Wednesday, 1 July 2015

An Unusual Orchid

Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii, var. rhodochila.  Downe Bank, 27 June 2015.
Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii, var. rhodochila.  Downe Bank, 27 June 2015.
Dactylorhiza fuchsii, var. rhodochila is a scarce, but widespread, variety of the Common Spotted Orchid.

Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii, var. rhodochila.  Downe Bank, 27 June 2015.
Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii, var. rhodochila.  Downe Bank, 27 June 2015.
This one was known to grow in the Downe Bank Nature Reserve, and Irene Palmer was kind enough to show me just where, so that I could take a few photos.  The orchid flowers are quite prolific this year and it is not easy to spot this one.

I also took a few photos in Downe village while waiting for Irene (I was there early). 

Wall Rue, Asplenium ruta-muraria.  On the churchyard wall in Downe, 27 June 2015.
Wall Rue, Asplenium ruta-muraria.  On the churchyard wall in Downe, 27 June 2015.

Wall Rue is a small fern that is happy on dry stone.  Other ferns, on the wall of the church, have frizzled up, but this plant, on the churchyard wall, is bright green and lush.

Barley, Hordeum vulgare.   Downe churchyard.  Downe, 27 June 2015.
Barley, Hordeum vulgare.   Downe churchyard.  Downe, 27 June 2015.
A little bunch of Barley is growing next to the church, perhaps escaped from birdseed.  It's like a giant version of Wall Barley, a common wayside grass, and is from the same genus.

Black Horehound, Ballota nigra.  Downe, 27 June 2015.
Black Horehound, Ballota nigra.  Downe, 27 June 2015.
Over the road, on a tiny patch of grass with a bench, this is Black Horehound.  The leaves are supposed to smell resinous and unpleasant when crushed.  Sometimes they do have a strong smell, but I like it.  It's similar to the smell of Hedge Woundwort, a related plant which you can also find in hedgerows.

Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui.   Fence on the track down to Downe Bank, 26 June 2015.
Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui.   Fence on the track down to Downe Bank, 26 June 2015.
Finally, a Painted Lady found on the track down to the nature reserve.  I was pleased to get a good shot of the underwing, which is less familiar than the top view.  This moth is a regular immigrant to the UK, and we are told that there are hordes of them on the continent just waiting for the right weather to come over.  Clearly, some are already here!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Monad Wonders

White Bryony, Bryonia dioica.  Female.  Hayes, 18 June 2015.
White Bryony, Bryonia dioica.  Female.  Hayes, 18 June 2015.
White Bryony, Bryonia dioica.  Male.  Hayes, 20 June 2015.
White Bryony, Bryonia dioica.  Male.  Hayes, 20 June 2015.

This White Bryony was in the hedgerow at the edge of Hayes churchyard.  It's a common hedgerow plant, a climber, related to cucumbers, and each plant is single-sexed.  They are not showy, but are beautiful in detail.

Snapdragon, Antirrhinum majus.  On Hayes churchyard wall.  18 June 2015.
Snapdragon, Antirrhinum majus.  On Hayes churchyard wall.  18 June 2015.
The wall that separates the churchyard from the road has an excellent flora of its own.  I would not have thought that a garden plant like a Snapdragon could flourish unattended with nothing but a crack in the stonework for its roots.   At the base of the Snapdragon you can also see a small Rustyback Fern, quite a rarity in Kent, and to the right is a Harebell, this one not in flower.

Pale Yellow-eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium striatum.  Hayes Street Farm, 18 June 2015.
Pale Yellow-eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium striatum.  Hayes Street Farm, 18 June 2015.
Back at the farm, I found this Pale Yellow-eyed Grass in an unattended corner.  It took me some while to identify it.  It's not in the book I use most of the time because it's only found in the wild "naturalised, often short-lived, on tips, waste ground, banks and waysides," which describes where I found it quite well.  With leaves like an Iris (to whose family it belongs) but flowers like no Iris ever, I found it after a long Googling session!  The flowers are:

Pale Yellow-eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium striatum.  Hayes Street Farm, 18 June 2015.
Pale Yellow-eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium striatum.  Hayes Street Farm, 18 June 2015.
Light yellow with darker centres.

Peacock larvae, Aglais io, on Common Nettle, Urtica dioica.  Hayes Street Farm, 18 June 2015.
Peacock larvae, Aglais io, on Common Nettle, Urtica dioica.  Hayes Street Farm, 18 June 2015.
I was looking through a large stand of stinging nettles nearby, watching for damselflies, when I spotted these caterpillars.  They belong to the Peacock butterfly and they are immediately identifiable by their host plant and their habit of cocooning it up, and those black spines along their backs. 

White Campion, Silene latifolia.  Hayes Street Farm.  18 June 2015.
White Campion, Silene latifolia.  Hayes Street Farm.  18 June 2015.
And last for today, also on the farm, near the Clustered Dock I showed last time, was this White Campion.  I was pleased to add this to my species list.  The Red Campion is common in the local woods, but I see this relative much less often.

