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Wildflower diary

July 2022

Lots to see in Shamley Green this month, although with the very dry weather many plants are going quickly to seed. Coming from the Cranleigh direction a super display of large-flowered evening primrose by the Bricklayers Pond welcomes you to the village, and if you glance down into the ditch near the village shop you will see this gorgeous mix of ox eye daisies, purple self-heal, yellow cat’s ear and spectacular orange fox & cubs.

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Large-flowered evening primrose Oenothera glazioviana

Hogweed is abundant along road verges like those of of Hullbrook Lane. It's a majestic native plant, growing to 2m high with umbrella-shaped flower heads rather like those of cow parsley to which it is related. If you see a really gigantic one with very jagged leaves and purple blotches on the stem be careful, it may be giant hogweed instead, an alien plant which causes nasty blisters if you touch it, but we have not seen any yet in Shamley Green.

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Floral display in a ditch!

Another tall and striking plant is great willowherb, usually in damper areas and by ditches. There is a great display of them on the southern ditch of Duck Pond green. The willowherbs are so called because their fluffy seeds are rather like the fluff from willow trees which fills the air earlier in the year.

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Honeysuckle clambering through trees

Take a walk in the welcome shade of woods and you will find a different world there.

Brambles scramble everywhere,  their dense prickly growth giving superb cover for small mammals and nesting birds, but the flowers are surprisingly  delicate. Many insects feed on the nectar of bramble flowers, and all sorts of wildlife eats the juicy fruit in the autumn.

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Enchanter's nightshade
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Bramble flowers

Shady woodland areas have  quite a lot of this pretty little plant, enchanter’s nightshade, often no more than a foot high.

Not sure why it has the mysterious name!

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Hogweed
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Great willowherb

Honeysuckle plants climb high up into the trees and their gorgeously scented flowers attract night-flying moths to polllinate them. The leaves are food for the caterpillars of the rare White Admiral butterfly which our invertebrate survey found in 2021. (The adult butterflies like many others feed on the nectar of brambles).

Here's an interesting plant - Yellow rattle - which has been included in our wildflower planting areas because it is partly parasitic on the plants around it, particularly grasses which can grow too lush and overwhelm more delicate species. It has special roots called 'haustoria' which, instead of drawing in water from the soil, attach themselves to the vascular systems of other plants instead and pinch nutrients from them! It will be interesting to see if it manages to spread more widely in the years to come. When the yellow flowers fade and turn into brown dry fruits, the seeds can be heard rattling around inside.

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Yellow rattle
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Pineappleweed

Have a look on the roadside near the playground on Lords Hill and you will see a lot of pineappleweed, a very tough little plant which always pops up in very unpromising places. It's a member of the daisy and dandelion family, and it smells of pineapple when you crush it!

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Hedge bindweed and hogweed leaves

All gardeners hate bindweed for its habit of smothering plants we don't want it to smother, but actually the flowers are rather spectacular and a lovely addition to the natural landscape. Here you can also see some of our native hogweed leaves,  quite unlike the huge and jagged leaves of the dangerous alien giant hogweed.

After being mown in June for the fete, the Duck Pond Green is rapidly coming back to life. Lots of birds foot trefoil here, creeping about amongst the grasses and rushes, alongside red and white clover, knapweed, cat's ear and buttercups.

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Duck Pond Green with new growth

It's also pleasing to see how well our other un-mown greens are doing in this drought, looking so much healthier than the brown scalped cricket green, and providing our resident wildlife with excellent shelter and plenty of seeds to eat.

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Knapweed on Duck Pond Green
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Hedgerow cranesbill, flowers about 1.5cm
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Pencilled cranesbill flowers about 2 cm

We have several species of cranesbills in Shamley Green, with flowers ranging in size from a few millimeters to nearly an inch across. These two are out now around Lords Hill, but there are at least another four or five species to be found elsewhere in the village or at other times of the year. Click here for a handy guide to all our common species

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Self heal, Hullmead

Two lovely flowering plants to round off with: Self heal is quite a common plant with deep purple flowers popular with insects, low-growing and often forming large mats. And musk mallow is a bit harder to find: it has striking pink flowers, also attractive to insects. We were delighted to find it on Lords Hill as we didn't see it here last year.

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Musk-mallow, Lords Hill