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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wed 30th June 2010 - Brading Down.

Yes it’s that time of year again folks, wearing stout gloves and ensuring our arms and legs are well covered for clearing the ragwort! A very hot day on Brading Down, but an excellent turnout of our keen set of volunteers. We have been working on ragwort clearance for some years in this area and our efforts, together with the land management in the form of cattle grazing, is starting to bear fruit in this area of chalk grassland. Recently Natural England undertook a survey of Brading Down, and were extremely impressed with the large numbers of wildflowers and other wildlife such as bees and moths that now colonise this beautiful part of the Island. We saw loads of bees, caterpillars of the Cinnabar Moth, and several sightings of marbled white butterflies, as well as a huge variety of beautiful pink thistles and other wildflowers. The rangers Richard and Nick very kindly followed us along the down with the trailer so we didn’t have to walk far with our very heavy bags of ragwort, and it was certainly a very full trailer by the time 1.00 o’clock came round.

Carrie’s Nature Lesson

Two examples of wildflowers this week, the first being Hedge Bedstraw (Gallium Mollugo) a robust, perennial, scrambling plant, with small white flowers that emerge from the centre of a leaf whorl and stand proudly upright towards the top of the square stems in loose clusters. The slender spear-shaped prickly leaves are arranged in whorls at intervals around the stem, and the tiny autumn fruits are round, black and shiny. As its common name suggests, it is a plant of hedge banks and grassy places, where it can withstand competition from other plants for nutrients and moisture. It is the food plant for a great number of moths, including the elephant hawk-moth and the day-flying hummingbird hawk-moth. The plant was used at one time to curdle milk for making cheese.

Next we have Lesser Stichwort (Stellaria Graminea), the fresh white flowers of which have five deeply-notched petals. The ends of the long stamens are orange tinged, contrasting with the whiteness of the flowers. The sprawling stems of this delicate looking plant are smooth, and the leaves long, narrow and bright green. It is common in hedge banks, waysides and meadows adding colour and structure to a garden hedge bank, especially in conjunction with other native spring flowers such as lesser celandine and bluebell. It starts blooming in late May, but is not plentiful until late June continuing until the end of August; it is also a good nectar source for bees and flies.

Many thanks to Carrie for the text and pictures this week.

Terry's Photo Shoot. The following photographs were taken by Terry - Many thanks for sending them in for inclusion in the blog...!

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