Tuesday, 3 May 2016

More Survivors

Three-cornered Leek, Allium triquetrum.  Hayes, 25 April 2016.
Three-cornered Leek, Allium triquetrum.  Hayes, 25 April 2016.
Some plants just need a very little open ground to thrive.  This Three-cornered Leek gets its name from the fleshy leaves, which are more or less triangular in cross-section.  It's an invasive pest in woodlands but bright and cheerful in unregarded corners like this one.

It is edible in all parts and tastes garlicky.  So this is one plant that no-one should feel guilty about foraging from the woods.  But don't take it from places like this, because the chances are that dogs have peed on it.

Cleavers, Galium aparine.  Tiepigs Lane, Hayes, 26 April 2016.
Cleavers, Galium aparine.  Tiepigs Lane, Hayes, 26 April 2016.
Shoots of Cleavers appeared as interlopers in two photos in my last post.  This is what it can do if given a little space to grow.

Some of these survivors will flower later in the year, and are already well on their way.
Purple Toadflax, Linaria purpurea.  Hayes station, 10 April 2016.
Purple Toadflax, Linaria purpurea.  Hayes station, 10 April 2016.
The edges of car parks are good places to look for these often unregarded plants.  Purple Toadflax - no relation to the Ivy-leaved Toadflax in the last post - is quite happy under this fencing.

Common Mallow, Malva sylvestris.   Hayes station, 10 April 2016.
Common Mallow, Malva sylvestris.   Hayes station, 10 April 2016.
This Mallow doesn't need much space, either.

Petty Spurge, Euphorbia peplus.  Tiepigs Lane, Hayes, 26 April 2016.
Petty Spurge, Euphorbia peplus.  Tiepigs Lane, Hayes, 26 April 2016.
Although it doesn't look it from afar, this Petty Spurge is in full flower.  The flowers are small and green, a common feature of the Euphorbiaceae.

Next time I'll post just a couple more of the really tough ones.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Suburban Survivors




Yellow Corydalis, Pseudofumaria lutea.  Saville Row, Hayes, 25 April 2016.
Yellow Corydalis, Pseudofumaria lutea.  Saville Row, Hayes, 25 April 2016.
It's not just mosses, lichens and liverworts that grow where there is no earth.  Lots of plants can survive and even thrive in cracks in stonework, and because mankind produces a great deal of artificial stonework there are niches for them in towns and cities.

This Yellow Corydalis is one of my favourites.  It's fresh and green, and those scrambled-egg flowers really cheer up the place.  In this photo there are also a couple of shoots of Cleavers and a tiny bit of Common Chickweed, both of which are hard to keep out.

Ivy-leaved Toadflax, Cymbalaria muralis.  Station Approach, Hayes, 18 April 2016.
Ivy-leaved Toadflax, Cymbalaria muralis.  Station Approach, Hayes, 18 April 2016.
Plants can survive and thrive even in busy places.  This Ivy-leaved Toadflax is in the crack between pavement and shop on a busy shopping street.  Someone has been around with weedkiller on this street, and many clumps of grass and greenery are going yellow and dying, but they have not really been very thorough, I am pleased to say.

Groundsel, Senecio vulgaris.  Station Approach, Hayes, 25 April 2016.
Groundsel, Senecio vulgaris.  Station Approach, Hayes, 25 April 2016.
These Groundsels are on the other side of the same street.  They are in full flower - this plant has no petals on its flowers. 

Pine seedling.  Ridgeway, Hayes, 8 April 2016.
Pine seedling.  Ridgeway, Hayes, 8 April 2016.
This one is a bit of a surprise.  Pines are not normal street weeds!  But there are a couple of mature Scots Pines nearby and that is most likely where this seedling originates.

This is on a residential street, less bothered by weed removal than a street of shops.

Buddleia or Butterfly Bush, Buddleja davidii.  Railway bridge, Tiepigs Lane, Hayes, 25 April 2016.
Buddleia or Butterfly Bush, Buddleja davidii.  Railway bridge, Tiepigs Lane, Hayes, 25 April 2016.
Buddleias are well known for growing in the cracks of walls, and that's what is happening here.  It's growing quite vigorously.  You can see that this brickwork has been repaired not long ago; there are newish bricks and fresh pointing.  You can also see that the older brickwork and pointing is deteriorating.  The bridge will soon need another repair if this goes on!

There is also a tiny shoot of bramble here, but it is not doing well and will probably not last.

