I thought that I would take Fizz up in the fields and take her picture in amongst the Dandelions…
But I became distracted.
This is St Mark’s Fly (Bibio marci)
We call it that because they all emerge around about the same time, April the twenty fifth and that is St Mark’s Day. They are a little bit late this year.
These first picture are of the male. He has large eyes and clear wings, also very long back legs that hang below him in flight. Last year I searched in vain for a female of the species. They look quite different.
The problem is that the adults only live for about a week and as they all emerge at the same time there is very little opportunity to see them.
And there she was, distracting me… I forgot all about Fizz.
She has small eyes , she is a little bit longer than the male and has dark wings.
But even though she looks so different I am quite confident that this is the female of the species.
I have heard it said that the male has such big eyes so that he can find the female and that is quite believable. I had a lot of trouble finding her.
The Dandelions are beginning to fade now.
The Buttercups are just starting to appear.
As soon as the Dandelions go these fields will fill with Buttercups.
It looks like these fields are going to be grown for silage again this year, the grass is already too long for Sheep. That is good because for a few months we will get long grass and lots of wildflowers and all of the associated insects.
I will leave you with the firework display called Ribwort Plantain.
It is like a Spring day out there today. It is like it is March and the sun is shining 🙂
In March the Butterflies come back and so today we are going out to look for them.
Fizz has got her happy face on.
I haven’t seen that face for a long time. She is not really happy (well, she is always happy) she is hot and she is panting and it hasn’t been hot for a very long time.
It didn’t take us long to find a Butterfly. This is a Red Admiral.
The Red Admiral is a migrant species that arrives here in the UK in May and June flying in from Europe and North Africa.
It is only fairly recently that it has been considered a resident species, they don’t like our cold winters.
Butterfly Conservation says on it’s website, “There is an indication that numbers have increased in recent years and that overwintering has occurred in the far south of England.” That needs updating.
This animal has survived the winter in Gloucestershire and hopefully I will soon see a lot more. Hurrah for global warming 🙂
It does look a bit tatty but so would you if you had been outside all winter.
We better find it some nectar plants. You can try some of these.
There is another one, a Small Tortoiseshell.
Oh Joy. The flowers are flowering, the Butterflies are coming back and Fizz has got her happy face on.
ColtsfootNow Fizz and I are tired of all this sunshine and Butterflies and flowers.
We are going up on the bank to get our photographs taken with the sheep.
On the way we find another little flower that we haven’t seen yet this year.
This is Hairy Biittercress.
It’s good for Butterflies.
Okay, let’s make some selfies.
Everybody crowd in.Our shadows are getting very short, mine used to be about ten sheep long.
I have written about Stellaria media today but I have had to leave quite a lot of important stuff out because I just didn’t have the photographs. I haven’t seen it in flower yet but it won’t be long and then I shall get the pictures and update the post.
Stellaria media, The Common Chickweed
Common Chickweed is a member of the Stellaria genus of flowers. It is a very small flower, about a quarter of an inch in diameter (6-9 mm) and in common with other Stellaria species it has five white petals.
The five petals of Stellaria media are divided right down to the base, giving the flower the appearance of ten petals and note that the petals of Common Chickweed are shorter or no longer than the sepals and that the sepals are hairy.
(Common Chickweed, Stellaria media 6-9 mm) Compare Common Chickweed to two other Stellaria species that are commonly found here.
(Lesser Stitchwort, Stellaria graminea 7-12 mm)
(Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea 15-25 mm) Common Chickweed has three styles that sit on a green ovary. The number of stamens can vary from three to eight.
(Stellaria media, 3 stamens)
(Stellaria media, 8 stamens) Common Chickweed has a weak stem, it will often trail along the ground but it seldom rises more that about eight inches. It is a small plant but if you find it growing in any quantity it is worth remembering that it is a tasty edible. The leaves can be eaten raw in salads.
