Flowers of Iver & District Blog

Langley High Street, 26th June 2016

I had noticed this eye-catching plant on the front lawn of some flats in the road I live in a few years ago, so was glad to come across it in the same habitat on the main 'High Street' of Langley where I live, thus having the opportunity to photograph it this time - and in better close-up than was possible with my pre-digital cameras.  Despite its urban environment and being a garden escape one should still rate the orange-brown to brick-red ligules of  'Fox & Cubs', as it is commonly known, highly.  Maycock & Woods (2005)  record PILOSELLA  AURANTIACA as rare in Buckinghamshire on lawns & in waste places.

Previously known as HIERACEUM  AURANTIACUM, the genus PILOSELLA (known as Mouse-ear-hawkweeds) is now separated from the genus HIERACIUM (Hawkweeds) but is considered doubtfully distinct.  I certainly immediately thought I had come across a colourful hawkweed when I spotted this.  Druce (1926) knew this as H.AURANTIACUM, an alien garden escape from Europe but only in the Ouzel and Thames valleys (the latter from near Hughenden).

I recollect a parent at my sons' primary school in Langley getting in a state about having seen 'Deadly Nightshade' growing in the hedging of the perimeter fence. The Headteacher, knowing my botanical expertise, consulted me.  I was able to assure her that it was in fact 'Woody Nightshade' or 'Bittersweet' (SOLANUM  DULCAMARA) - which is very common in woods, hedges and watersides (Maycock & Woods, 2005).  I have in fact seen 'Deadly Nightshade' (ATROPA  BELLADONA) locally (in Burnham), which though belonging to the same family (Solanaceae), is quite distinct, with lurid violet or greenish flowers, then black berries - so not possibly confused by anyone with even a basic understanding of botany!

Corollas purple or very rarely white

The calyx has broad, shallow, rounded lobes - the corolla lobes 3-4 times as long as the calyx

Young green, ovoid fruits which turn red as they mature - the berries of this plant have been revered for thousands of years; apparently a necklace of them was found in the tomb of Tutankhamun.

'Large Bindweed' (CALYSTEGIA  SILVATICA) rampant over a hedge in front of some flats

Maycock & Woods (2005) record this as scarce in hedges & waste places, often near habitation; Druce (1926) did not record this species - being an introduction, it may not have been in Buckinghamshire at the time or perhaps he did not notice it, assuming it to be a variant of 'Great Bindweed' then under VOLVULUS  SEPIUM?  Within 'Flora of the British Isles' (1962) it was considered only to be a subspecies within CALYSTEGIA  SEPIUM but widely naturalised in hedges and waste places

This species has strongly inflated bracteoles with overlapping edges, completely concealing the calyx - I paid little (if any) attention to subspecies when I was botanizing in the UK in the 1980s, so would have assumed everything I saw (and the larger bindweeds tend to be rather weedy in growth and often in waste places) at that time was CALYSTEGIA  SEPIUM.

Solitary white flowers, funnel-shaped - I find them very delicate, the slightest touch causing damage

Charming dull crimson flowers which are often missed - this is 'Salad Burnet' (SANGUISORBA  MINOR) - which Maycock & Woods (2005) record as common in calcareous grassland in  Buckinghamshire.  So surprising to find by a fence in Langley amongst urban weeds!

Has it found its way here naturally or spread as a result of "planting" elsewhere in Langley? 

I have been wishing to find this for many years - not least as I give prominence to the 'Giant Himalayan Stinging Nettle' during my lectures on Nepal and sometimes speak of Roman soldiers rubbing their legs with nettles to warm them up to cope with the damp, cold conditions in England (compared to the Mediterranean climes many of them were accustomed to).  They even introduced the 'Roman Nettle' (URTICA PILULIFERA) for this purpose.

This is 'Small Nettle' (URTICA  URENS) - Maycock & Woods (2005) recorded this as uncommon in waste places, often on lighter soils

Druce (1926) knew this as the 'Small Stinging Nettle' (it does sting, though  one notices the thinner needles more slowly getting to wotk) on waste ground, manure heaps, usually near villages and on soils richer in nitrates than 'Nettle' (URTICA  DIOICA).  He considered this was often mistaken for the alien URTICA  PILULIFERA, which had been located, adventively in Northants, Berks, Middlesex and Surrey.

