Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Pale pallida

It's not often that a first plant for Kent is found, but that's what this is:

Look, that small light flower in the foreground, beneath a new fence marking the edge of the National Trust's latest acquisition of cliff-top land at the South Foreland, by the lighthouse.
It's a pale form of scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis forma pallida), which has apparently been recorded 112 times in the UK, but never in Kent.
The new land, reclaimed from the plough, has been spared the weedkillers this year and is producing a reasonably varied flora from its chalk seedbank. There is an understory of pimpernel, mostly scarlet but about 20 plants of the pallida form, with the more robust wild carrot, mignonette, thistles and even some Nottingham catchfly breaking through the swathe of left-over cereals.

We look forward to the summer months, to see if any arable weeds will show through, and it will be interesting to see how the NT will manage the land if they do - is it better to maintain a remnant arable area (à la Ranscombe) or to rebuild the chalk downland by mowing and/or grazing?
In the same area was found a green hairstreak, and the sky seemed filled with singing and chasing skylarks and meadow pipits.

Also in Dover........
... which is, of course, a town surrounded by interesting habitats, is St James' Cemetery, up the Danes. I assume that it, with its neighbouring cemeteries, were allocated to the various town wards, as each seems to have similar age gravestones and none is full, giving an airy ambiance that is accentuated by the surrounding rolling hills.
St James' seems to be the most interesting, with not only fascinating and poignant war graves but also plenty of mature trees and grassy banks.
One south-facing chalky bank retains a varied flora of salad burnet, rock rose, bird's foot trefoil and the fragrant horseshoe vetch, with attendant butterflies including brown argus, common blue, green hairstreak and dingy skipper.

 Despite the presence of a little kidney vetch, no small blues were seen. But talking of small blues, we stumbled over some old records of JW Tutt this week, which included mention of an aberation of the small blue, cupidus minimus ab. pallida,  - "a rare aberration of the i, in which the ground colour is of a pale
grey tint. The type of this form came from the South Foreland, in Kent, though rare".

It's a small world.

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