Wavy Bitter-cress, Cardamine flexuosa.  Hayes, 25 April 2016.
Wavy Bitter-cress, Cardamine flexuosa.  Hayes, 25 April 2016.
This is Wavy Bitter-cress, and the very similar Hairy Bitter-cress also likes this kind of site.  Bitter-cresses grow in minute cracks all over this area.  If it is really dry they can be tiny, but still put out a few flowers.

Shining Crane's-bill, Geranium lucidum.  Saville Row, Hayes, 25 April 2016.
Shining Crane's-bill, Geranium lucidum.  Saville Row, Hayes, 25 April 2016.
Several Geraniums grow wild in this area.  Shining Crane's-bill is one of them.  The leaves and leaf stems are glossy and often wholly or partly red.  There are shoots of Cleavers here too, just like the first photo.

Next I will show some plants that need a bit of earth, but little more than that.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

What's In My Verge?

Verge of Farnborough Crescent, Hayes.  April 2016.
Verge of Farnborough Crescent, Hayes.  April 2016.
Across from the houses in my small estate there is what is, in theory, a grass verge.  Some of it is indeed very grassy.  But there are lots of plants that can stand up to regular mowing and in the absence of serious competition they can cover quite a lot of the ground.

Competition is lacking because this ground is never fertilised, so the big rough plants like the coarse grasses do not have a chance to establish themselves.   In this little section there aren't even any dandelions or daisies, both of which are quite happy on mown lawns. 

So what is there instead?  In this little section there are three species growing together (ignoring grass for the moment).  Most of the greenery, the small feathery leaves, are Parsley-piert, which is not a common lawn weed.

Parsley-piert, Aphanes arvensis agg.  Bourne Way, Hayes, 9 April 2016.
Parsley-piert, Aphanes arvensis agg.  Bourne Way, Hayes, 9 April 2016.
It's in several verges in this small area but I haven't seen it elsewhere in the district.  There are two possible species; I won't know which this one is until it flowers later on.  The flowers are tiny and green and I will need a hand lens.

In the low centre of the top photo is a small geranium, Small-flowered Crane's-bill.

Small-flowered Crane's-bill, Geranium pusillum.  Farnborough Crescent, Hayes, 18 April 2016.
Small-flowered Crane's-bill, Geranium pusillum.  Farnborough Crescent, Hayes, 18 April 2016.
These flowers really are small.

Small-flowered Crane's-bill, Geranium pusillum.  Farnborough Crescent, Hayes, 18 April 2016.
Small-flowered Crane's-bill, Geranium pusillum.  Farnborough Crescent, Hayes, 18 April 2016.
This plant is sometimes confused with the Dove's-foot Crane's-bill, Geranium molle.  But that plant has larger flowers, up to 1 cm across, which are quite pink, not this pale mauve.  Dove's-foot's rosette of leaves can look as small as this specimen, but in better conditions it can grow into quite a vigorous clump.  Geranium pusillum doesn't do that.  There are also distinct differences in the hairs on the leaf stalk.

Petiole hair comparison: Geranium molle and Geranium pusillum.
Petiole hair comparison: Geranium molle and Geranium pusillum.
I have looked at a lot of these recently and finally found the Small-flowered Crane's-bill right outside my door!  The Dove's-foot is much more shaggy, under a hand lens.

The third species in the top photo can be seen at the top, right of centre, with some tiny blue flowers.  This is a rather small specimen of Common Field Speedwell, Veronica persica.  It isn't a native.  It did indeed originate in Persia, as the scientific name suggests.  But it's everywhere now, and I think its blue flowers really cheer up a lawn in spring.

Common Field Speedwell, Veronica persica.  Saville Row, Hayes, 13 April 2014.
Common Field Speedwell, Veronica persica.  Saville Row, Hayes,  13 April 2014.
Here's a bigger and healthier specimen I photographed across from my house in 2014.  The small size of the plant in the top photo is another indication of how nutritionally poor that patch of soil is.  It probably also dries out quite easily, being right at the edge of the verge.  Occasionally people will tread on it or a car will drive over it, so it's a stressful place for plant life.

Of course, there are other plants in the verge, mostly in the less stressful parts.  I mentioned dandelions and daisies, and there are some of those.  There is some Dove's-foot Crane's-bill not far away.  There are grasses and mosses and yellow-flowered dandelion look-alikes and medicks.

