David Beeson, 24th June 2021
Just a ramble through some of my recent images. A bit of this and that!
Viper’s bugloss – Echium vulgare is a biennial that prefers tag-end soils, growing in my garden in pure gravel. Elsewhere I find it on pure chalk or rough waste ground. Despite being relegated to such locations it is a stunning plant that is very welcome here. And the bees love it more than any other plant I know … with the exception of wild rockroses. You will encounter it in high summer in much of Europe and Asia. It has been introduced to the USA. At one time it was used as an antidote to snake bite … I guess with very limited effect! Obtain some seeds and sow them in the nether regions of your garden and enjoy their flowers and insect friends next year.
This is a 65cm high greater butterfly orchid growing in our lawn. There are snowdrops in this patch and we left them to seed many years ago, only to soon discover a seedling orchid growing there. It was nurtured and now, some fifteen years later, it still thrives, although it does not flower successfully each year.
This uncut section of the lawn is about 3 x 1m and naturally now has 9 flowering pyramidal orchids, three twayblade orchids as well as this plant. None were seeded or planted here. Given a chance plants will spread themselves around and delight you.
Southern marsh orchid growing around our pond. It is about 50cm tall. We dug the wild pond over 30 years ago now and seeded the fringes with a wetland mixture. Since then we have added snakeshead fritillary seeds and a couple of marsh orchids from a garden. They have spread naturally by seed, with the flowers seen varying from a small handful to thirty. This year there are ten. The plant has not spread to the drier soils nearby.
Oxalis articulata is joined by a geranium in Annette’s herbaceous border. The oxalis is not a native and can be a problem in the garden as it spreads too well if one cares to dig it up. I have that problem and it will need some drastic action soon! It suffers badly from a fungal rust infection that eats away at its clover-like leaves, yet it has sufficient reserves to throw up myriads of blooms all summer.
WE did not cut our main lawn during May and much of June – you may have seem images in a previous post. I finally cut it on the 22nd of June as it had lost its flowery interest. But, it has been cut long and will soon recover as a flowery summer meadow with waving grasses and a yellow haze of hawkweeds and bird’sfoot trefoils. The displaced grasshoppers will then return to sing to us throughout August and September. But, yes, I did chop off a few dozen orchid heads. (There are a few huundred still elsewhere, so no shortage!)
The horse chestnut is found widely around the UK. It is not a native, originally being imported from Turkey. You will not be surprised to learn that it is toxic. Raw horse chestnut seed, bark, flower, and leaf are UNSAFE and can even cause death. Signs of poisoning include stomach upset, kidney problems, muscle twitching, weakness, loss of coordination, vomiting, diarrhoea, depression, paralysis, and stupor. At one time its seeds were fed to horses to de-worm them.
Wild roses are at their best now in the hedgerows and an infinite variety of their cousins fill UK gardens. Any we planted were often eaten by invading roe deer, but those tat grew into the tops of our hedges and trees survived and are now at their best.
Throughout the UK hundreds of gardens open their gates to raise funds for charity. The Yellow Book of the National Gardens Scheme are freely available, and for a few ponds you can enjoy criticising someone else’s garden! We opened for ten years, but a couple of wet years left us with few visitors and a freezer full of unsold cakes … and a subsequent need to diet!
An experiment I have not encountered before.
A newly sown wildflower meadow will usually give this effect in the early years. Eventually these oxeyes daisies will be outcompeted and their numbers decrease as diversity increases. This is at Kingston Lacy National Trust.
A Dorset stream with a fringe of white-flowered umbellifer. The plant is water dropwort, although it is better called water drop-dead wort. If you do not know this plant then it is wort looking it up to ensure you, nor the grandchildren, get its sap onto the skin. It is said to be the most poisonous plant in the UK and is very common along most of our waterways.
The entire plant is poisonous. The tubers, stems, and leaves contain oenanthotoxin, a highly unsaturated higher alcohol, which is known to be poisonous and a powerful convulsant. Beware, there is a common meadow plant called dropwort and, as far as I’m aware, it is unrelated to the water dropwort and is harmless. Common names are not always helpful and can cause confusion.
Just down the road from the water dropwort is Wareham Forest – wet acid heathland. However, the gravel track put in must have been from a calcium-rich source as bee orchids, chalk-loving spotted orchids and southern marsh orchids occurred along its length. By-the-way, Wareham is a super Saxon settlement with mainly intact earth walls. The Saxon town was ‘taken’ by Viking raiders when the sentries forgot to close the front door. Everyone inside before the attack was killed.
Look carefully, I think there were seven bee orchids in this one spot.
Pseudocopulation. No not a subject from a sex manual – this is the description of what this flower is all about. The flower is said to look and smell like a female bee who is ‘in the mood’. Male bees descend and attempt to copulate (they must have just been to the pub for too many beers), pick up pollen (on intact pollinia) before departing unstatiated to seek out another bee / bee orchid flower. And that explains the unusual design of the flower. Plants are clever. This was one of the plants from the trackway.
Within a metre of the bee orchid was this acid waterway with cotton grass in seed head. Where you see this plant I fear to tread. Nearby were many carnivorous sundews, heathers and other acid-loving plants.
The Arne RSPB reserve is near Wareham. This reserve is quite wonderful and was one of my research locations – small mammals and adders. Maintaining the correct balance of vegetations can be aided by using horses, pigs or cattle. Getting the correct stocking level is the difficult part, then sit back and hope the animals save the humans from intervening too much. Arne joins onto National Trust and a private estate that work in partnership to produce a huge nature reserve. If you have not been there, do go. Corfe Castle is just down the road, as is the Swanage Steam Railway and the chalky cliffs near Studland are my best adder-watching location.
RSPB Arne has heathland, deciduous woodland and bird-rich marshes. Spoonbills, Dartford warblers and much more. Like most good nature reserves, they allow public access to only a small percentage of the site – this allows great viewing but avoids too much human disturbance.
The Dorset area called Purbeck is a great wildlife location. It also offers ‘family’ entertainment and great cream teas at Worth Matravers. When the steam railway is not operating the track bed offers good sightings of adders. Badgers are common here and exploring the woods just north of Corfe Castle is fun.
National Trust image of Corfe Castle.
To access 100 advert-free articles go to Some are technical, others (like this one) are just a bit of fun! http://www.nwhwildlife.org and scroll down.