yet, hopefully it will not be picked as has happened in the past. There is a nearby wildflower meadow in a private garden which has many of the purple spikes. Also, there are Southern Marsh Orchids and Common Twayblade Orchids, the latter are much less showy, attracting small wasps and beetles with a rich nectar supply rather than a dazzle of colour. Twayblades are quite common, perhaps because people aren’t tempted to pick them.
Dandelions continue to thrive, but they have been joined by several other species in the family formerly called Composites now lumped together by botanists as the Aster family. What people might call the flower of the Dandelion, and its cousins such as the Hawksbeards, Cat’s Ears and the splendidly named Leopard’s Bane, is actually a cluster of very many florets. Each yellow ray is made up from fused petals, 5 each in the Dandelion if you take a look with a magnifying glass. Each has its own stamens and ovary, and the fruits contain a single seed dispersed by the hairy pappus catching the wind like a parachute.
The head of the valley has some very wet meadows, and these are home to plants that you are unlikely to find lower down the valley. There is plenty of Greater Stitchwort that stands out in the hedgerows of the drier parts of the valley, but there is the smaller Marsh Stitchwort nearer the source of the river, and it is easy to miss the even smaller flowers of Bog Stitchwort. Scarlet Pimpernel is appearing in the drier parts of the valley but Yellow Pimpernel prefers the upper valley. Although not yet in flower, the impressive towers of the Marsh Thistle are well on their way to their 2m maximum.
Many people do not think of them when talking about wildflowers, but there are many grasses coming into flower as hay fever sufferers will know only too well. They are a fascinating family but quite difficult for amateurs to identify. We hope to make a special effort in mapping the valley’s grasses next year.
Looking forward to June, the weather has picked up at the start of the month and this will mean even more species adorning the hedgerows and fields and we will be able to tick off more those recorded in Cullen’s 1849 Flora Sidostiensis. As the summer progresses, more and more red and purple flowers make an appearance. Bees, and Honeybees in particular, favour these colours when collecting food. A single Foxglove was recorded in a secluded spot at the end of May but the woods on Salcombe Hill will soon be alive with bees scrambling about inside these elegant spires of purple trumpets. Mallows and Woundworts will also be in many hedgerows. Much harder to find, the enigmatic Broomrape, a parasitic cousin of last month’s Toothwort, should put up its flower spikes next month. On a smaller scale, the bellybutton leaves of the Navelwort or Wall Pennywort will be interspersed with their pale yellow flower spikes. There is so much to look forward to.
Observations logged on iNaturalist
Species recorded in flower up to May 31st, 2021
|New this month||Seen in May and previously||Seen previously but not in May|
|Alexanders||Cuckoo Pint||Mouse-ear, Common||Sow Thistle, Smooth|
|Alkanet||Daffodil, Wild||Mouse-Ear, Sticky||Sowthistle, Prickly|