Langley section of the 'Slough' arm of the Grand Union Canal, 8th June 2016

After visiting the local branch of my bank, I decided to explore along the canal at Langley, this time heading West (in the direction of Slough, where the canal ends - having been constructed to transport bricks to London from the brick-fields in Slough, Langley & Iver, up to London).  I had not walked this section for many years, indeed I think the last occasion I came along here was by bicycle, which rather hinders botanizing. Almost twenty years ago I took my eldest son (now almost 30) with some friends from primary on walks along here including a part of an outdoor birthday party (ending with games of football in a nearby park and a picnic).  It was my intention to go as far as the boundary of the Langley tetrad, a 2km square area (which I have just begun surveying intensively towards The Botanical Society of the British Isles 2020 Atlas, see: not that I was sure as to exactly where this was; I had just ordered a copy of the Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (Number 160) 'Windsor, Weybridge & Bracknell' to help resolve this, something I had been meaning to do for decades!

In the end I made it to the first bridge across the canal but rather than heading south, across the recently constructed metal footbridge of the Great Western Railway, I crossed the bridge and then followed (for the first time), more or less, a bridle-path along the north side of the canal (which was just still within the Langley tetrad) in the hope of finding some additional species - which certainly proved to be the case.  Unfortunately, the bridge across the canal seems to be a regular meeting place for local middle-aged alcoholics.  They were not quiet drinkers either, amusing themselves using empty cans to throw at assorted targets.  All this disturbed the peace, which was a considerable pity as there was much to photograph and record.

'Yellow Flag' (IRIS  PSEUDOACORUS) - Druce (1926) found it common and widely distributed at the sides of rivers, brooks, streams and in marshy places in Buckinghamshire

Flowers typically yellow; outer perianth segments often purple veined with an orange spot near the base

'Hemlock Water-dropwort' (OENANTHE  CROCATA) - recorded as rare in rivers, canals and ditches, mostly in south Buckinghamshire (Maycock & Woods, 2005); I have found it widespread locally

Druce (1926) found this in ditches, streams and pondsides; absent from the north of the county; he noted it was one of the poisonous species of drop-wort, with many deaths from eating the root

Umbels 5-10cm, terminal; 12-40 rays, 2-7cm

Flowers c. 2mm diam., petals of outer unequal

Leaves 30cm or more, deltoid, 3-4 pinnate

'Yellow-rattle' (RHINANTHUS  MINOR) - uncommon in old meadows & pastures in Buckinghamshire (Maycock & Woods, 2005); I was very surprised to find this!

Druce (1926) found this to be abundant & generally distributed a century ago, often injuring grass crops on the roots of which it is semi-parasitic 

Stem-leaves crenate-dentate

I first spotted a small patch of this by the path on the south bank of the canal, next to a car-park of a small business park amongst 'Common Melilot'; there were a few capsules of what seemed to be 'Snake's-head Fritillary - which must have been planted , so I was wondering if the 'Yellow Rattle' had been as well but then I came across it in much larger quantity immediate opposite on the other bank of the canal in the remains of what was probably an old meadow

Nevertheless, it was a pleasure to find this plant at the edge or 'urban' Langley and just within the northern boundary of the tetrad I am recording; clearly this plant can colonise a range of habitats as I also came across it on some waste ground in an over-grown area of concrete next to the local council re-cycling centre.  But is this one of the 'wild flowers' planted by the 'Friends of Slough Canal'?

A long-boat heading to Slough viewed from the north side of the canal

Yellow-flag irises and  Greater Reed-maces

'Grass Vetchling' (LATHYRUS  NISSOLIA) - scarce in grassy places and perhaps over-looked (Maycock & Woods, 2005); I  found it previously in Iver Heath Fields and it was a companion species for a small patch of 'Bee Orchids' between the same canal and Iver station in the 1980s - which sadly soon became overgrown with brambles. I also saw a small colony of the vetchling in Ditton Park a couple of days later, perhaps further evidence that it is under-recorded

Druce (1926) found it to be local and rather rare in grassy places and banks - he knew it as the 'Crimson Vetchling'; its first record for Buckinghamshire was in 1773 in Sir Roger Hill's waren at Denham, where it made a glowing figure in the hedge which few things equal

'Meadow Crane's-bill' (GERANIUM  PRATENSE) - uncommon at road-sides and in old meadows in Buckinghamshire (Maycock & Woods, 2005); my only previous sighting of this was during a walk along the Thames back to Reading - so must be suspicious as to how it got here?

Druce (1926) found this locally common in moist meadows, thickets and osier-holts; chiefly confined to the trough of the valley of the Ouse and Thames. I noticed on a second visit a sign laminated in plastic saying that volunteers from The Friends of Slough Canal had planted some wild flowers here (and presumably elsewhere).  It would be helpful to know exactly what had been planted (when) and what was the source of the plants?

