Sunday, 12 June 2011

Pounding the shingle:- invasions

Much of the weekend was spent pebble-bashing, assisting in or hindering surveys.

As part of the attempt to get local agreement to control the Red Valerian invasion I recorded its populations along the shingle between Kingsdown and Walmer. The recording was done very scientifically, with 100m sections being described as having Few, Occasional, Some, Plenty or Lots of plants. If this is not good enough, I'll translate these categories into a more formal one .... for example Some reflects about 20 to 50 plants per 100m².
The colourful show is very impressive, especially when the Red Valerian is mixed with other escapes like Silver Ragwort, Narrow-leaved Ragwort, Red Hot Poker etc, and some locals understandably anxious not to lose the pretty plants (although their way of expressing the anxiety is less understandable).
The threat that these invasive weeds pose to the indigenous plants and the insects that depend on them is, however, very real, as they march across the shingle crowding out the mosses, vetches, lichens and hawkweeds.
A further complication is that bees and butterflies enjoy the flowers - hopefully we can reach a compromise that satisfies all parties, by controlling the invasions near the more fragile and valuable areas.

Another invasion was seen on the shingle at Littlestone and the dunes of Greatstone. The members of the Kent Botanical Recording Group had to put up with a useless incompetent, while they identified the more difficult plants along the way - in this case differentiating Toothed from Bur Medick, both of which are on the Red List.
They speak a whole new language (Latin, natch) and fortunately I'd seen the Botany, a Blooming History programme on BBC4 earlier in the week, to brush up on my classification.
Among the many things I learned was the name of this plant, Knotted Hedge-Parsley. Many thanks to Geoffrey and Owen for leading the walk (or rather, crawl), and for the patience and information of the members.

Being so close to Dungeness, I took the opportunity to seek out Red Hemp-Nettle, and to confirm what English Stonecrop looks like, just in case I find some at Kingsdown.
It looks like that, and Red Hemp Nettle looks like this (and presumably it will bear flowers in a few weeks time).Still some Nottingham Catchflies were flowering, including some of a purplish hue.

On the dunes, Sea Buckthorn has been stripped by a plague of Brown-tailed Moth caterpillars, that have then moved on to local gardens, washing lines and into houses, causing considerable irritation, both mentally and physically, as the caterpillars' hairs break off as barbs . Some residents have moved out for the summer, to get away from them.
And finally, can you see what this is?
Answer next time.


Rob said...

That's the bathing cap I lost last summer - seems to have deteriorated somewhat. Keep it if it fits.

DOT said...

Is it a plant dressed up to attend Ladies Day at Royal Ascot?