Meadow yellow

Meadow yellow
Bulbous Buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus) in a Devon meadow

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Hoary Quaking Tongue and Ragged Adder Rattles Black Medick

These are colourful words of an English summer meadow, surprising and mysterious. Last Saturday on a hot and sultry afternoon I joined a local guided walk of Potwell Dyke Grasslands tucked behind the Minster in Southwell, on a discovery of 'magical' plants with their vibrant names.

As we approached the site up a narrow lane, the first surprise to be revealed was the Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus); not a celandine at all, but a poppy with its small yellow flowers superficially resembling the latter more closely. On the site, Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) was in abundance, so named due to its loose seeds that rattle in the dry fruiting capsules. It is actually a parasite on other plants such as grasses and has been considered a harmful meadow weed by reducing agricultural productivity (Westbury, 2004). However this suppressive impact on grasses has been turned into a virtue for conservation as it also improves biodiversity of hay meadows.

As we moved into the main meadow we were presented by a purple swathe of Southern Marsh –orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsia) with a backdrop of yellow buttercups, and red Ragged Robins’ (Lynchnis flos-cuculi) (see image). The latest exciting species find in this meadow is Adder’s Tongue, a fern from the Ophioglossum genus, named from the Greek ‘snake-tongue’ due to its narrow spore-bearing spike. Ironically rabbit disturbance of the soil seems to have helped it take hold, perhaps mimicking dune-slacks, one of its favourite habitats.

The adjoining meadow displayed more delights with Bulbous Buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus), Black Medick (Medicago lupulina), blue Bugles (Ajuga reptans), Hoary Plantain (Plantago media), quaking grasses and the diminutive Pignuts (Conopodium majus). All quite a show and apparently it gets better later in the season. No doubt I will be back to see the orchids mature and to experience more colour and plant mystery.

Westbury, D. B. (2004) Biological Flora of the British Isles, No. 236. Rhinanthus minor L. Journal of Ecology, 92 (5):906-927.

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