Saturday, 25 June 2011

Sweet Gale

A herd of Highland cattle helped me to confirm the miracle reappearance of Sweet Gale (or bog-myrtle, Myrica gale) at Hothfield Heathlands, as they have grazed away the surrounding willow scrub, leaving the odorous shrub alone in the bog. Apparently this plant was lost from Kent in 1957, but has reappeared here recently.
It has a number of herbal uses, including flavouring food and beer (gale ale?) , as well as an insect repellent. Unfortunately I discovered this too late to avoid the usual summer bites. It smells pleasant, so on future visits to this fascinating reserve I'll rub it over me..... keep your distance.
The Heathlands were the subject of a walk led by the warden, Ian Rickards, who gave an interesting commentary on the history, fauna and flora of the area. As well as the usual stars of the show, like southern marsh and heath spotted orchids, sundew and bog asphodel, he pointed out some of the less showy inhabitants, often in mud that made Glastonbury seem like a picnic.
Thyme-leaved speedwell and the delightful bird's foot were some of the tiny plants that we would otherwise have walked upon.

Marsh cudweed

Heath milkwort

One of my favourite plants, Marsh St John's-wort
Bog pimpernel

A good variety of fauna was seen, including plenty of toadlets and froglets, upon which the many grass snakes no doubt feed.
A bark beetle, which I tentatively call sinodendron cylindricum was seen, as was a hairstreak butterfly which will be a first for the reserve, whichever one it turns out to be.
And the final picture is a quiz question..... answers in the comments section please (as I've had enough of my guesses being proven wrong). The small group of plants, about a foot high, was found in the oak wood next to the Hothfield car park.


Mel Lloyd said...

Pentaglottis sempervirens?

Mel Lloyd said...

Errr.....the sub clover looks like thyme-leaved speedwell (Veronica serpyllifolia).

Kingsdowner said...

Thanks Mel, that looks good for Green Alkanet.
And I'll take your word for the speedwell, too.
Don't worry, the birding season's not too far away, so I can put the flora away.