The leaves are oval and smooth edged with a point at the tip, they grow in opposite pairs along the stem. Leaves at the base of the plant have quite long stalks and toward the top they are stalkless.
Common Chickweed has a tradition of use in herbal medicine and is most commonly used to treat skin conditions, cuts, bruises and burns
It is a valuable wildlife plant, a food plant to several moth species it is probably best known as being favoured by birds. Chickens eat both the plant and the seeds and that is how it gets it’s name, many small birds like finches eat the seeds and you can also feed it to cage birds.
All of the flowers in this post are in flower today.
All through the winter I have posted flowers and sometimes people leave comments about all the wonderful winter flowers that we have in the UK. Well, we don’t have winter flowers, I was just trying to cheer winter up but today we do have flowers.
The trick is, not to look out of the kitchen window, then you don’t know that you are being pestered 🙂
First wild flower of the day and it is yellow, it’s a Taraxacum.
Don’t worry, if you read all of the way to the end of this post then you will know more than your mum about the Taraxacum. (Except for Sarasin of course because her mum will also read this post)
Another Asteraceae in flower now, this one is a Daisy.
The very, very beautiful and commonplace Bellis Perennis.
This next one absolutely brought joy to my heart. I missed you like I missed the warmth of the sun.
That is the Lesser Celandine. Now do you believe that it is Spring?
A Blue one.
A Speedwell, of the common-field variety. They are well established and they are here to stay.
Now I gave Mudface a bit of a hard time in my last post, on account of her love of mud. It wasn’t really fair and so to make amends, yesterday I bought her a new toy.
It is a squeaky ball. Does she like it? Who can tell?
I am going to skip most of the stuff that we saw and we did but I have to show you a couple more flowers.
Red Dead-nettle, it is only a little weed but I find the colours absolutely charming.
The Tommies are coming up.
Okay that is it, one last thing.
Today I discovered something wonderful…. I can put Fizz up a tree and she doesn’t fall out.
No, that wasn’t it. I am never cruel to animals. I just put her in the tree for a minute to stop her pestering me.
This is it. Navelwort.
This is a new one for me and I love that.
It is a succulent, native to the UK and it flowers in May. I took dozens of photographs but I will bore you later. Also known as Wall Pennywort, I found it growing on a wall.
One other thing that I just have to tell you. I am getting along well with taming my Robin. He lands on my hand now and takes food. He has started following me around when I go out, only in the farm yard, he doesn’t go far afield. When I brought Fizz back today He was there to welcome us back singing and following.
He costs me a lot of worms but I don’t think that I have made a mistake. It is hard not to love this little animal.
Heck of a long post, it is going to get longer. Here is my wild flower. Take care my friends.
Taraxacum species, The Dandelions
It may be that the Dandelion you see most often is Taraxacum officinale, the Common Dandelion, however there are more than 230 species of Dandelion in the UK and the differences between them are small and very complex.
It is not possible to identify a Dandelion to species from a single photograph. Many different things have to be taken into account.
The character of the leaves for instance. Some species have alternate lobes and some are opposite and there are some species that don’t have lobes at all, some have a purple central rib and in some it is pale.
When you understand the leaf you then have to cross reference that with all of the other parts of the flower. The pattern of teeth on the end of each floret for instance.
There are so many factors to take into account that identifying a Dandelion to species is a job for the experts. To us it is just a Dandelion, (Taraxacum species).
So can we even tell that it is a Dandelion?
Yes of course we can. Dandelions belong to the Asteraceae (Daisy) family and they have quite distinctive characteristics.
Like other members of the Asteraceae they have a composite flower head made up of many smaller flowers.
This next picture is of a Common Daisy (Bellis perennis) and shows the arrangement of central disc florets (yellow) and the outer ray florets (white), each “petal” and “disc” is a complete flower in itself and together they make the flower head that we call a Daisy.
A Dandelion has no disc florets. It is composed solely of ray florets.