Towards Langley Health Centre, 14th May 2016

I had a couple of letters to deliver to my local health centre before it closed at 1300hrs (being a Saturday) so had no choice but to set-off in what was bright sunshine - though there was a little cloud about.  As I almost always do, I took my camera with me, just in case there was anything worth snapping. To be honest I had minimal expectation that there would be or light conditions conducive to securing reasonable images. Much to my surprise there turned out to a number of species I had not noticed before, whilst others, though decidedly 'weedy' in some respects, were putting on a good show.  By waiting for the clouds to improve the light and sitting with my back to the sun to provide additional shade, I managed some reasonable images which I am pleased to share with you: 

'Field Madder' (SHERARDIA  ARVENSIS) has pretty pale lilac flowers en masse

Maycock & Woods (2005) recorded this as uncommon in cultivated ground, short turf & waste places in Buckinghamshire - I suspect it is easily over-looked when not in flower, the foliage probably mistaken for common species of bedstraw. Unless it has only recently colonised the regularly mown grass in front of some flats for older residents, which I have walked passed on dozens of occasions, I have missed it over a period of more than 30 years!  Crawley (2005) a keen observer of fine detail and ecologist, considers it distinctly uncommon in Berkshire these days.  Bowen (1968) recorded it as "occasional" within his 'Flora of Berkshire', whereas Druce (1897) found it "very common in all suitable locations and generally distributed" in his flora of the same county and much the same in his 'Flora of Buckinghamshire' (1926).  With all due respect to these very capable modern field botanists, I suspect Druce walked a great deal more and would thus be better placed to judge distribution, so perhaps the differences of occurrence is partly explained by this - rather than a loss of habitat or other factors (such as use of herbicides) which apply nowadays?  Now that I have "my eye in" for this species, it will be interesting to see where else I spot it.  'Flora of the British Isles' (1962) has it flowering from May to October; I shall see for how long this colony is in flower this year, being sure to make a minor detour to take it in en route to my monthly visits to a nearby chemist (pharmacy)

Funnel-shaped corolla with long slender tube twice length of the 4 lobes. Upper leaves in a whorl, margins and midrib scabrid with forwardly directed prickles

Leaves in middle of stem 5-6 in whorls, elliptic-acute - prickles on margins not visible from above

'Field Madder' amongst grasses, common storksbill, daisies and black medick - such a display in a meadow in the countryside would rightly be rated highly, so why not be appreciated in an urban area?

'Black Medick' (MEDICAGO  LUPULINA) - very common in short turf & waste places in Buckinghamshire (Maycock & Woods 2005)

A clump of buttercups kept dwarf by the regular mowing

On first, superficial inspection, I assumed this must be 'Creeping Buttercup' (RANUNCULUS  REPENS) recorded as very common in grassland, rough places, gardens & pond margins in Buckinghamshire (Maycock & Woods, 2005); however, I was mistaken; this is in fact 'Bulbous Buttercup' (RANUNCULUS  BULBOSUS) - just goes to show one should always check!

Patch of 'Common Storksbill' (ERODIUM CICUTARIUM) - Maycock & Woods (2005) record this as rare in dry sandy places & road verges in Buckinghamshire - whereas this it is growing abundantly in mown grass and parks all over Langley and was prominent in waste ground at the edge of Upton Park. Crawley (2005) records this as locally common in Berkshire in sandy fields, dry arable land, disturbed ground, heaths, bare ground on waysides and on wall-tops but absent from large area of the clays and chalk - Langley has mostly clay soils; perhaps the chalky districts contribute to it being uncommon in parts of Bucks?

Petals rosy-purple or pink or white

 Langley towards Richings Park, 1st May 2016

One could not but notice this unquestionably showy 'Bluebell', which is clearly not our native species but is it the 'Spanish Bluebell' or a hybrid between the two? This was growing on a bank beside a road near to the Richings Park Golf Club, which appears to have been planted with cultivars of 'Daffodils' (our native daffodil is restricted in its occurrence) - so presumably these were also planted as opposed to having escaped and naturalised?

This MUST be the 'Spanish Blue-bell' (HYACINTHOIDES HISPANICA) - though does not match well some of the images I have seen reputed to be this plant.

The next plant which caught my eye was this patch of a small white-flowered specimen next to the road, which I had not noticed in 2015.

