Wednesday, 30 April 2008

28/4/08 – MONTY BOTANY 12.

In deference to Des Bowring, a record of my observations made in Montpelier on 28th April will appear on Includes Guelder Rose, very probable Tuberous Comfrey, Himalayan Honeysuckle, Cuckoo Flower, Spotted Medick, Hairy Tare and more.


Coldharbour Rd:
What I took to be Oxalis corniculata (red-purple leaves, as per the plants in my parent’s garden in South-east London), one in flower, in crack between wall and pavement (w-pc) outside No. 113 (shop). Half a dozen Bristol records at the time of publication of the Flora of the Bristol Region.

Cranbrook Rd:
- White-flowered Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) (w-pc) by wall of 110 Cairns Rd. I have previously recorded white-flowered specimens in the Westbury Park area, on Redland Green and the Metford Rd allotments.
- 75%+ of lawn at No. 160 covered by Mouse-Ear Hawkweed, which spreads by leafy runners.
- Lemon Balm (w-pc) No. 144.
- New shoots of Gypsywort (Lycopus europaeus) - which ought to be by a stream – so may be thought of as putting the ‘brook’ back into Cranbrook, were starting to emerge from the base and a couple of feet up the tall wall below Nos 107/109. A broad band of damp from water seepage was noted on the pavement, indicating a fair amount of water in the soil behind. Perhaps this is what keeps it going. It flowered OK last year.
- Geranium rotundifolium at base of street tree outside No. 112.
- Row of Alexanders behind wall No. 110.
- Holm Oak seedling No. 102.
- Refurbished Church, junction Cranbrook Rd. and Kersteman Rd, Bulbous Buttercup in flower.
- 1 x Erigeron karvinskianus (w-pc) by No. 72
- 1 x Opium Poppy seedling (w-pc) outside No. 30, ditto No. 4.
- Pellitory-of-the-wall Nos. 20 and 22.

Saturday, 26 April 2008


A sunny afternoon of weeding round my Rockroses on one of my Metford Road allotments.

Jeremy said he had seen a newt in his small pond (a pre-formed black plastic job no more than 6 square feet in surface area and a bit over 18” deep) when thinning out the pondweed, so I had a look. There were three Palmate Newts, two males and one gravid female (see quick ID guide at I first recorded the species in two other ponds on the site a couple of years ago. I must admit to being slightly disappointed, as I keep hoping to find some Common (=Smooth) Newts to add to the tally here. There had been a lot of frog tadpoles in this pond, but only one could now be seen. The Newts may have taken their toll, and there could be dragonfly nymphs present. A Damselfly nymph was seen climbing up a submerged stem.

There were adult Slow Worms under covering material on three of my compost heaps, in one case a male and a female (these tend to have dark, blackish, flanks) under a piece of corrugated iron, even though this had by now been in shade for some time. The greatest number I’ve seen together on one of my heaps is twelve.

A pristine Speckled Wood butterfly put in an appearance. A small species of blue butterfly whizzed by and, given the height, flight pattern and other factors this was almost certainly a Holly Blue. April/May and July/August are peak periods for it in the Bristol area, with Holly the spring larval food-plant and ivy in the autumn, though other species are sometimes used.

At one point a Gull flew over very low, making a rather distressed, pre-historic-sounding noise and with its neck rather crooked. For a moment I could imagine being back in the Jurassic with a Pterosaur gliding overhead.

Thursday, 24 April 2008


OK, so there are times when keeping turf short is a good idea. Another fairly modern development with a good native flora in un-fenced front garden lawns that I like to keep an account of, is that bounded by White Tree Road, Fallodon Way and Northumbria Drive in Henleaze.

There’s a lot of Parsley Piert in Wildcroft Road. A patch of Thyme-leaved Speedwell was noticed in one garden, with a spike showing one of the small but attractive whitish flowers with blue-violet veining on the upper petal. This is a somewhat inconspicuous species that I’ve often found around the margins of mown grass in various city parks. There’s quite a lot in the one on nearby Fallodon Way.

There were a couple of shoots of Hoary Cress and some Black Medick in a Fallodon Way grass verge.

