Midsummer wildflower diversity

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Field of buttercups

The most striking thing about June for me is the diversity of plants that strive to take over the tree field particularly. As well as the orchids, there are lots of other flowering plants coming into bloom now. The bluebells are going over now, but the pignut is in full spate. Each flower stem has several umbels, so as one fades and turns to red seeds, another is a white disc of flowers. The buttercups are the other obvious flower that is almost everywhere on the field. We have two sorts of buttercup, the creeping sort (ranunculus repens) is pretty much in full bloom, whereas the finely divided leaves of the meadow buttercup (ranunculus acris) still have a while to go before the flowers open. Lots of vetch (the spell correct changed this to ‘fetch’ of which the dogs would approve!) and other legumes. The first are the pink flowered bitter vetch (Lathyrus linifolius), then the yellow birds foot trefoil (lotus corniculatus) on the drier bits. There’s another yellow vetch, Meadow vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis), which has bigger flowers and a large blue flowered one: tufted vetch (vicia cracca). Sometimes I can remember their names, but generally I have to look them up each year. Then there are the clovers. White clover, which varies from tiny flowers no bigger than my little fingernail, to blooms as big as the top of my thumb. Red clover is a little later coming out, and can have some massive flowers.

We did have a little black medick near the house, which is an annual, but I haven’t seen it recently. It caught my eye because it had so many four leaved leaves a few years ago. The flowers are really tiny and yellow, so although it looks like a clover at first sight when you see the flowers it then obviously isn’t. Ox eye daisies seem to prefer the drier soil, along the spoil from the cut, and along the rocky cut itself where it catches the sun. The lime green flowers of ladies mantle is everywhere mixed in with the grass. I was quite excited about this at first, thinking it was the more rare alpine ladies mantle, which has leaves divided like tiny fingers, rather then cape shaped ones. I love the way the ladies mantle leaves catch dew drops, the little hairs suspending them as little globes like tiny crystal balls. The thyme and heath bedstraw (Galium saxatile) are starting to bloom on the thinner drier parts of the field – along the former boundary walls and on the hump.

The bright blue speedwell is one of my favourite flowers. I always used to keep my lawn long in the hope that this would encourage the speedwell (now I don’t mow the lawn at all). There are lots of other flowers just coming into bloom – self heal, melancholy thistle by the pond and along the river fence, water avens (Geum rivale) with its lovely drooping blooms, stitchwort, lots of tormentil (potentilla erecta), a dandelion mimic: cats ear (hypochaeris radicata), daisies, and a little eyebright.

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Yellow flag iris, water avens, pignut and ladies mantle in gully field

There are also a few plants that have planted themselves in the mud of the pond. A yellow one like a buttercup with blade shaperd leaves (Lesser Spearwort – Ranunculus flammula) and a reed like one, possibly deer grass I’m not sure.
Others are starting to show their promise for later in the year including heather – mostly on the sunny gully bank. Meadowsweet and yarrow are quite widespread; the former generally in damper areas and the latter in drier areas. There is also quite a bit of ragwort despite my efforts to pull it out! Ditto creeping thistle. Silverweed (potentilla answerina), is a plant I am getting more interested in. It doesn’t seem that widespread in the field but there are several plants around the house and Byre areas, as well as the ones that I have planted, generally coming into flower now. Maybe it prefers the more fertile soil from the animal houses. Maybe they are remnants from former cultivation, or maybe it couldn’t tolerate the sheep grazing it to within a few mm of the soil!
I haven’t even touched on the grasses, reeds and sedges that are coming into flower at the moment. Different forms and shades of green they deserve a post of their own.

14 thoughts on “Midsummer wildflower diversity

  1. J > In the damp areas of our neighbour’s croft, and seen from a distance, Lesser Spearwort appears to form a blanket of intense golden yellow. A few years ago, when we had honey bees, these flowers provided their main spring source of pollen : the bee-line from the hives, over the high garden wall, and away to the field of yellow, and the bee-line returning to the hive laden with the gold dust, was like a motorway running with all lanes at capacity.

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  2. Mortal Tree recently did a post on vetch and I commented that I didn’t know whether we had any in Britain. So now it is confirmed that we do!

    I understand that they might alternatively be called ‘tares’ and I think I have seen ‘winter tares’ being sold at RHS Harlow Carr (in Harrogate). So I might get some should I go there when they have some in stock. It would be great to have some overwintering green manure.

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  3. I think winter tares should be available from a few companies as a green manure – you would buy seed since you would want a few for ground cover. Try the organic gardening company. I think they are an annual, so presumably would die back after flowering, if you didn’t dig them in before then. I don’t know whether my vetch are annual or perennial – I’m thinking of saving some seed to underplant my fruit bushes, especially if any are perennial, although they presumably seed around here, since they certainly come back year on year. If you like I can send you some seed of some of my legumes?

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    1. Lathyrus linifolius – is perennial, according to wikipedia the little storage tubers were eaten before potatoes in the highlands. I know L. tuberosa has some interest in that department so I may have to investigate further. Lotus corniculatus, Lathyrus pratensis and vicia cracca are also perennial according to wiki. so all better as permanent ground cover than as green manures. They would appear to be just what I want, but it depends on what you want them for. The meadow vetchling can grow fairly tall – scambling up 2 – 3 ft into the windbreak trees, so might be a bit much.

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  4. Thanks for the offer of sending me some vetch seeds. I’ll think about that and then I could give you my address when I send you the strawberry runners?

    The way I use green manure is to fertilise the soil via the roots (either nitrogen-fixing or simply being in the ground). Then I cut down the plants and add them to the compost heap (which of course fertilises the soil later). I’m trying to operate a no-dig system, so I don’t dig the plants in. In other words, any of the vetch you have might be suitable. I don’t have a lot of space but it would be interesting to try different plants out to see what works here on my patch.

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    1. Remind me later in the year Helen. My email is nancyatp6resthomedotcodotuk . I’ll be collecting the seeds for myself anyway so it’s no trouble to send you some πŸ™‚

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  5. I think you should check your black medick as I would expect it to be Lesser Trefoil.
    Also, the ” possibly deer grass” doesn’t sound likely “in the mud of the pond”, perhaps one of the spike rushes?
    Best wishes,

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    1. Thanks for your comments Stephen. I know black medick is unlikely on Skye, but I’m pretty certain – it had the little black marks on the leaves. I wasn’t sure about the deer grass. The grasses and reeds and sedges are still mostly anonymous to me!

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  6. Great post – we’re coming towards the end of a two week holiday on Barra and I’ve been loving the machair, from the abundance of red clover to a few rarities like a twayblade and a frog orchid. Don’t want to go home!

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    1. Thank you. I’ve never been to Barra, but be careful, you come once a year, you come twice a year, you come three times a year and it never gets any easier going back south. We’ve had the house here 10 years and only regret not moving sooner! I always say it comes as a package, must be harder still on Barra being a true island still.

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