Saturday, 31 March 2012
Koch's Gentian and Toothwort
A proper North Downs wander this morning, between Colley Hill and Buckland.The unseasonal warmth of the past ten days had given way to what we would expect from late March. There was little insect activity over the cropped turf which, although to be expected, was never the less disappointing.
Back in the mid twentieth century someone decided to plant an exotic gentian on the downs close to Buckland. When I first stumbled across it in the late 1990s I was unaware that it existed, but research soon revealed that it was already known about and had been identified as Trumpet Gentian (Gentiana clusii). The latest edition of the botanical bible known as 'Stace' has revealed that this species has been re-identified as Koch's Gentian (Gentiana acaulis). It grows in three close spots, two of which I looked at today. Flowers are starting to unfurl (see picture above on the left). Over the years quite a few botanists have visited and paid their respects, even if their notebooks have had to be altered after the event.
Also today I found, in the usual place by the western steps descending Colley Hill, at least 100 spikes of Toothwort, a parasitic plant. A fine specimen can be seen to the right in the picture above.
Three singing Chiffchaffs gave the proceedings a hint of spring, but I would have needed to be at Portland Bill rather than the north downs to feel immersed in a deluge of spring migrants. It appears that they have witnessed quite an amazing arrival this morning.