Saturday, 14 June 2014

In our fields recently.

It’s fair to say that our fields aren't the most exciting habitat in the region although they probably are the most species rich as a whole for the immediate area albeit most of the species are common, but then common doesn't mean there aren't increasingly reduced numbers at a local level – it all adds up and ours is probably the only decent size bit of proper grassland for many kilometres, everything else is cultivated or so called improved pasture which is really only one step up from a wheat field in terms of species usefulness.

Anyway this isn't about the surrounding area but just a small selection from some idle wandering here and there in our own fields recently with the camera just taking photos of anything that caught my eye and hopefully draw a little attention to the simple plants that can make all the difference.

Starting with a couple of plants that once introduced to grassland will soon establish and sort themselves out, Crown Vetch and Birds Foot Trefoil. These two along with other vetches and tares provide food for a large number of species in both the adult and larval stages. In the last week or so I have seen 6 Spot Burnet moth, (Zygaena filipendulae), 5 Spot Burnet moth, (Zygaena trifolii), Reverdin's Blue butterfly (Plebejus argyrognomon), and large numbers of Burnet Companion moth, (Euclidia glyphica), so called rather obviously because it is invariably found where there are Burnet moths.

Click on images to enlarge

Four different orchids, Greater Butterfly, Loose Flowered, Pyramidal and Bee have all been flowering in the grasses and although they are native species and quite pretty I’m never sure what other value they have. Contrary to popular belief bees and other insects rarely visit most species of French wild orchid and as far as I know they aren't used as a food plant by anything. Having said that I did manage to catch a honey bee on a Pyramidal Orchid in a time of desperation when there was little else available to forage although it quickly flew on and ignored the others.

Marbled White butterflies are out and about in their hundreds, uncut grassland is their number one habitat for successful breeding.

Meadow Clary and Rampion Bellflower are great providers of nectar for insects as is Ragwort; the latter is more or less the only plant that is used by the Cinnabar moth for its caterpillars. We have quite a large number of Ragwort plants and although it has a somewhat bad press from some quarters it's really a rather useful plant provided it doesn't form part of cut hay for animals. The Roe Deer do their usual trick of biting off the tops and then presumably don't eat them - let's face it most animals don't eat things that are bad for them if they have evolved alongside them. 

The Apiaceae (or Umbelliferae), which form the celery, carrot and parsley family are wonderful insect plants, many are the wild plants that have been selectively breed over time to produce the cultivated varieties we grow and eat or use in cooking and indeed many of the wild species are edible although great care needs to be shown with identification as some such as Hemlock are highly toxic and many can produce reactions on tender or sensitive skin when brushed against but of course this no reason not to have them on your land. With the right soil it's possible to have one species or another flowering from April until September. A couple of examples here, more later when I post something about the wider subject of pollinators.

None of these species, (and many, many more), were present here when we first purchased the property which shows a little of what can be achieved with a bit of wilding.