Thursday, 24 April 2014

Sulham Bluebells and Orchids

Sulham and Pangbourne Area

Walks in my local area just west of Reading. Autumn 2009
Snow 2009
Spring 2012
August 2012
Fungi 2012
Bluebells 2014
Summer 2014
Autumn 2014
Autumn 2015

Another opportunity to go for a walk without using the car. The warm, dry spell came to an end last weekend so there has been limited amounts of sun to tempt me out. The walk was a quick circuit on well trodden and muddy paths from home out to the west into local woods. I expected the bluebells to be out in full and, indeed, they were at their best. I did a similar walk last year on the 6th of May as things were at a very similar stage I can do my bit for phenology, this year is about two weeks more advanced than last. If you have a feeling of deja vu that is because I have repeated similar shots from that walk. The spell of wet weather has meant everything was in fine form, the plants had begun to a look thirsty a week ago.

As it was a quick walk over familiar paths there are mainly botanical shots. I start in my garden where my crab apple tree Malus transitoria was in full bloom, and I am happy to relate buzzing with bees pollinating it.

crab apple

It only takes twenty minutes to walk to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty of North Wessex Downs where I saw Bugle (Ajuga reptans) already in flower.

Bugle,Ajuga reptans

Close by was a nice clump of Moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina). I had not noticed it at that location before and it is fairly rare and hard to spot as it has tiny green flowers. The Aquilega like leaves are what you have to look out for.

Adoxa moschatellina,moschatel

The delicate flowers of a speedwell (Wood speedwell?) were out.

wood speedwell

Now I reached the part of Sulham Woods that are carpeted with bluebells, a wonder for the eye and nose.


There were plenty of strange looking flower buds coming up, I think it is Sanicle (Sanicula europaea) it flowers before the leaves fully emerge.


Now I reached a spot in the woods where you can find Early Purple Orchids (Orchis mascula). There about a dozen flower spikes, just about at their peak; my first orchids of the year.

Early Purple Orchid,Orchis mascula

Close by was another clump of Moschatel. The orchids are right by a path and one had been completely squashed by feet avoiding the mud. I had a good look around the area and did not spot a leaf or a flower nearby, they are a very isolated group.

Early Purple Orchid,Orchis mascula

There were the usual Spring flowers in the woods including wood anemone (past its best) and wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides).

wood spurge,Euphorbia amygdaloides

Also the glossy leaves of Black Bryony (Tamus communis) had already grown to a few feet in length.

Black Bryony,Tamus communis

The bluebells were so captivating I decided to play truant from work and stay a bit longer to explore the areas with even denser concentrations of bluebells.


There is always one or two that have to be different!

white bluebell

The areas not carpeted by bluebells were mainly covered in Dog's mercury (Mercurialis perennis). The flowers are green but interesting in that male and female plants are different, even the leaves are slightly different. Here's a male plant.

male,dogs mercury,Mercurialis perennis

And a female dog's mercury with the fruits already forming.

female,dogs mercury,Mercurialis perennis

I came into a meadow between two woods and here was one of the few butterflies I saw: a peacock, looking a little the worse for wear now. They seem the most common species this Spring, I also noted brimstone; small white and orange tips.

peacock butterfly

In the meadow was an impressive display of bugle flowers.

Bugle,Ajuga reptans

One of my favourite Spring flowers is the Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon). This was a fine specimen.

Yellow Archangel,Lamiastrum galeobdolon

Another nice Spring flower present in large numbers are violets, this I think is the 'Common' kind (Viola riviniana).

Yellow Archangel,Lamiastrum galeobdolon

Keeping with the flowers, I saw quite a few patches of Three Veined Sandwort (Moehringia trinervia) also called 'Three Nerved Sandwort', a small plant with tiny flowers. I include this shot as I think it shows the 'three veins' in the leaves quite well.

Three veined sandwort

All the trees are bursting their buds, even oak trees, so soon there will be much less light in the woods and the Spring flowers will diminish. My last picture is the largest and possibly closest Wild Service Tree (Sorbus torminalis) to my house coming into leaf.

Wild Service Tree,Sorbus torminalis

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