 I immediately thought of a scurvy-grass but this made no sense as I understood them to be coastal plants? However, last year (2015) I came across another typically coastal plant nearby which appears to inhabit the road-side due to the salt spread by gritting lorries during winter months - 'Alexanders' (SMYRNIUM OLUSATRUM) scroll down to April 2015 entry below

On closer inspection, it certainly appeared to be a 'Scurvy Grass' and on checking my floras, discovered that according to Maycock & Woods (2005) 'Danish Scurvey Grass' (COCHLEARIA  DANICA) was scarce at salted roadsides in Buckinghamshire but increasing.

Lower leaf 3-7 lobed, resembling ivy

It certainly matches this species.  Crawley (2005) in his 'Flora of Berkshire' provides detailed information on the ecology of this species, finding it to be locally common in the 30cm strip between the kerb and the start of grass; it seems to thrive on motorways and busy roads (which this is).  Having got my eye in I noticed it a few days latter - just a single, straggly specimen on a wall very close to a road in Langley Village - which prior to familiarising myself with this species, I may well have not spotted amongst the common weeds.  Just goes to show what one can find when one's attention is drawn to 'new' species.  Helps make my regular walks to the local branch of my bank my interesting!

Charlock growing as a weed beside an arable field

Bright yellow petals of 'Charlock' (SINAPSIS  ARVENSIS) - a weed of arable land, especially in spring-sown crops on calcareous and heavy soils

Stiffly hairy stems

A colourful display of 'Ground Ivy' (GLECHOMA  HEDERACEA)

Violet flowers amongst rich foliage

Canal, Langley, 8th April 2016

Dead foliage and fresh new green leaves of 'Branched Bur-reed' (SPARGANIUM  ERECTUM)

Submerged growth of 'Mare's-tail' (HIPPURUS  VULGARIS)

If you would like to see what this and the water-lily looks like when they have emerged above water, scroll down to the July 2015 entry on this page

Submerged young growth of 'Yellow Water Lily' (NUPHAR LUTEA)

Iver Heath Fields, 30th March 2016

Although they must have been planted, these primroses are a real delight

They are growing well on the sides of a ditch which runs along Field 3


Fittingly, the primroses are just 50m from Simon's seat

Simon's seat

Back in Druce's day (1926) primroses were common and generally distributed in woods, thickets and hedgebanks in Buckinghamshire - though even then much less frequent than formerly, owing to it being gathered so freely

Maycock & Woods (2005) found this to be common in woods & hedgebanks in the county but probably less so in SW Bucks

My walking boot allowed me to have a steady base in the stream itself to take close-ups

I did not bother to photograph the familiar male catkins of the 'Goat Willow' (SALIX  CAPREA) which were prominent during my visit but recorded these - which are the female catkins; this willow is common in woods, hedges and by water

The catkins appear before the leaves - male and female on different trees; female 3-7cm, finally lax (erect at this early stage) - from a distance and without foliage, one could easily imagine they were different species of willow

The earliest willow to flower - a shrub or small tree to 13m (40')

A few bluebells were just coming into flowers - but are these the wild species HYACINTHOIDES  NON-SCRIPTA?

As they were growing by the side of the footpath with the fences of gardens just a couple of metres away and evidence of dumping of garden refuse, one must be alert to the possibility of 'Spanish Bluebell' (HYACINTHOIDES  HISPANICA)  and 'Garden Bluebell' (H. NON-SCRIPTA x H.HISPANICA).  Crawley (2005) in his 'Flora of Berkshire', states that the former was much over-recorded in the past for the latter hybrid - a common garden escape in ditches and on banks, which is fertile and often present in the absence of both parents.  The hybrid is told from the true blue-bell by its blue (not white anthers) and its bell-shaped (not parallel-sided flowers).  A pink form is common.  There is, thankfully, no evidence that these plants are invasive of ancient woodland, nor that gene flow from them threatens native populations of bluebells...

This certainly does not come close to what I understand to be the 'Spanish bluebell'. The anthers on this plant are white, suggesting the true HYACINTHOIDES  NON-SCRIPTA but surely there are a range of forms and intermediates, which back-cross, as in "hybrid swarms"?

Sorry to have to raise concerns as to whether such plants are native, naturalised or planted but when we live amongst habitation and such a high proportion of the local flora are ALIENS it is important to be aware of such considerations!  There were quite a number of daffodils in Iver Heath Fields - these have clearly been planted (along with the primroses) but are likely to be cultivars, rather than truly wild forms?

'Gorse' (ULEX  EUROPAEUS) - widely distributed and locally common on heaths and dry pastures but avoiding cold, stiff clays and the chalk downs

Calyx 2/3 length of corolla

Lower lip of calyx minutely 3-toothed; upper minutely 2-toothed

Calyx removed; wings rather longer than keel

The muddy path leading to the main section of Iver Heath Fields - overgrown with brambles

Wooded area to SE of Field 1.