The more I walk around my monads with open eyes, the more interesting things I find - and all 15 or 20 minutes' walk from my door.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Monad Treasures

Bee on a yellow Composite.  Lasioglossum species.  Hayes Street Farm, 18 June 2015.
Bee on a yellow Composite.  Lasioglossum species.  Hayes Street Farm, 18 June 2015.
For the last two years I have been joining in a large project to record all the wild flowers in the Greater London area.  Those who take part pick a monad, a one kilometer square, and walk round it during the year to see what can be found.  You have to go round several times in different seasons to pick up everything.

I have two monads this year.  One of them includes a couple of small suburban parks, a churchyard and graveyard, and some farmland. I have found some surprising plants here, some of them scarce in Kent.  Of course, I also see insects, like the bee above, a Lasioglossum.  I'm afraid I don't know the species.

Clustered Dock, Rumex conglomeratus, on Hayes Street Farm. 18 June 2015
Clustered Dock, Rumex conglomeratus, on Hayes Street Farm. 18 June 2015
Most docks are tricky to identify unless you can examine their seeds, but this one is easier.  It has many branches that come off at nearly 90 degrees from an angled stem, and it is leafy almost right to the tip.  It's Clustered Dock, and it usually grows in wet places, so I was surprised to find it next to a farm track.  In fact I also found it in the pond mud in Husseywell Park.  Here's a closeup:

Clustered Dock, Rumex conglomeratus, on Hayes Street Farm. 18 June 2015
Clustered Dock, Rumex conglomeratus, on Hayes Street Farm. 18 June 2015
Because it's not easy to see the details of the whole plant against the green background. This is a delicate and lovely little dock, quite unlike most of the others which are sometimes very large and cabbagey.

Husseywell Park also gave me a Wall Lettuce:

Wall Lettuce, Mycelis muralis, by the pond in Husseywell Park, Hayes.  18 June 2015.
Wall Lettuce, Mycelis muralis, by the pond in Husseywell Park, Hayes.  18 June 2015.
What called my attention to this, which at any distance is just another yellow composite, were the flowers:

Wall Lettuce, Mycelis muralis, by the pond in Husseywell Park, Hayes.  18 June 2015.
Wall Lettuce, Mycelis muralis, by the pond in Husseywell Park, Hayes.  18 June 2015.
They all have exactly five florets, a real giveaway.  This is the first time I have found one of these in my area, so despite the rather ratty and mildewed look of this plant, I was delighted.

I also found this ...

Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus, in Husseywell Park, Hayes.  18 June 2015.
Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus, in Husseywell Park, Hayes.  18 June 2015.
 The Moorhens have batches of chicks, and they show little fear of people.  Look at the size of those feet! 

The name "Husseywell" comes from Housewife's Well.


Thursday, 18 June 2015

More Orchids

Flower of a Greater Butterfly-orchid, Plantathera chlorantha.  Orchid Bank, High Elms Country Park, 11 June 2015.
Flower of a Greater Butterfly-orchid, Plantathera chlorantha.  Orchid Bank, High Elms Country Park, 11 June 2015.
I heard of a Greater Butterfly Orchid in High Elms Country Park last year, but was unable to find it.  It turns out I was looking in the wrong place, but this year I had better information.  It's not colourful, but many find the delicate white shapes of its flowers delightful.  I think they are fascinating, but they look to me like wide-open vampire's mouths with long tongues.

Greater Butterfly-orchid, Plantathera chlorantha.  Orchid Bank, High Elms Country Park, 11 June 2015.
Greater Butterfly-orchid, Plantathera chlorantha.  Orchid Bank, High Elms Country Park, 11 June 2015.
(Less so from a distance.)  There seems to be only one specimen in High Elms.  At night, it has a strong scent and is pollinated by large moths.  Those fang-like objects inside the flower are pollinia, clumps of pollen on stalks, and they become attached to the eyes of the moths when they approach for a drink of nectar. 

Fragrant Orchid, Gymnadenia conopsea.  Downe Bank, 11 June 2015.
Fragrant Orchid, Gymnadenia conopsea.  Downe Bank, 11 June 2015.
This Fragrant Orchid is a much more colourful species, but is also pollinated by moths.  Those long, curved nectar tubes are designed for insects with long probiscides.  It has quite a strong floral scent.

Lastly, something unusual:

Variegated Broad-leaved Helleborine, Epipactis helleborine.  Orchid Bank, High Elms Country Park, 11 June 2015.
Variegated Broad-leaved Helleborine, Epipactis helleborine.  Orchid Bank, High Elms Country Park, 11 June 2015.
It's too early for this Broad-leaved Helleborine to be flowering, but it's worth showing because it is naturally variegated, which is scarce.  I saw a normal Broad-leaved Helleborine in the same spot last year and it is possible that this is the same plant, somewhat changed, probably by a virus infection.  Virus infections that produce similar effects are also known among cultivated orchids.

