17 December 2013

Winter botanising near Kidwelly

Today, I enjoyed a short stroll along the minor road that leads from Kidwelly towards the ancient coastal church of St Ishmael, walking from the office complex of Burns Pet Nutrition, past Coleman farm to the entrance of Glan yr Afon LNR. The main purpose was to take some quick photographs of plants that I`d noticed in flower the previous day.
Next to the Burns offices, German ivy Delairea odorata sprawls rampantly out from an adjacent garden. This species is naturalised in SW England and in late 2005 it was superabundant in the small nucleated, hill-top village of Llanybri near Llansteffan, Carmarthenshire. It was clearly well naturalised there, and growing away from gardens (one garden was actually choked with it, and this native of South Africa is very much a nuisance alien in some warmer countries). Fortunately here in Britain, it is mostly kept in check by cold winters and some recent Arctic-like winters certainly restrained it at Llanybri, though it survived at the base of some walls, as it did at Kidwelly. Nigel Stringer also tells me that he found it growing away from the Burns site a few years back, but the aforesaid cold winters put paid to it. I grow it in my garden, where it has shot up over the last couple of years (it was cut to the ground in the cold winters and barely survived), but I have not previously seen it in flower, until this year. The photos below show it growing at the Kidwelly site with a `close-up` (I`m not a good photographer!) of the flowers - you can see that it is related to Senecio (ragworts) and it was once put in that genus.
Along the lane, recently I found some Cyperus eragrostis (pale galingale), growing under a garden hedge. Until last week, there was a fine group of about six plants, but workmen had parked their lorry there whilst trimming trees, so only one damaged individual now remains upright. I`ve seen this alien growing elsewhere around south Llanelli and also in Swansea (some in the Brynmill Park area come to mind).
Growing immediately opposite, and escaping from plantings from a garden, were some plants of lungwort Pulmonaria officinalis, often grown for their spotted leaves (especially in cultivars) and for pleasing late winter flowers that are much favoured by bumblebees that have newly emerged from hibernation.
The lane westwards has long been known to me for its profusion of the invasive winter heliotrope Petasites fragrans, `a pernicious weed` (as one famous gardener called it) but, to me, a pleasing harbinger of spring. The first flowers were out today and a singing great tit made me think `of better things to come`, but the forecast is very wet and stormy tomorrow! It is a native of the Mediterranean lands and one can imagine winter-flying noctuids being attracted to its heavy scent.

Also out in flower for the first time was greater periwinkle Vinca major. It grows quite commonly too at Ferryside, where it is joined by the smaller leaved lesser periwinkle Vinca minor and the considerably rarer Vinca difformis (`intermediate periwinkle` - a different species, rather than a hybrid). I`ve also once found the latter in Swansea, a strongly-growing plant dumped in a backlane in the Brynmill area that was sending its rooting shoots far and wide. All these Vincas are aliens.
Back at the area of the Burns Pet Nutrition offices, two more aliens were noted (I`m afraid that my photography gets worse and both plants were n`t photogenic either!). Leycesteria formosa (Himalayan honeysuckle) was bird-sown (they readily eat the berries) at the base of a wall, and the robust garden spurge Euphorbia characias was seeding itself quite prolifically elsewhere, including into tarmac! There are two subspecies of this spurge, subsp. characias and subsp. wulfenii and they are easy to differentiate when in flower.
Winter botanising then, is n`t all that bad, and interesting plants can be found. I`d driven along this lane on scores of occasions during the past forty years, but walking always brings dividends. Previously, I`d only noticed the abundant winter heliotrope and had even missed three massive clumps of butcher`s broom Ruscus aculeatus along one hedge!

1 comment:

Barry Stewart said...

You make it sound like Spring is almost here! Some nice records Ian which inspired me to go out today - I was surprised how much was actively growing.