Mossy lower trunk.

Fallen trunk covered in mosses

Closer view of mosses on fallen trunk

Male catkins of 'Hazel' or 'Cob-nut' (CORYLUS  AVELLANA)

Hazel is very common in woodland and hedgerows in Buckinghamshire

Male catkins 1-4 together, 2-8cm, bracts ovate, anthers bright yellow; female spikes often missed, 5mm, styles red!

'Pendulous Sedge' (CAREX  PENDULA) at edge of stream

Iver Village Conservation Area, 21st March 2016

Despite many visits to St. Peter's church, Iver, this was the first occasion I had actually read this plaque, which explains that the lych-gate had been erected in 1938 by the daughters of Tonman Mosley, Baron Anslow of Iver - my great grandmother, Margaret Allan, brought a prized Ayrshire Bull down from Craigie by Kilmarnock for Mosley to exhibit at local Agricultural shows (were it won top prizes); she met and married Leonard Chadwell, father of Leonard Allan Chadwell M.C.

Daffodils planted in the churchyard

Daffodils at the base of a yew tree which has seen better days

'Lesser Celandines' (RANUNCULUS FICARIA) amongst gravestones

'Lesser celandines' making a fine display

'Persian Speedwell' or 'Common Field-speedwell' (VERONICA  PERSICA)

Very common on cultivated ground and waste places - here on a grave in the churchyard

Bright blue flowers; the lower lobe (here the smallest, top right corner) often paler or white

Distinguished from VERONICA CHAMAEDRYS ('Germander Speedwell') by stems hairy all round (cf. long white hairs in two lines on opposite sides); leaves alternate (cf. opposite)

Daffodil growing in the Tony and Pamela Chadwell's grave

The old bridge over the Colne brook - taking the road from Iver to Uxbridge (now blocked by the motorway)

The view of a mini-weir to the north of the bridge

'Sweet Violet' (VIOLA ODORATA)

Druce (1926) found this rather frequent and widely distributed in woodland districts, requiring shade and shelter

Flowers sweet-scented, deep violet or as commonly white with pale lilac  or violet spur, rarely purple or pink; sepals oblong

It is a shame to end what was a pleasant outing with a depressing experience.  I decided to take a quick look at Swan Meadow, just along the lane from the Swan pub across from St. Peter's church.  It had been established with a view to enabling the grasses and other wild plants to flourish but already the grass had been cut (yet again) and looks increasing like a field being prepared for football.....  At this rate, combined with the rabbits, there will be more wild flowers growing in my local parks with their swings and roundabouts plus frequent dog crapping.  Why not stop pretending and put in a giant bouncy castle!?  How sad...... It is essential for the grass-cutting regime to be MANAGED, to allow 'meadow' flowers to flower (and set-seed) before cutting them.  I realise there were complaints that the grass was too long... Well that is what it NEEDS to be at certain times of the year, if you want a MEADOW....

Canal at Langley, 14th July 2015

What a great morning I had.  After paying cheques into my local bank branch, I set out to walk along the stretch of nearby canal.  I was rewarded by a wonderful display of aquatic plants in clear, clean-looking water, brimming with small fish.  This section of canal is opposite quite a number of canal boats which are permanently moored, providing homes -so delightfully clear of the depressing dumping of rubbish and refuse found in the canal close to Slough or effluent from small factories which pollutes the canal close to Iver.  My mind wandered to those wonderful days I have been fortunate enough to spend on Kashmir lakes being paddled along in gondola-like shikara to admire the rich aquatic plant life.  There were no lotuses of course but plenty to admire, as you can see below.

'Flowering Rush' opposite canal boats

Lily pads and Arrowhead leaves

'Yellow Water Lily' (NUPHAR LUTEA) known as NYMPHAEA LUTEA in Druce's time - he found it common and generally distributed in Buckinghamshire rivers, ponds, canals and ditches a century ago. Absent from the quick flowing chalk streams. First recorded in 1843 in the Thames near Temple.  Flowers 4-6cm diam. rising out of the water, their stalks up to 2m. Sepals 2-3cm, broadly obovate, persistent, bright yellow within.

Floating leaves 12-40 x 9-30cm, ovate-oblong with deep basal sinus, the basal lobes being about 1/3 the length of the leaf, thick and leathery

The beautiful 'Flowering Rush' (BUTOMUS UMBELLATUS) - a member of the Butomaceae family with this one species in Europe and temperate Asia including Punjab where it is found in shallow water along roadsides and the Kashmir Valley, common on borders of rice fields and lake borders.