Variegation reduces the viability of plants because they have less of the green chlorophyll that produces the food they need. A virus can also reduce the strength of a plant in other ways, though this one seems to be quite robust. It will be interesting later on to see if the flowers are affected.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Orchid Time

White Helleborine, Cephalanthera damasonium.  Flower showing yellow throat.  Downe Bank, 11 June 2015.
White Helleborine, Cephalanthera damasonium.  Flower showing yellow throat.  Downe Bank, 11 June 2015.
Wild orchids are flowering profusely on the chalk banks in Bromley (the London Borough Of, not the town).  This is a White Helleborine, one of the more common types, seen in many woods at the edge of pathways, which makes one think that like many plants it prefers the edge habitat.  In a place such as that it can have shelter from winds and the worst of the weather, yet not be completely shaded out.

Seldom do the flowers open widely enough to display this yellow throat.  But this was a particularly large specimen.

White Helleborine, Cephalanthera damasonium.  Downe Bank, 11 June 2015.
White Helleborine, Cephalanthera damasonium.  Downe Bank, 11 June 2015.
Usually the flowers stay closed, as most of these are; the plant is self-pollinating.

Near this plant were groups of Common Twayblades and Fly Orchids, both of which are also quite happy in full sun in the open.  This Fly Orchid was on a grassy bank.

Fly Orchid, Ophrys insectifera.  Downe Bank, 11 June 2015.
Fly Orchid, Ophrys insectifera.  Downe Bank, 11 June 2015.
This one is far from being self-pollinating, and has almost an orchid trademark system.  It is disguised as an insect and puts out pheromones that attract digger wasps.  When they try to mate with the flower, clumps of pollen grains known as pollinia become attached to the genuine insects and are transferred by them.  The plants are quite inconspicuous to the human eye and you need to look carefully to spot them among the grass.

In fact, several of our wild orchids have a disappointing appearance, even close up.  Here is one of the Common Twayblades I mentioned earlier.

Common Twayblade, Neottia ovata.  Downe Bank, 11 June 2015.
Common Twayblade, Neottia ovata.  Downe Bank, 11 June 2015.
A large and healthy specimen, with its single pair of leaves - the "tway blades" - prominently in view, but not exactly a stunner even though it is in full flower.

More orchids next time ...

Friday, 5 June 2015

More Mug Shots


Muslin Moth, Diaphora mendica.  Erebidae.   Hayes, 14 May 2015.
Muslin Moth, Diaphora mendica.  Erebidae.   Hayes, 14 May 2015.
 This Muslin Moth is a sort of Stan Laurel moth with a fetching tuft of hair; but it has no hands to run through it. 

Early Grey, Xylocampa areola.  Noctuidae.   Hayes, 24 March 2015.
Early Grey, Xylocampa areola.  Noctuidae.   Hayes, 24 March 2015.
The Early Grey lives up to its name; it is one of the first species to appear in the trap each year.  It does not have comb-like antennae, and like a lot of the Noctuidae it tucks them out of the way when at rest.

Yellow-barred Brindle, Acasis viretata.  Geometridae.   Hayes, 25 May 2015.
Yellow-barred Brindle, Acasis viretata.  Geometridae.   Hayes, 25 May 2015.
The Geometridae do not generally make good subjects for this kind of photo.  They look spindly and often unwell.  This Yellow-barred Brindle (which only appears yellow when it is old) is a fair example, and actually looks better than most.
Herald, Scoliopteryx libatrix.  Erebidae.   Hayes, 11 May 2015.
Herald, Scoliopteryx libatrix.  Erebidae.   Hayes, 11 May 2015.
This Herald, on the other hand, looks very smart, with those bright white dots highlighting the base of its antennae and some parts of its wings. 

Monday, 1 June 2015

Mug Shots

Lunar Marbled Brown.  Drymonia ruficornis.  Notodontidae.  West Wickham Common, 15 April 2015
Lunar Marbled Brown.  Drymonia ruficornis.  Notodontidae.  West Wickham Common, 15 April 2015
Here are a few frontal shots of moths, which can be very characterful.  This Lunar Marbled Brown is the same moth I showed a few posts ago, from the West Wickham Common light trap. 

Marbled Brown, Drymonia dodonaea.  Notodontidae.  West Wickham Common, 15 April 2015
Marbled Brown, Drymonia dodonaea.  Notodontidae.  West Wickham Common, 15 April 2015
And here is a close relative, a Marbled Brown, from the same trap a month later.  And from the same place and time:

Pale Tussock, Calliteara pudibunda.  Lymantriidae.  West Wickham Common, 15 April 2015
Pale Tussock, Calliteara pudibunda.  Lymantriidae.  West Wickham Common, 15 April 2015
A Pale Tussock, a lovely furry creature.  And one which is named after its appearance from this angle ...

Spectacle, Abrostola tripartita.  Noctuidae.  West Wickham Common, 15 April 2015
Spectacle, Abrostola tripartita.  Noctuidae.  West Wickham Common, 15 April 2015
A Spectacle.  Quite a few moths have a tuft of scales just behind the head, as you can see from the previous photos, but on this creature it is rather larger than average.  And then there are the false eyes  ...