Diary 2011

November 13th 2011

Yet another newspaper article has appeared claiming that plants have been fooled into flowering early and butterflies are appearing unseasonally.

What garbage!

The examples they tend to choose are plants which will always produce a flower or two if the weather is warm in Autumn like Primroses - mine have many flowers this year as they often have had since 1990. And the butterflies always seem to be Red Admirals which hibernate here and quite often wake up when the weather is good - they are seen in almost every month if there is a warm day. Having said that there are plenty of flowers on the Gorse (Ulex europaeus) and I found long leaves of the Ficaria verna ssp fertilis (Lesser Celandine) but no flowers yet. My earliest record for Lesser Celandine flowers is 15th November.

Now if you found a Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non scripta) in flower in the wild I would sit up and take notice. Any offers? Thought not.

September 7th 2011

At the Wild Flower Society's AGM this year we had various field trips around the Brecks. There was a surprising quantity and quality of plants waiting for us to see and much of it still in flower. Scleranthus perennis ssp prostratus (Perennial Knawel) was still very much in flower and we managed to find a few blooms of the Dipsacus strigosa (Yellow-flowered Teasel) a rare Russian introduction. I had not seen Seseli libanotis (Moon Carrot) before and it does look very much like Daucus carota (Wild Carrot).

July 17th 2011

We have recently returned from a holiday in northern Scotland which will be the subject of a photo diary shortly. Scotland is famous for rain and midges of course but this time the weather was mostly sunny and the midges were keep at bay by a new cosmetic product not designed for this purpose (Skin so soft) which all the botanists seem to keep in their bags.

Northern Scotland was actually showing signs of drought so the usual black cloud over Scotland depicted on southern (meaning London based) weather forecaster's maps shows how they simply don't appreciate the many climatic areas there are in this glorious country. The moors of Cape Wrath were cracked and dry for instance and there was very little water running in any of the far northern burns.

In spite of the relatively dry weather the plants were wonderful with thousands of Primula scotica (Scottish Primrose) on Orkney and a hundreds ar Durness and Faraid head. There were many orchids commonly seen including Gymnadenia sp (Fragrant Orchid), Coeloglossum viride (Frog Orchid), Dactylorhiza purpurella (Northern Marsh-orchid), Dactylorhiza maculata (Heath Spotted-orchid), Neottia ovata (Twayblade), Platanthera bifolia (Lesser Butterfly-orchid) and Platanthera chlorantha (Greater Butterfly-orchid) not counting hybrids.

Add to those species both blue and white forms of Gentianella campestris (Field Gentian), the gorgeous Mertensia maritima (Oyster Plant), Lamium confertum (Northern Deadnettle) and Euphrasia foulaensis (Eyebright) and you have a fine collection of rarities and typical northern specialties. As if the superb flora wasn't enough we also saw Great Skuas (Bonxie), Fulmars and Puffins on Birsay, red squirrels on several occasions, a Roe deer buck in summer coat and on the last day, several salmon leaping the Falls of Insh. Best Scottish holiday yet and it would have made a perfect naturalist's documentary for BBC 2 but without the excuses for not seeing stuff.

June 23rd 2011

The dull but fairly dry May weather has given way to an unpredictable June with heavy showers interspersed with hot sunshine.The weeds in the garden just love it.

Total number of Dactylorhiza fuchsii (Common Spotted Orchids) in the garden is now forty seven - all in full flower and according to a book I'm reading (Terrestrial Orchids from seed to mycotrophic plant by Hanne Rasmussen) they could have been underground for four years or so.

No more additions for a while. Off to bonny Scotland - the far north including Inverness, Orkney and Durness.

June 3rd 2011

The dry Spring weather gave way to dull and occasionally wet, colder weather with very few blue-sky days in May. Some parts of the British Isles, particularly the eastern counties around East Anglia, suffered record drought with only 11mm of rainfall recorded for some areas. The overall effect was of dryness and plants in exposed places even at the coast in the relatively wetter north. Plants flowered early and by June many looked dehydrated.

A flat area (we live on the side of a hill) in our one acre garden has been treated for impoverishment for a couple of decades now. The grass is mowed and nothing ever put back. The idea is to make it unsuitable for the broad-leaved perennial weeds like dock and nettle and to allow a diversity of species to arise naturally. In other words we hoped a natural wild flower meadow would develop.