Druce found this locally common but perhaps diminishing in frequency in streams and brooks in Buckinghamshire a century ago - some waters near Colnbrook were full of it and also in a canal near Iver - where I found it in 2015.  Flowers hermaphrodite, umbellate.

Flowers 2.5-3cm diam., opening in succession. Perianth segments pink with darker veins

Must be 'Branched Bur-reed' (SARGANIUM ERECTUM) - though Sparganiums seem to vary a good deal; specimens (too deep in water to able to examine closely) bear a superficial resemblance to SPARGANIUM EMERSUM, which is less common.  Do they occur together?

Young fruits; I cannot see any black-tipped perianth segments?

My uncertainty/confusion is compounded by Druce recording SPARGANIUM EMERSUM (under the name SPARGANIUM SIMPLEX) as common and generally distributed in low-lying parts of Buckinghamshire in rivers, canals, ponds and brooks including Iver a century ago.  He also recorded SPARGANIUM RAMOSUM which nowadays is considered a variety of SPARGANIUM ERECTUM as widely distributed at the sides of rivers, brooks ponds and canals in low-lying districts of Buckinghamshire a century ago, including near Colnbrook. He recorded SPARGANIUM ERECTUM (under the name S.NEGLECTUM) at the sides of rivers, brooks, ponds and canals in Buckinghamshire a century ago including near Iver.  So I am uncertain.....

So is the above a young, poorly developed variant of SPARGANIUM ERECTUM or SPARGANIUM EMERSUM?

The inflorescence is unbranched, the stem short, the leaves floating. The Botanical Society of the British Isles have a REFEREE (specialist) for this genus - which indicates its complexity.

'Arrow-head' (SAGITTARIA SAGITTIFOLIA) - a member of the Alismataceae family.

Druce found this to be common on the muddy beds of streams in the lower valleys of Buckinghamshire a century ago including the Colne. Inflorescence of several simple or rarely slightly branched whorls. Flowers monoecious, 3-5 in a whorl, c. 2cm diam.; female in lower part. Scape lower than leaves

Inner perianth segments white with dark violet patch at base; common in shallow water to 2700m in Pakistan, often in rice fields and the Kashmir lakes

Aerial leaves long-petioled, 5-20cm, sagittate, acute or obtuse

Lateral lobes of aerial leaves about as long as the main portion of blade

'Sweet Flag' (ACORUS CALAMUS). Flora of British Isles gives it as a native of S.Asia, Central and Western North America. Stewart found it in marshes @ 1-1800m in Kashmir - so it seems to have been an introduction there. Spadix c. 8cm, making an angle of c. 45 degrees with the scape, tapering upwards, obtuse at tip; flowers yellowish, tightly packed and completely covering the spadix.  Introduced into Europe by 1557 - presumably for its medicinal use, as it is hardly a showy plant.

Druce commented that this was locally common at the sides of rivers and ponds in Buckinghamshire a century ago; a gregarious species. He observed that it never ripened seed in Britain and was mostly likely a native of the East brought into cultivation in Britain.  It was not recorded by Gerard as a British plant (1597); first recorded about 1660; first record for Bucks at Denham in 1788.

 Druce found this common at the margins of ponds, streams, canals and in ditches and marshes in Buckinghamshire a century ago - though no records anywhere near Langley at that time. Found in the plains of Punjab & North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, growing in shallow water to 2100m also Kashmir lakes.  Flowers are usually pale lilac but this form is white, typically open from 1 to 7pm.

'Mare's-tail' (HIPPURIS  VULGARIS)

Druce found this to be local in slow streams, ponds and ditches in Buckingamshire a century ago; nowadays it is considered rare in the county, mostly in ponds and rivers in the south of the country (where this was photographed). Strangely enough I am more familiar with this plant from the lakes of Kashmir and even in Ladakh in the borderlands of Western Tibet. Found in cool waters of the Northern Hemisphere.

Section of stem. Leaves 6-12 in a whorl, linear, sessile, entire, glabrous, with hard acute tip. As to the common name, this makes little sense for the above water foliage but submerged shoots have longer, thinner, more flaccid and more translucent leaves than those of emerged shoots and the internodes are longer and less rigid - so the name is appropriate for these.  You can see the small greenish flowers at the perimeter of the right hand section - they are in the axils of emerged leaves only

Expanse of pondweed with Mare's-tail and lily pads

Pondweed (POTAMOGETON SP.) - a true submerged aquatic. There are many species of POTAMOGETON, which can be a challenge to identify; most are very plastic in the vegetative morphology, varying greatly in size and shape of their leaves at different stages of development and in different conditions of light intensity, mineral nutrient supply, speed of water movement etc.

The Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland has a REFEREE (specialist) for this genus which shows its difficulty.  In the past I have used the photographs in Roger Phillip's 'Wild Flowers of Britain' to often rapidly narrow down my search for the identity of a species (then checking with more detailed descriptions in floras).  Unfortunately, he only has a picture of POTAMOGETON NATANS.  My best guess for this is a form of POTAMOGETON PERFOLIATUS - which nowadays is considered scarce in canals and rivers in Buckinghamshire - the most 'abundant' species P.NATANS is rated as uncommon.  Whereas, Druce found both POTAMOGETON PERFOLIATUS and P.NATANS plus other pondweeds as common and widely distributed.  It could be that because even botanists do not walk as much as a century ago, such that our rivers, ponds, ditches and canals are not surveyed to the same extent as by Druce or the explanation might lie in a deterioration in water quality?

Langley Station 15th July

Cinnabar moth caterpillar devouring ragwort on waste ground outside a small business park near the station

Windsor & Eton 16th June

Another 'new' species for me - 'Crow Garlic' (ALLIUM VINEALE) found in a field near Eton

Druce found this to be locally common in cultivated fields, hedgebanks, pastures and on wall tops in Buckinghamshire a century ago; he commented that it was less frequent than formerly, as farmers naturally dislike its presence in crops, and will do their best to eradicate it - there was a record for Eton

Leaves subcylindric, hollow, 20-60cm; scapes 30-80cm

A number of varieties are recognised, either with flowers and bulbils or bulbils only; rarely with flowers only (perianth campanulate, pink or greenish-white)


Known as 'Yellow Bedstraw' as well as 'Lady's Bedstraw' (GALIUM VERUM) in Druce's day; he found this to be frequent and widely distributed in dry pastures, field borders, not only in dry and sandy places but sometimes in damp meadows; a considerable factor in the colour effect of our meadows and upland pastures; it was present at Old Slade Lane Nature Reserve in the 1980s but alas is no more

Flowers in bud; plant coumarin-scented (hence the Lady's Bedstraw)

Corolla bright yellow, its 4 lobes apiculate (with a broad point at apex)

Leaves linear, dark-green, pale a pubescent beneath with revolute margins, 8-12 in a whorl


'Hemlock Water Dropwort' (OENANTHE CROCATA) by the Thames

Druce found this in ditches, streams and pond sides in Buckinghamshire a century ago - though absent from the north of the county; I first noticed this by a small stream in Richings Park

Stout erect perennial 50-150cm; stems hollowed, grooved

Flowers c. 2mm diameter, petals of outer unequal

Umbels 5-10cm, terminal; rays 12-40, 2-7cm

Bracts and bracteoles many, caducous, linear-lanceolate

Young green fruits

Leaves 30cm or more, deltoid, 3-4-pinnate; segments ovate or suborbicular, 1-2 lobed, serrate; petioles entirely sheathing

Underside of leaf


'Meadow Vetchling' (LATHYRUS PRATENSIS)

Flowers yellow - there is no mention of veins/markings on standard petals in 'Flora of British Isles'

Calyx-teeth triangular subulate, equalling tube

Druce found this charming scrambling vetchling very common and generally distributed in meadows, pastures, hedges, banks and occasionally in grassy places on the chalk in Buckinghamshire; the first record for the county was in 1773 - at the top of Sir Roger Hill's warren at Denham it makes a glowing figure in the hedge which few things equal

Leaflets 1-3cm, lanceolate, acute; tendrils simple or branched

Stipules subulate, half-arrow-shaped


'Hedge Woundwort' (STACHYS SYLVATICA)

Corolla claret-coloured pubescent outside; in Druce's day this was also known as 'Cow's Weather Weed'; he found it common and generally distributed in woods, hedges, preferring shade and shelter and a leaf-mould soil plus on the chalk uplands in Buckinghamshire

Leaf blades 4-9cm ovate, acuminate, cordate at base, coarsely crenate-serrate, all petioled, petioles 1.5-7cm); almost hispid, foetid when bruised

Underside of leaf

Stems 30-100cm, often branched, solid

Hispid - coarsely and stiffly hairy


'Bristly Hawk's-beard' (CREPIS SETOSA)

It is not straightforward to distinguish between some of the Crepis.  Oregon State University has a page on introduced weeds, comparing CREPIS SETOSA with CREPIS CAPILLARIS - they appear very similar, indeed they judged the species to be nearly identical in terms of rosettes, habit, cauline leaves and flower heads!  They did not seem to be aware of the involucral bracts and upper parts of leaf branches being sparsely covered with long stiff almost spinous bristles - a characteristic used in the key for genus in 'Flora of the British Isles'.