This verge is mown every week.  The Parsley-piert never gets high enough to lose leaves.  Of the larger plants, those that grow their leaves from a low central point have the best chance of thriving.  If they lose some leaves or flowers, they can easily put out some more, whereas a tall-stemmed plant might be killed.  But there are lots of these low plants, which makes my verge an interesting place if looked at carefully.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Rue-Leaved Saxifrage

West Common Road, Hayes.  April 2016.
West Common Road, Hayes.  April 2016.
Here is the second of the three local plants which I did not notice unto recently.  There is less excuse for missing this one, which is quite colourful.

This path passes a small church with a well-kept lawn.  But look under the fence, just on the pavement side.  That's not just rough grass.

West Common Road, Hayes.  April 2016.
West Common Road, Hayes.  April 2016.







There is something red, dotted with white.  

Getting closer, I saw a mass of odd little plants with thick lobed leaves and white flowers.  This turns out to be Rue-leaved Saxifrage, which is not very common in Kent. 

Notice the rustic cigarette end also decorating the ground ...

This is a small plant, but there is quite a lot of it.  I think the only reason I have not noticed it before is that the road here is congested and you need to be cautious passing people going the other way, not to get in the way of cars.   But that is a feeble excuse.

Rue-leaved Saxifrage, Saxifraga tridactylites.  West Common Road, Hayes, 13 April 2016.
Rue-leaved Saxifrage, Saxifraga tridactylites.  West Common Road, Hayes, 13 April 2016.
This plant is completely covered with glandular hairs, which I only saw on close examination on the Little Mouse-ear in the last post.

Rue-leaved Saxifrage, Saxifraga tridactylites.  West Common Road, Hayes, 13 April 2016.
Rue-leaved Saxifrage, Saxifraga tridactylites.  West Common Road, Hayes, 13 April 2016.
On thisplant they are quite conspicuous, because the globule on the end is bright red.

"Weeds" - pavement flora - can be interesting if you notice they are there!

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Under My Feet

Bourne Way, Hayes.  April 2016
Bourne Way, Hayes.  April 2016
This is a reason for botanists to keep their eyes open at all times.  I have found three plant species I was previously unaware of in the last couple of weeks.

They have probably been there for years, but I have simply not noticed them.

This is the first.  Not a showy plant, but quite interesting from the botanical viewpoint.  And literally under my feet.

Here is an asphalt pavement which has been down long enough to develop some cracks, and the cracks have little spots of greenery in them.

Bourne Way, Hayes.  April 2016
Bourne Way, Hayes.  April 2016





At first glance I thought this was Common Chickweed, and even a closer look did not disabuse me because this plant has a line of hairs along one side of its stem, a characteristic of chickweed.

However, even when it was only in bud, looking closer still showed that it was quite hairy, which meant that it had to be a Mouse-ear, not a Chickweed.

Little Mouse-ear, Cerastium semidecandrum.    Bourne Way, Hayes, 9 April 2016.
Little Mouse-ear, Cerastium semidecandrum.    Bourne Way, Hayes, 9 April 2016.
And the hairs, particularly on the buds, were glandular.  That means that they have a dot of something sticky on the end.  That reduces the possibilities to four species, one of which is very rare.  (It isn't that one.)

Little Mouse-ear, Cerastium semidecandrum.    Bourne Way, Hayes, 12 April 2016.
Little Mouse-ear, Cerastium semidecandrum.    Bourne Way, Hayes, 12 April 2016.
Luckily there was a warm sunny day soon after that sighting, which brought out the flowers.  Wide silvery tips to the bracts, and petals shorter than the bracts, narrowed it down to Little Mouse-ear.

I received some odd looks from passers-by as I knelt down to photograph this plant - which I did several times over the last few days.  But even though it is quite inconspicuous, I found it exciting to find something unexpected in such an unlikely spot.  It's close to the station, and quite a busy pavement in the rush hours.  The book says this species normally grows on open sandy ground.  This is not that!

I had help from people on the iSpot site in identifying this one.

(Later addition:  This specimen has now been weed-killed out of existence by the Council,  but never mind: now that I have my eye in for its appearance I have found a healthy bank of it about 50 yards away.)

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Mosses Again - And Liverworts


Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus, Springy Turf-moss.  Hayes Common, 9 March 2016.
Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus, Springy Turf-moss.  Hayes Common, 9 March 2016.
Another couple of mosses, because they are pretty.

