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Wildflower diary

June 2022

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Buttercups on Duck Pond Green, just before cutting for the Jubilee

The buttercups everywhere are enjoying the new mowing regime, and  those on Duck Pond Green have been fabulous  - just had to get a photo of them before they were cut to allow parking for all the summer festivities. It will be interesting to see what grows back there later in the summer.

Buttercups are particularly effective light transmitters with special reflective layers just under the surface of the petals - bees are attracted by a flash of yellow light as they pass or the flower moves in the wind. (And that's why holding a buttercup under your chin will make it glow yellow, whether you like butter not!)

White clover survives mowing too, its creeping stems hunkering down below mowing level, although there's a better chance of finding a four-leafed clover on the shop green where it's a bit lusher.

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Without competition from taller plants, daisies thrive in the closely mown grass of the cricket green. Their rosettes of leaves grow close to the ground below the reach of the mower blades.

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Ant's eye view of white clover
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Shiny buttercup
Daisies on the cricket green
White clover on Shop Green
Stinging nettles in flower (male plant left, female right)
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Sprays of tiny spherical flowers on a male plant
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Sprays of feathery  flowers on a female plant

To avoid getting stung by nettles it's good to be able to tell which ones will actually sting you. It's easy if they are in flower, because stinging nettles have sprays of insignificant little flowers as shown here, quite different from the much prettier flowers of the non-stinging white dead nettle.  However, both have rather similar leaves so if you can't see any flowers look at the stem: you can tell a dead nettle by its square stems whereas the stems of stingers are round in cross section.

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White dead nettle, Lords Hill
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Foxglove by the new canal bridge at Birtley

Foxgloves are now putting on a wonderful display. They will grow in all sorts of open places from woodland glades to waste ground. All parts of the plant are poisonous, and the leaves are sometimes mistaken for those of comfrey, so if in doubt wait for the plant to flower before picking any leaves!

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Comfrey growing by the canal in profusion
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Native yellow Iris by the Duck Pond

Yellow Iris is one of our most spectacular wild plants and is common in wet places everywhere in the UK except the Scottish Highlands

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Ox eye daisies, shop green
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Cat's ear, Court House green

Cat's ear is by far the most common dandelion look-alike in Shamley Green at the moment. You can tell it isn't a real dandelion because it has hairy leaves, and the flower stalks are wiry and often branched, sometimes with little scales on them as in the picture. True dandelions are bald and never have branched or scaly flower stalks.

Another spectacular native plant, the big bold ox eye daisy grows on waste ground and road verges, as well as in traditional hay meadows. We found some plants here in 2021, and we have added some more in our wildflower planting schemes to increase their presence in the seed bank.

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Common vetch, shop green
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Ragged robin, Hullmead, one of our planted wildflower species
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Greater and lesser stitchwort, by canal

The white flowers of greater stitchwort were everywhere throughout April and May, but now it's the turn of the much smaller lesser stitchwort. Here they are together - the lesser stitchwort is much more delicate and has dark coloured stamens, and you will find big patches of it in some places. The pic also shows yellow buttercups and blue germander speedwell.

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False oat-grass flowers close up

And lastly here is one of the culprits for all that June hay fever. Grasses do actually have flowers, but they are wind pollinated and don't need showy petals to attract insects. Here you can see them gaping open to let the dark-coloured stamens dangle out and release all their pollen, to be caught on the breeze and carried to the feathery female stigmas of another grass plant. And to get up the nose of hay fever sufferers!

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