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Wildflower diary

April 2022

The Bluebells are out just in time for Easter! With a bit of warm weather in the last few days they have really got going - the display in Bisney Wood on Easter Saturday was a feast for the eyes and the scent was delightful.

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Bluebells at Bisney Wood

There is a lot of concern about whether the bluebells we see are our native species or Spanish bluebells, and the worry is that ours will get swamped by the invaders. Luckily recent research has found that hybridisation isn't having a great impact on our native populations as the Spanish ones aren't very fertile. You will find hybrids though, often near gardens.

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Spanish bluebell, Hullbrook Lane: note the upright stem and flowers all around it
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Native bluebell, Lords Hill  (with pale Spanish bluebell in the background)

We do have Spanish bluebells and hybrids in Shamley Green, often with a lighter flower colour. They have no scent and have more upright flower stalks, with flowers more open than our native ones, which have intense violet-blue flowers on one side of a drooping stalk. Also, true Spanish bluebells have blue pollen, not creamy-white.

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Native bluebell: pollen is creamy white
Spanish bluebell: blue pollen

Wood anemones carpet the woodland floor in some places where the bluebells haven't taken hold, but can also be found in other places - this little group was by the new canal bridge at Birtley.

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Lady's smock (or cuckooflower or milkmaids)
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Ground ivy, Long Common
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Wood anemones at Birtley canalside

In the wetter meadows and lurking in ditches there is lots of lady's smock, its  showy 4-petalled flowers in various shades of pink and lilac to almost white.

We have seen lots of ground ivy too, often on rough ground and sometimes in quite big clumps with its purple flowers visible from some distance.

This scruffy-looking patch by a ditch along the Downs Link revealed a lovely surprise on closer inspection -the beautiful little lilac  flowers of ivy-leaved speedwell. The flowers are only 5-6mm across, in contrast to the bold blue germander speedwell we found in Long Common which has flowers at least twice that size.

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Ivy-leaved speedwell, Downs Link
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Ivy-leaved speedwell, Downs Link
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Germander speedwell, Long Common
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Fabulous Dandelion, Westland Farm

This is certainly a very good spring as far as dog violets are concerned, the best we can remember in fact.  Although most at home in shady hedge banks and woodland edges, they can be found nearly everywhere, readily identified by their heart-shaped shiny leaves and the groove in the spur extending from the back of the flower.

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Abundant dog violets, Downs Link

And last but not least, what about this wonderful dandelion basking in the sun at Westland Farm. Dandelions are such an under-rated plant, providing abundant pollen and nectar for bees early in the season and brightening up the most unpromising nooks and crannies where nothing else will grow!

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