This next Dandelion lookalike is quite obviously not a Dandelion because it has central disc florets and it is in fact the flower of Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
The other easy to spot and important characteristic is that unlike other lookalikes there are no leaves on the flower stem and it is unbranched, each flower head is carried on a single, bare stem. that will rule out the Hawksbits and other pretenders like Cat’s-ears.
Dandelion (Single flower head on a bare stem)
Cat’s-ear (Multiple flower heads on a branched stem) If you remain unsure then cut it. The Dandelion is the only yellow member of the Asteraceae with a hollow stem and it exudes a milky sap.
Dandelions secrete latex, not very much in the wild varieties but scientists have developed cultivars for the production of rubber and there are tests being carried out today with tyres made of Dandelion rubber.
At the base of each flower there are a series of down turned bracts. These are sometimes mistaken for sepals but remember that this is a flower head and not an individual flower, each ray floret has it’s own sepals at the base which will eventually become the parachute that will carry the seed.
Let’s look under the bonnet.
Each “petal” is a whole flower. It has all that is required to make a flower, a corolla (fused petals) male reproductive parts and female parts too and an ovary that will become a seed.
So what are all of these pointy bits coming out of the flower? They look like styles but they are covered in pollen, so that would make them stamens, right?
These are the styles, the female part of the flower and they are covered in pollen that they picked up from their own anthers.
I have to do a drawing to show you how this works. The anthers develop first and they produce pollen on the inside, The style grows through the middle of the anthers and collects the pollen. The style has two receptive surfaces that are pressed closely together, the pollen collected on the outside does not affect them. So the style carries the pollen. This is the best photograph that I can find to show you the anthers on a Dandelion.
Dandelions produce a lot of pollen.
Strangely all of this sexual stuff is not really necessary, most Dandelions are capable of asexual reproduction and their seeds do not require second party fertilisation but it is fun.
With 230 plus species in the UK you can pretty well find Dandelions in flower at any time of year, they don’t all flower at the same time, however there is a season.
April is the best time to look for Dandelions, the fields are full of them.
By May they will be spent.
You will never see a Dandelion with some petals and some seeds, the transformation seems to be instant and total, they close as a flower and when they open again they are a seed head.
The seeds are called achenes and the parachute is called a pappus and the parachute is actually made from modified sepals of the tiny flower called a ray floret. Between the seed and the parachute is a stem called a beak. The whole of this structure has grown from the style that both distributed and collected pollen for the flower.
These are the Dandelion clocks of our childhood, you can tell the hour by the number of breaths it takes to disperse the seeds. They are not firmly attached so it is usually early.
The Dandelion weed is without doubt one of our most beautiful wild flowers.
I am not really sure why it hasn’t been modified and cultivated for the garden. Dandelions are a very good weed to have in the garden, they have a very deep tap root that draws nutrients up to the surface and makes them available for other, more fancy, flowers. They also attract pollinators.
Dandelions are the food plant for at least twelve species of moth and many other invertebrates. They are rich in nectar as well as pollen and are an important food source for bees.
They are also good for us to eat, all parts of the Dandelion are edible.
There is something that I should tell you about this beautiful and useful wild flower, it has a wicked side.
If you pick a flower and chase your sister with it then she will scream and run away because if you can successfully touch her with the flower then she will be fated to wet the bed. (Dandelions are a lot of fun)
The common French name for a Dandelion is “Pissenlit” and “lit” is the French word for bed. There is some logic in this, Dandelion root has been used in herbal medicine as a diuretic and it does indeed make you piss en lit.
Our own common name Dandelion is derived from another French name “Dent de Lion,” meaning Lion’s tooth and that is a reference to the shape of the leaf.
The Germans call it Pusteblume (Blow Flower)
BTW In case you wondered, that lump that you sometimes see in the centre of a new flower is just ray florets that haven’t opened and expanded yet.
December is turning out to be a funny old month. After a horrible day yesterday it was really nice today.