With its reddish stems and green leaves set at an angle, Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus is quite distinctive.  It grows among grass, and in sometimes it forms the main ground cover.

Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus, Springy Turf-moss.  Hayes Common, 9 March 2016.
Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus, Springy Turf-moss.  Hayes Common, 9 March 2016.
This patch is at the edge of a grassy clearing.  The moss threads its way among the grass all over one side of the clearing, and at the edge it takes over completely.  It is wet here, because it has just been raining, but it can also grow in much drier grassland.

Bryum argenteum, Silver-moss.  Ridgeway, Hayes.  9 March 2016.
Bryum argenteum, Silver-moss.  Ridgeway, Hayes.  9 March 2016.
This moss, Bryum argenteum, seems to prefer the drier places.  It forms silvery patches on walls.  It is pretty and is also easily recognisable.

Closely related to mosses are liverworts.  Some are leafy, like mosses, but others form a green layer over wet ground.

Marchantia polymorpha subsp. ruderalis, Common Liverwort.   Ridgeway, Hayes, 9 March 2016.
Marchantia polymorpha subsp. ruderalis, Common Liverwort.   Ridgeway, Hayes, 9 March 2016.
As its common name suggests, Marchantia polymorpha is easy to find.  It grows on the untrampled edges of roads and pavements, and this patch is on the ground behind a street name sign.

The circular features are cups containing gemmae, little asexual reproductive buds which can be splashed out by raindrops.

Marchantia polymorpha subsp. ruderalis, Common Liverwort.   Gemmae in cups.  Ridgeway, Hayes, 9 March 2016.
Marchantia polymorpha subsp. ruderalis, Common Liverwort.   Gemmae in cups.  Ridgeway, Hayes, 9 March 2016.
This simple system allows the liverwort to spread very easily. 

Here's a related species:

Lunularia cruciata, Crescent-cup Liverwort.  Husseywell Park, Hayes, 8 April 2016.
Lunularia cruciata, Crescent-cup Liverwort.  Husseywell Park, Hayes, 8 April 2016.
This Crescent-cup Liverwort is on a water inlet pipe in a small park.  As you can see, this one has gemmae in crescent-shaped organs:

Lunularia cruciata, Crescent-cup Liverwort.  Gemmae in crescents.   Husseywell Park, Hayes, 8 April 2016.
Lunularia cruciata, Crescent-cup Liverwort.  Gemmae in crescents.   Husseywell Park, Hayes, 8 April 2016.
 These serve exactly the same function as the round cups on Marchantia polymorpha.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Hairy-Footed Flower Bee

Hairy-footed Flower Bee, Anthophora plumipes.   Male.  West Wickham Common, 3 April 2016.
Hairy-footed Flower Bee, Anthophora plumipes.   Male.  West Wickham Common, 3 April 2016.
SOme early bees are out and about, and the one with the best name is the Hairy-footed Flower Bee.  It's about the same size as a bumble-bee worker, but it's too early in the year for the workers to be flying, so if you think you see one it might be this.  This is the male, a furry bee of a light buff colour.  This photo shows off the hairy feet pretty well.

Hairy-footed Flower Bee, Anthophora plumipes.   Female.  West Wickham Common, 3 April 2016.
Hairy-footed Flower Bee, Anthophora plumipes.   Female.  West Wickham Common, 3 April 2016.
The female is much darker, but has a distinctive light tuft on its leg.

Both these bees are working through a patch of Red Dead-nettle, which is currently in full flower.   Other insects also come to these flowers; this one ..

Bombus terrestris, Buff-tailed Bumblebee.   Queen.  West Wickham Common, 3 April 2016.
Bombus terrestris, Buff-tailed Bumblebee.   Queen.  West Wickham Common, 3 April 2016.
is a bumble-bee.  It's a queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee, foraging to feed its first batch of larvae.  It is twice the length of the flower bees and could not be mistaken for one.

There are also some other mid-sized flyers around.  For example, bee-flies; as the name suggests, they are flies, not bees.  I didn't manage to photograph the one I saw on April 3rd, so here is a shot from 2014.

Beefly, Bombylius major.  Churchyard of the Church of St. Mary,  Kemsing, 12 April 2014.
Beefly, Bombylius major.  Churchyard of the Church of St. Mary,  Kemsing, 12 April 2014.
It's the same size as the flower bees, and about the same colour as the male, but those stiffly held wings with the dark band are quite distinctive.