This year we have over thirty Dactylorhiza fuchsii (Common Spotted Orchid) plants with buds/flowers as well as Galium saxatile (Heath Bedstraw), Stellaria graminea (Lesser Stitchwort), Luzula multiflora (Heath Woodrush), Luzula campestris (Good Friday grass) plus plenty of Hypochaeris radicata (Cat's-ear), Prunella vulgaris (Self-heal) and Rumex acetosella (Sheep's Sorrel) and a few Cardamine pratensis (Cuckoo Flower). So you can create a proper wild flower meadow which will stay but you need patience not a packet of wild flower seeds. Note that for Orchids to appear, the soil must have an appropriate mycorrhizal fungus present otherwise germination is impossible. So far the orchids are found only on one patch of the "meadow" which suggest that that is the only bit with the fungus.

April 29th 2011

The dry Spring weather continues here in the northern UK with occasional high temperatures that would do justice to high summer.

A short while ago in Cyprus we stayed in a small village situated in the Troodos foothills at about 3,000 feet. The height meant that it was still early Spring here and we found plenty of Orchids which are usually over by mid April in Cyprus. At the top in Troodos itself the vegetation was still in winter mode with very few flowers to be seen. The most striking plant here in Cyprus is Ferula communis (Giant Fennel) which sometimes lines the minor roads like guardsmen with yellow epaulettes. At the coast the F. communis was over but at our village some was still in bud.

April 12th 2011

The weekend of the 8th and 9th April saw temperatures soar to the low 20s Celsius and summer felt as though it had arrived. Went to a wedding in Bristol but had time to explore the Avon Gorge and find Carex humilis and Arabis scabra. There will be no additions for a while because our holiday in Greek Cyprus begins tomorrow 13th April.

March 22nd 2011

Today was the first really warm day of 2011. The thermometer registered 16 Celsius but more importantly several small Tortoiseshell butterflies were on the wing feeding on blue garden flowers like Primula denticulata. Unless something ridiculous happens it looks as though the freezing temperatures of December 2010 were the worst part of the winter and since then the daily temperature has gradually climbed.

February 10th 2011

Highslide Index (thumbnails which are expandable on click) are now available for plants beginning E to K. In local gardens Snowdrops are in full flower along with Aconites and the first daffodils. The temperature has remained above zero for some time with the occasional night frost but no prolonged cold spell. Perhaps that December freeze was the winter.

February 1st 2011

Aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) and Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are now blooming in the garden but a few days ago on the first hunt of 2011, I only found five flowering species and they all looked very sad. Today we had a heat wave: 10 Celsius.

The navigation of the left hand side of the first (index) page of the site has been updated using code, script and a style sheet provided by Spry, a function of Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 which is my main tool for managing this site. It's supposed to be easy but altering the code is horrendous. It seems to work now and I've tested it in Safari, Chrome, Opera, Firefox and IE8. IE8 I had thought was now compliant with modern web standards but it isn't and you still have to use a special "hack" to make it work. I daren't even try with anything as delinquent as IE6 or earlier. IE9, when it comes out will be compliant we are told. We'll see.

Anyway it means that all the indexes are accessible from the first page for easier navigation around the site. No sub index page is now necessary.

I also counted the plant photos on the site properly today. There are over 5,500 photos! I had though it was about 3,000. No wonder I got a warning from the hosting company that ukwildflowers.com was exceeding its allocated disk space.

January 17th 2011

The temperature has stayed above zero for some days now and garden plants have responded immediately. The Spring flowering Cyclamen Coom is in flower and the first shoots of Snowdrops have appeared along with Daffodil and Bluebell shoots.

January 6th 2011

December 2010 in the British Isles has been officially declared as the coldest since records began in the late 19th century. The temperatures here in the middle latitudes of Great Britain went down to minus 12 Celsius and we are near the coast where it is usually warmer. At the moment we have a relative thaw with night temperatures around zero and daytime figures a balmy 5 Celsius.

On a walk only a few days ago we found only two flowering plants on a route which yields over 50 in summer. Bellis perennis (Daisy) and Poa annua (Annual Meadow-grass) were the only things vaguely resembling flowering plants alive and my guess is that it won't get much better for some time. Our coldest time of year is usually January.

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