It was windy but it was nice.
We went out to play in the fields behind the farm and while she was messing about, I was thinking about how much we have enjoyed these fields over the year.
This isn’t the most species rich habitat that we explore but it does have it’s own character and sometimes it is spectacular. We see things here that we would never see in the forest or down the little country tracks that we wander.
In April it was Dandelions… Thousands of them.
In May they went to seed.
A couple of weeks later the field was yellow again, this time with Buttercups.
These fields are rented out to a local farmer. Sometimes he will graze animals here (There are sheep on them at the moment) but this summer he was allowing them to grow to produce silage for his animals.
By June the grass was so long that finding our ball was becoming a bit of a problem.In June the grass was cut and there was our ball.
That wasn’t the end of the story. By July the fields were full of Clover.
Now it is December and we are still enjoying these fields.
Today it was a bit windy.
I wrote about two wildflowers today but I think that I will save them for a rainy day 🙂
The first thing to know about Dandelions is that you can’t identify them to species. You can make a stab at it, most of the Dandelions that are going to be in this post are probably Taraxacum officinale, the Common Dandelion but I cannot be sure of that, it is just the most likely species.
There are about 250 different species and the differences are very small. It is a job for an expert. If you really needed a positive identification you would have to find an expert and I would guess supply him with plant material, the whole plant, leaves and roots included, you wouldn’t get it from a photograph.
Once you knew what it was you wouldn’t have it any more and the next one you see may well be something else so that would be pretty useless information.. So they are Taraxacum species or just Dandelions and there is nothing wrong with that.
Dandelions are an intrinsic part of childhood. You probably gathered the leaves for your pet Rabbit or Tortoise and played games with the Dandelion clocks.
I like flowers that double as children’s toys, Daisies in chains, Sticky Willy on somebody’s back or Dandelion clocks.
I used to think of them as a solitary little weed that I would see on a roadside verge and that was about all that I thought about them until I came to live on a farm and saw the way that they fill the meadows and pasture in April and now I will look forward to them every year.
The first thing that you need to know about Dandelions is that they are good to eat. All parts of the Dandelion are edible and there are no poisonous plants that look like Dandelions.
I like to add flowers to salads, well you know what they say, the first taste is with the eyes. The dandelion flower is completely edible but the sepals are bitter so just use the yellow parts. You can create nice effects with lots of individual yellow florets on a dark green leaf. You can add them to anything, decorate a bowl of soup or a pile of mashed potato. I know lots of wild flowers that are good to eat and beautiful but I don’t know any supermarket where you can go and buy a packet of eating flowers anyway they are best picked fresh.
Young leaves are good in salads mixed with other leaves. Older leaves are best cooked, you could steam them. I fry them and add them to omelettes as I would spinach.
Insects like Dandelions.
The fact that insects do like them so much is a very good reason for allowing them into your garden. They attract pollinators.
Two other good reasons for having them in your garden: They have a very deep tap root that draws nutrients up from the soil and makes them available to other plants and you might get hungry while gardening.
I am running out of things to say about Dandelions, I don’t just like to copy stuff from other web sites but yes….
They are a member of the daisy family (Asteraceae) which means they are composite flowers. A Daisy is not a single flower, the yellow centre is actually made up of lots of little yellow flowers called disc florets and the “petals” are each little white flowers called ray florets. A Dandelion doesn’t have any disc florets just lots of little “rays” of sunshine.
And although you can probably find Dandelions all through the summer they peak in the springtime around about April.
There is some truth in the belief that touching one will make you wet the bed, they have long been used in medicine as a diuretic. A glass of wine with your dinner will have a similar effect, or orange juice and you shouldn’t let that put you off.
The name Dandelion comes from the French dent de lion meaning Lion’s tooth from the jagged shape of the leaf but more commonly in France it is known as Pissenlit and I will just tell you that “lit” is the French word for bed. The Germans call it Pusteblume meaning “Blowing Flower.”