Ramsons (Allium ursinum)
Ramsons are members of the Lily family which grow from small bulbs, and are easily identified by their strong garlicky aroma. They have broad, bright green leaves and white star-shaped flowers borne in loose, rounded umbels from April to June.
Ramsons occur in damp woods and shady places, forming extensive colonies- as seen here in Links Wood, Cromer. The large leaves gain the maximum light available as the canopy closes over in late spring.
Various common names include wild garlic, bear’s garlic, hog’s garlic and stink bombs. Despite their pervading scent Ramsons are actually quite mild to eat, and make a nice addition to sandwiches for the hungry conservation volunteer!
Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)
A fleshy perennial usually found in the nutrient-poor acidic soils of bogs, wet heaths and moorland, the Sundew has a darker side than its rather sweet common name would suggest…
‘Sundew’ refers to the glistening drops of mucilage that cover each leaf; insects seeking food are attracted to these sticky glandular hairs, only to become trapped and slowly digested by a hungry plant intent on supplementing a meagre diet! Charles Darwin was so fascinated by the Sundew that he spent a large section of his book on insectivorous plants describing his experiments on it. (Photo to follow).
All three of the British species of Drosera have been spotted at Holt Lowes, where the North Norfolk Workout Project have been working to clear these wet habitats for such unusual species.
Holt Hall Oak
This is a Hybrid Oak (Quercus x rosacea) seen in the grounds of Holt Hall, where it stands proudly in the lawn near the main building.
The leaves have small auricles which would be absent in a pure Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea). This hybrid is very common and overlooked.
Thanks to our volunteer Andrew for taking this picture and getting it identified by I-spot.
For more about Holt Hall see here
Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)
The much beloved native bluebell is seen on several of the North Norfolk Workout Project’s sites, usually in the dappled shade of spring woodlands, but we have also ‘re-discovered’ its more surprising natural habitat – exposed coastal cliffs.
Our graceful indigenous bluebell is losing out to the more robust Spanish bluebell as they interbreed, with the native often only surviving as isolated patches in old, undisturbed woodland. Illegal stripping of bulbs from the wild continues to be a major threat.
The bluebell is an important early source of nectar for bees, hoverflies and butterflies. (Photo to follow)
In Britain the bee orchid is mainly found in the South-East. They are unusual in that in some years they appear in great numbers, then sometimes only reappear after an absence of many years. It is a hardy orchid, which grows up to 30 cm tall. Like many plants, they depend on a soil-dwelling fungus (mycorrhiza) to get nutrients from the soil.
The Bee Orchid develops small rosettes of leaves in autumn, which continue to grow slowly during the winter, and then flowers appear the following year. It produces 1-10 flowers on a spike, between June and July. The flower is furry to the touch and usually brownish-red with yellow markings.
It's thought that the shape of the flower has evolved to look like a female bee, which the male bee then attempts to mate with. This transfers pollen from flower to flower.
This one was pictured at The Old Pit site.
Hops (Humulus lupulus)
This perennial climber can grow to 6m high, and is found in hedges, fen carr and woodland edges on moist soils, where it is often thought to be a remnant of past cultivation. Hops have been identified growing amongst the hedges and trees at Pigney’s Wood and Neatishead Broad.
The Romans ate the young hop shoots as a vegetable, and it wasn’t until the 16th century that it began to be widely used to flavour and preserve beer. Despite protests against its use, where it was referred to in Parliament as a ‘wicked weed’ that would ‘endanger the people’, hops went on to revolutionize brewing, enabling beer to be kept for longer.
Hops are a vital food plant for the larvae of both the Mother of Pearl moth and the Comma butterfly.
Here is something we spotted during a walk at Roman Camp...
Moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina for the botanists amongst you) is also known as 'Town Hall Clock' and 'Good Friday plant'. It's an inconspicuous but delightful plant of woods and shady banks. Moschatel is one of the first spring flowers to come into bloom, nearly always by the beginning of April (hence 'Good Friday plant'). The small flowers are pale yellowish green in colour, but are arranged in a remarkable fashion, at right angles to one another, like the faces of a town clock - except that there is a fifth on top, pointing towards the sky. Richard Mabey recalls, "At the end of the war, when I was a small child, I was told this was 'for the spitfire pilots to read".
[supplied by our volunteer Lucy - with a bit of help from Flora Britannica]
Red Bartsia (Odontites verna)
Red Bartsia is a native annual with spikes of pinky-red flowers which we have seen growing in the meadow and grassland areas of Pigney’s Wood. It is an example of a semi-parasitic plant, gaining nutrients from nearby grasses, as it fastens onto the roots of its neighbours, often stunting the growth of its host.
Red Bartsia is a food source for both carder bees and a specific solitary bee, and its ripening seeds are an important food for the larvae of the Barred Rivulet Moth. (Photo to follow)
This little cushion of primrose flowers looks good enough to be in a flower show, but in fact was growing completely wild along the path at Bacton Woods this spring.
Primrose flowers have 3 different arrangements inside, a curious system but one that encourages cross-pollination by insects as different types of flowers deposit their pollen on different parts of any bee that visits it. This increases gentic variation in the sopecies.
Meadow Saxifrage (Saxifraga granulata)
A downy perennial with clusters of star-shaped white flowers, Meadow Saxifrage overwinters as small bulbils protected by rosette of leaves.
This plant was once common on hay meadows and old grassland, but is now declining throughout the country as these sites continue to disappear. In areas such as Spout Hills, Meadow Saxifrage remains a rich source of nectar and pollen for bees, and is a vital food plant for the larvae of the Yellow Ringed Carpet Moth. (Photo to follow)
One of the rarities in the damp areas on Spout Hills at Holt is the Bogbean. As you can see, despite its rather un-glamourous name, it has an attractive flower and it has also been widely used as a cure for all sorts of ailments in the past.
Once widespread, it is now only locally common, growing at the edge of lakes, ponds and slow-flowing rivers. Thanks to local expert Tony for showing us this.