Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Wildflowers Near Leigh

Leigh village green, 19 May 2012.
Leigh village green, 19 May 2012.
We parked around the edge of this tidy village green and walked towards the river.  The weather was mild, becoming hot and sunny later on.  This was another Orpington Field Club outing, and the intention was to see something of the water-loving plants that grow by the Medway.  It was a good day; I saw several plants and insects for the first time.

Celery-leaved Buttercup,  Ranunculus sceleratus.  Near Leigh, 19 May 2012.
This was the one I found most interesting.  Yet another species of buttercup, recognisable as such because of that ring of buttery yellow petals, but with fleshy stems and hairless leaves, probably because it lives with its roots in water.  It was in a shallow pond where we took our lunch break.

The same pond was almost full of this plant:

Brooklime, Veronica beccabunga.  Near Leigh, 19 May 2012.
Brooklime, Veronica beccabunga.  Near Leigh, 19 May 2012.
Not new to me, but very pretty, just starting to flower.  It's another Speedwell, which I have seen many of this year.  According to my wildflower teacher Sue Buckingham, its Latin name is memorable because it bungs up the beck.  But look how similar this is in general appearance to the buttercup.  Hairless, with fleshy leaves and stems.  This form must be suited to the shallow-water niche.

This one was also growing in wet ground, but not actually in a pond:

Large Bitter-cress, Cardamine amara.  Near Leigh, 19 May 2012.
It was new to me.  It's related to Hairy and Wavy Bitter-cress, which are common garden invaders, and also the Cuckoo-flower which grows in woods and hedgerows.  It has rounder leaflets than the common types, and one should also look for six violet anthers.

Winter-cress, Barbarea vulgaris.  Near Leigh, 19 May 2012.
Winter-cress, Barbarea vulgaris.  Near Leigh, 19 May 2012.
Another one I hadn't seen before.  This plant was growing right on the edge of the river bank; I could have removed that twig before taking the photo, but only at some risk.

Growing some way out of reach was this flower.

Dame's-violet, Hesperis matronalis.  Near Leigh, 19 May 2012.
I refer to the two pale inflorescences, not the blue Russian Comfrey to the right or the deep pink Red Campion on the far left.  You can see how full of vigorous wildflowers this area is. 

Dame's-violet is a wild flower that used to be brought into gardens because of its flowers and its pleasant scent, which was strongest in the evening. 

I will finish with two common and familiar flowers.

Elder flowers, Sambucus nigra.  Near Leigh on 19 May 2012.
Elder flowers, Sambucus nigra.  Near Leigh on 19 May 2012.
The beautiful creamy flower-heads of the Elder bush, which make delicious wine.  This grows quickly and easily in so-called waste ground and there is even one poking over my garden fence.

White Dead-nettle, Lamium album.  Near Leigh on 19 May 2012.
White Dead-nettle, Lamium album.  Near Leigh on 19 May 2012.
This also grows everywhere, but I couldn't resist taking a closeup to show how hairy the flowers are.

It's called a dead-nettle because it doesn't sting, even though the leaves look so similar to the Stinging Nettle.  They grow in the same places, often mixed in the same clumps, so it's useful to be able to tell them apart, which I learned to do at about age 4.


  1. Hesperis matronalis: Nachtviolen. Mayerhofer's poem, set by Schubert, a lovely song usually sung by a soprano, but not always. I guess they have them in Austria, too.
    Yes, known by their scent. Now I know what they look like.

  2. Yes, it's a European species. Thanks for this addition to my knowledge about it! I'm sorry I couldn't get closer to the plant.