Monday, September 16, 2013

september on cley hill

Autumn Gentian (Gentianella amarella)

Photos taken 14th Sept 2013, on Cley Hill near Longleat, the final scrap of chalkland before you hit the older geologies of the West.

Above and below, Autumn Gentian (Gentianella amarella). It took a bit of searching around to track the plants down, on just one bank near the old chalk-quarry. Like the Early Gentian (Gentianella anglica), which also grows on Cley Hill, the number of flowering plants fluctuates wildly from one year to the next. 

Flower of Gentianella amarella

Autumn Lady's-tresses (Spiranthes spiralis)

Much the same can be said of Cley Hill's population of Autumn Lady's-tresses (Spiranthes spiralis), a tiny but decorative orchid, though the lifestyles are quite different: the orchid is a long-lived perennial whereas the gentians are biennials.  Autumn Lady'stresses is most reliably found on one very steep south-facing slope. This year I could only find two plants, and only one of them was in flower, but it was a good robust specimen (which means, about 15cm tall).

Spiranthes spiralis (spike)

Spiranthes spiralis (flowers)

Spiranthes spiralis (stem)

Yellow-wort (Blackstonia perfoliata) is a summer-flowering relative of the gentians. There were still quite a few plants around. 

Autumn Hawkbit (Leontodon autumnalis)

Autumn Hawkbit (Leontodon autumnalis), a very common plant and not fond of chalk, but it was happy on the summit of the hill, where centuries of manuring by cows have produced a thicker and more neutral topsoil. Even gorse grows up here.

With all that peering at the ground I hardly remember the view, only a cow in a distant field being weird in the charming way cows often are. On the way back down the lane we collected 11 windfall apples from among the nettles. Like a lot of wilding apples they were sort of half-way between cookers and eaters. They make the best kind of apple pie!



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