10 August 2009

Summer treats

On sunny days there is much to be seen along the rides and glades within the woodland.

Where the grass is very short and the ground sandy there are often small colonies of lesser centaury (Centaurium pulchellum) with deep pink flowers in contrast to its larger sister, common centaury (also widespread in the woods). 

20090810 BHW Centaurium pulchellum

The word 'centaury' (often wrongly pronounced 'century') relates to its having been used, in Classical Greece, by Chiron, a centaur, to heal one of his wounds.

All the centauries are powerful plants.  One source says "this herbe hath a marvellous virtue, for if it be joined with the blood of a female lapwing, or black plover, and put with oile in a lamp, all that compass it about shall believe themselves to be witches, so that one shall believe of another that his head is in heaven and his feete on earth; and if the aforesaid thynge be put in the fire when the starres shine it shall appeare that the starres runne one agaynste another and fyghte."

Good job lapwings are protected birds!

Along some of the damper rides and acid grasslands the large common bog hoverfly (Sericomyia silentis) can often be seen on flowers or resting on leaves.

20090810 BHW Sericomyia silentis

Opening up the rides is already delivering some excellent results.  The patches of fleabane are alive with butterflies, particularly gatekeepers but there are also plenty of meadow browns and common blues (Polyommatus icarus) like the bluish form of the female (below).

20090810 BHW Common blue & fleabane

In a few places there are colonies of bell heather (Erica cinerea) out slightly in advance of ordinary heather (Calluna vulgaris).  This has been rather scarce in the woods but now seems to be increasing, again as a result of more favourable conditions and better light levels.

20090810 BHW Erica cinerea