JUNE FLORA NOTES
June is without doubt the best month to appreciate the wide range of plants that occupy the various habitats at Sandwich Bay. There just isn’t enough time to see everything! Most people come to the area for the orchids, (more of which later), but there is much, much more to enjoy. Over the past month, several new species for the area have been discovered and new information about the distribution and status of the ‘commoner’ species has come to light.
A familiar low-growing plant of the dune pastures and the sea-front is the Biting Stonecrop, which forms sheets of bright yellow in places. If you bite a piece of it, there is a slight delayed action and then you get a real peppery taste in the mouth. Also along the foreshore, a few specimens of the delicate Sand Catchfly appeared during the month.
There are many species of clover and related members of the Pea family in the Sandwich area. Sainfoin is one of the larger species, with showy pink flowers, while in places Lucerne can be found, a relic of past times when it was widely-grown as a fodder cop. Kidney Vetch is quite a scarce plant in Kent now, but it grows abundantly on the old Hoverport at Pegwell Bay.
The Hoverport site is really interesting for its botany, with all sorts of plants in the process of colonising the old concrete car-park and slipway areas. Many of these plants are lime-lovers and they are obviously finding the decaying mortar to their liking. A really good find there was a small group of the beautiful Corn Cockle, a rare plant nationally and a new species for the Recording Area. Fox and Cubs was also present , growing alongside some of the many hundreds of Bee Orchids. There are even several clumps of Pampas Grass naturalising themselves!
Around the Observatory garden, so ably tended by Kay, there are still wild plants amongst the garden species, such as this Wood Avens.
A short stroll across the fields and pastures around the Estate will show you that they covered with all sorts of meadow species, such as the delicate Ragged Robin and in drier pastures look out for the yellow-flowered Lady’s Bedstraw. About 60 species of grass have been recorded at Sandwich Bay and these are currently well in evidence. The wild-flower meadow which is being developed at the back of the Observatory is coming along nicely, too.
And so to the orchids. In terms of numbers of species there are only about ten which occur regularly or in numbers in the Recording Area, out of a total local plant list well in excess of 600. However, the orchids always attract a lot of interest – everyone wants to see them – and this year is no exception. Here are pictures of the main species ‘available’ in June – Lizard, Pyramidal and Southern Marsh – but there are others.
A reminder that copies of the new Flora for the Sandwich Bay Recording Area are now available, either in DVD or hard copy form. The DVD costs only £5 and the printed copy costs £10. A personal Plant Check-list is included in these prices. The Flora gives a summary of the status of all the known plants of the area over the past several decades. There has a been a pleasing growth in interest amongst many Observatory members in the study of the flora of our area since this publication came out in the Spring – perhaps a Botany Group needs to be set up to cater for this interest?
Finally, a project has been started to draw up a photographic data-base of as many of the wild plants of the Sandwich Bay Recording Area as possible. The Observatory had some material on file and over 200 species have been photographed so far this Spring. If you have any photographs of any plant species from within the Sandwich Bay Recording Area, and would be willing to share them with us, we would be very happy to hear from you, especially if you can also supply details of dates and locations where each photograph was taken. We are not looking for great art-work, just plants that can be recognised from the photo! If you can help, please contact Ken Chapman via the Observatory’s e-mail address: mailto:email@example.com