|Anemone, Wood||Daisy, Common||Mustard, Black||Speedwell, Common Field|
|Avens, Wood||Daisy, Ox Eye||Mustard, Hedge||Speedwell, Germander|
|Barley, Wall||Dame’s Violet||Mustard, White||Speedwell, Ivy-Leaved|
|Bellflower, Trailing||Dandelion||Nettle, Common||Speedwell, Pink Ivy-leaved|
|Bilberry||Deadnettle, Red||Nipplewort||Speedwell, Slender|
|Bird’s-foot Trefoil||Deadnettle, White||Orchid, Common Spotted||Speedwell, Thyme-leaved|
|Bittercress, Hairy||Dog’s Mercury||Orchid, Common Twayblade||Speedwell, Wall|
|Bittercress, Wavy||Dropwort||Orchid, Early Purple||Speedwell, Wood|
|Bittersweet||Fescue, Giant||Orchid, Southern Marsh||Spurge, Petty|
|Bogbean||Fescue, Red||Oxlip||Spurge, Wood|
|Bluebell||Fleabane, Mexican||Oxtongue, Bristly||Squill, Siberian|
|Bluebell, Hybrid||Forget-me-not, Changing||Parsley, Cow||St Johns Wort, Shrubby|
|Bramble||Forget-me-not, Early||Parsley, Upright Hedge||Star of Bethlehem|
|Brooklime||Forgetmenot, Field||Pearlwort, Procumbent||Stitchwort, Bog|
|Bryony, Black||Forgetmenot, Wood||Pellitory of the Wall||Stitchwort, Greater|
|Bugle||Foxglove||Pennywort, Wall||Stitchwort, Lesser|
|Butchers Broom||Foxtail, Meadow||Periwinkle, Greater||Stitchwort, Marsh|
|Buttercup, Bulbous||Fringe Cups||Periwinkle, Lesser||Strawberry, Barren|
|Buttercup, Creeping||Fritillary, Snake’s Head||Pignut||Strawberry, Wild|
|Buttercup, Meadow||Fumitory, Common-Ramping||Pimpernel, Scarlet||Sweet Cicely|
|Buttercup, Small Flowered||Garlic Mustard||Pimpernel, Yellow||Tare, Hairy|
|Campion, Red||Garlic, Three Cornered||Plantain, Buck’s-horn||Thale Cress|
|Campion, Sea||Garlic, Wild||Plantain, Ribwort||Thrift, Estoril|
|Carrot, Wild Sea||Golden-Saxifrage, Opp.Leaf||Pondweed, Cape||Thrift, Sea|
|Cat’s Ear, Common||Grape Hyacinth, Broad Leaf||Primrose||Toadflax, Ivy-Leaved|
|Celandine, Lesser||Ground Ivy||Purslane, Pink||Toothwort, Purple|
|Charlock||Groundsel, Common||Ragged Robin||Tormentil|
|Chickweed||Hawksbeard, Beaked||Ragwort, Common||Trefoil, Lesser|
|Chickweed, Greater||Hawksbeard, Smooth||Rush, Soft||Valerian, Red|
|Cleavers||Heath, Spring||Sanicle||Vernal Grass, Sweet|
|Clover, Red||Hellebore, Stinking||Scurvygrass, Danish||Vetch, Bush|
|Clover, White||Herb Robert||Sea Beet||Vetch, Common|
|Cock’s foot||Hogweed||Sedge, Pendulous||Vetch, Tufted|
|Colt’s-Foot||Honesty, Annual||Sedge, Remote||Violet, Common Dog|
|Comfrey, Bulbous||Hottentot Fig||Sedge, Wood||Violet, Early Dog|
|Comfrey, Common||Kale, Sea||Selfheal||Violet, Sweet|
|Comfrey, Russian||Leopard’s Bane, Large leaf||Shepherd’s Purse||Water-Dropwort, Hemlock|
|Cornsalad, Keeld-fruited||Lousewort, Common||Skunk Cabbage, American||Winter Aconite|
|Corydalis, Yellow||Lungwort||Snowdrop||Winter Heliotrope|
|Cowslip||Mallow, Tree||Snowdrop, Greater||Woodruff, Sweet|
|Crane’s bill, Dove’s Foot||Marigold, Marsh||Snowflake, Summer||Woodrush, Field|
|Crane’s-bill, Cut Leaved||Marigold, Pot||Solomon’s Seal||Woodrush, Great|
|Crane’s-bill, Druce’s||Meadow Grass, Annual||Sorrel, Common||Yarrow|
|Crane’s-bill, Dusky||Medick, Black||Sorrel, Pale Pink||Yellow Archangel|
|Crane’s-bill, Shining||Medick, Spotted||Sorrel, Procumbent Yellow|
|Crosswort||Mind Your Own Business||Sorrel, Sheep’s|
|Cuckoo Flower||Moschatel||Sorrel, Wood|