Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Early blooms

An annual event in the calendar of the Botanical Society of the British Isles is a New Year's Day count of wild flowers in bloom. A figure of 30-40 species is about the norm; this year it was an astonishing 368.

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, still in flower. Christchurch
Road,  Daventry. 13 January, 2015
With this in mind I kept my eyes open yesterday (13 January) for plants in bloom locally, ignoring garden plants of course. Chickweed (Stellaria media), Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris), Shepherd's Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) and Annual Meadow-grass (Poa annua) were all flowering. These are ubiquitous annuals and are rarely out of bloom, so this was no surprise. Perennials included White Dead-nettle (Lamium album), Keck (Anthriscus sylvestris) and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), plus the lawn weeds Dandelion (Taraxacum officinaleand Daisy (Bellis perennis) whilst among the shrubs in flower were Gorse (Ulex europaea) and Hazel (Corylus avellana). 

Rather a paltry figure, I felt, so today I have tried to add to the total.  Chris dropped me off in Badby on a very cold morning. Snow lingered on where rays of the bright early sun had not yet reached and a biting north-west wind stung my ears; Dame Weather was in one of her more vexatious moods.

Mossy footpath in Badby, Northants.
14 January, 2015

Little-used footpaths in Badby had developed quite a growth of moss, of a bright yellowish-green.

Tortula muralis on a footpath at Badby, Northants
14 January, 2015

A close look showed that all the moss appeared to be Wall Screw-moss, Tortula muralis. The presence of the moss had allowed a thin layer of soil to develop giving a rooting opportunity to small annual 'higher' plants.

One of these small annuals was in flower. Petty Spurge, Euphorbia peplus, is a very common plant in this, and in other ruderal situations. A number of specimens were present and I uprooted one in order to get a better photograph.

White Dead-nettle in flower near Badby,
Northants. 14 January, 2015

Again, defying the weather, White Dead-nettle was in bloom. The structure of the flowers show that they are designed for insect pollination - not much chance in these conditions!

To refer back to the first paragraph of this blog, the BSBI has members over the length and breadth of Britain, covering very mild areas such as Cornwall and Pembrokeshire (yes, I know that Pembrokeshire no longer officially exists). Other records may have come from central London with its unnaturally warm conditions. Inevitably my observations cannot hope to match these very favourable areas...but keeping an eye open adds interest to a walk.

I know my tiny survey ruled out garden plants but I couldn't resist just one - a Hebe.

The variety, almost certainly 'Nicola's Blush', was represented by one shrub beside the village hall car park in Badby. The plant was covered in hundreds of semi-rounded little racemes of flowers. A lovely sight.

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