An extensive display of Ground Ivy in flower brightened a lawn in Remenham Park. Several gardens here have Spotted Medick, with a more or less prominent black ‘V’ in the centre of each leaflet, and toothed stipules, in their front lawns. The yellow flowers are small and few, and were seen on one plant where its shoots were spreading out across the pavement.
The displays will soon be enlivened by the likes of Field Madder, Cut-leaved Cranesbill and Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

Mining Bees, first spotted last year, were back in residence in a strip of dry bare earth at the foot of a white wall on White Tree Road, behind which is a tall conifer hedge. It’s necessary to stand back a little so that they feel secure enough to move in, land and disappear down their neat circular-entranced holes.



Having returned to wildlife recording after a long break, it’s good to familiarise oneself with new species, even if they are ‘as common as muck’.

One such in recent weeks has been Thale Cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), frequently seen growing in the small gap between garden walls and the pavement. Locations have included the top of Chapel Green Lane, Coldharbour Road opposite the ‘Cambridge Arms’ and Henleaze Road opposite the end of Fallodon Way.

Once you know what you’re looking at it becomes immediately distinguishable from the superficially similar Shepherd’s Purse, having cylindrical (not heart-shaped) fruits on thin stalks, and near-leafless flowering stems.

This unprepossessing plant is a popular 'model' for studies in plant biology and genetics. Its genome is one of the smallest in plants, and was the first plant genome to be sequenced.


Another addition to my all-time list is Potentilla sterilis, spotted a couple of weeks ago in flower in short turf and between paving slabs at the corner of Brean Down Avenue in Henleaze. The Flora of the Bristol Region map shows the greatest density of records as being from the south and west of Bristol, with relatively few from within the city boundary.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008


One of the advantages of having horticulture as a hobby is that escaped ‘aliens’ can often be recognised (along with an ability to tell the difference between ‘weed’ seedlings and those of desirable ornamentals).

Several plants of Mexican Fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus), a narrow-leaved, narrow-rayed daisy, were noticed along Worrall Road and in Sutherland Place, upper Clifton. There was a large clump in flower outside a disused door on a side-track off the latter.

When the Flora of the Bristol Region was published in 2000 there were only 8 records, and none within the city boundary.

I think it will become very frequent quite quickly.

One of its more prominent haunts is on the steps over the road from the Council House that lead down to Frogmore Street. It’s also in cracks in the pavement around a cafĂ© on Henleaze Road.


In a garden at the junction of Halsbury Road and Kellaway Avenue, a male Chaffinch was alternately calling and pecking half-heartedly at Rowan tree flower buds.

A small Stinking Hellebore seedling was noted growing by a small drain cover at the top end of Hill View in Henleaze. Elsewhere down the road the grass verges contained a fairly basic flora, including Self Heal and, on bare patches outside one house, Lesser Swine Cress. There was also some Slender Speedwell (Veronica filiformis) here and there. They’d just been cut, but like suburban grass verges up and down the country would benefit from a lighter touch with the mower/strimmer, so as to let the flowers have their head. The White Clover alone would provide a valuable extra food resource for our hard-pressed bee populations.

A Gorse, one of my favourite native plants, was in flower in the front garden of No. 53 Hill View. To my mind the overall balance of the plant, including the amount of yellow flower to green of the spiny leaves, is more pleasing to the eye than in the couple of the ornamental, exotic, yellow pea-flowered shrubs grown in this part of town.

A narrow alleyway cuts through onto Pyecroft Avenue. Front lawns with finer grasses always attract my attention. The one on the first corner contained Germander Speedwell, Spotted Medick, probable Lesser Trefoil, Cut-leaved Cranes-bill, Self Heal, Lesser Celandine and Common Cats-ear. Five gardens at the Henleaze Road end had significant swathes of Parsley Piert where the unfenced lawns abutted the pavement. These contrasted with several lawns that were monocultures of coarser grass.

Between Wyecliffe Road and Henleaze Road a grass area under trees contained a large number of Germander Speedwell Plants. There were a couple of beheaded Cow Parsley and a clump of Sorrel.

The traffic island in Henleaze Road, opposite the park, and just south of the Pyecroft Avenue junction yielded two Weld seedlings, approximately 90 Buck’s-horn Plantain on some bare soil (the largest agglomeration I’ve yet found in Bristol) and, growing amongst the projections of one of those sets of pre-formed ‘cobbles’ designed to keep pedestrians off, around 14 plants of Danish Scurvy Grass. This is my first record of this species anywhere. The Flora of the Bristol Region describes it as uncommon, with 7 records within the City boundary, local along the Avon coast, but more frequent inland, including along the margins and central reservation of the M5, spreading along trunk roads. It has fleshy ivy-shaped leaves and small pale lilac flowers in terminal clusters.