Note the bristles described above

Druce recorded this as a rare casual in cornfields; there was a record from near Chalvey; he observed that Summers' C.SETOSA was a form of CREPIS CAPILLARIS (which Druce described as very common and widely distributed in cultivated fields, roadsides, dry banks, meadows and heaths - a century ago, one of Buckinghamshire's most ubiquitous and polymorphic species; must get to photograph this for comparative purposes)

Flower-heads having just gone-over

Basal leaves stalked oblanceolate, blunt or acute, runcinate-pinnatified with lobes very variable in size or merely toothed; stem leaves lanceolate-acuminate, entire or toohed or cut near base, amplexicaul with pointed auricles, all hispid



Brambles (RUBUS SPP.) present a challenge!  Within the 'Excursion Flora of the British Isles', the authors state,"The members of the RUBUS FRUTICOSUS aggregate, commonly treated as separate species, are BEWILDERING numerous and DIFFICULT to determine (for those unfamiliar with this term, it means to identify with accuracy and reliability - it is impossible for beginners to 'determine' the species of plant they initially encounter, no matter what genus, merely they can come up with a .provisional name, which would need verification/confirmation from someone with expertise). I am now able to determine the names of plants - IMPORTANTLY I am aware of the limitations of my expertise for 'difficult' genera and would only give a suggestion of a name or say I was not qualified to attempt to identify any challenging plants including brambles, referring them to those with specialist knowledge).  When I began identifying plants in my teenage years, I named the bramble I found in the woodlands I surveyed for my 'A' level biology project as RUBUS FRUTICOSUS. It was well beyond my capability and that of anyone I knew at the time to 'determine' the bramble. 

Continuing with the issue of the difficulty of identifying brambles, some of the older readers will know 'The Concise British Flora in Colour' by Keble Martin (first published in 1965 - and very much at the forefront of guides to our flora at that time).  The author states that there are about 400 species of RUBUS in this country (I don't know off-hand what the figure is 50 years on) and the distribution of these in the UK and on the continent is becoming better known.  A handbook by Mr W Watson had been published BUT, "in some cases accurate determination of specimens requires the experience of those who have made a special study of the genus".  The sample applies today; I do know someone who has been taking an interest in brambles, so will ask him to give his opinion on the 'species' I have photographed here.  Hopefully, I can provide sufficient detail for him to determine it - albeit that he normally works with pressed specimens taken at certain times of the year.

Flowers with masses of stamens


My purpose in going into so much details about brambles is not to try and put people off by highlighting the complexities but to illustrate that many plants are highly variable and emphasising that naming them RELIABLY is not always the quick and simple task it is often assumed to be.  There is an expectation that every plant we come across in the wild in the UK(whose flora has been more intensively studied than anywhere) or other countries and in gardens, can easily be identified by anyone with a modicum of knowledge.  That is NOT the case.  Many expect to be able to "Pigeon-Hole" a plant into a particular species with a cursory glance, "matching" it with a single image in a guide-book, barely even consulting the often brief accompanying description.  A LITTLE knowledge can be a dangerous thing! As with much in life, experience teaches one to be more cautious, taking greater care to examine (in this case, specimens of plants, in greater detail).  However experienced and knowledgeable and perhaps "well-known" one becomes, the real EXPERT realises the limitations of their expertise.  Expressing uncertainty, is NOT a sign of incompetence but COMPETENCE.  The person you meet who apparently can name EVERY wild or cultivated they come across with consummate ease, pronouncing with ABSOLUTE certainty what they are, DOES IN FACT, NOT know as much as they think they do.......

Upper surface of leaf

Under surface of leaf

This bramble occupied a number of habitats in the vicinity of the Thames near Windsor and Eton but clearly relished the damp (presumably wet for much of the year) ground above with the PHRAGMITES COMMUNIS.


'Common Thistle' (CIRSIUM ARVENSE)

Also known as 'Way Thistle' in Druce's day - he found it to one of Buckinghamshire's commonest species being abundant and ubiquitous I cornfields, roadsides and waste places a century ago; heads short-stalked, solitary or in terminal clusters of 2-4 together forming an irregular corymb

Involucre purplish; bracts numerous appressed, the outer short, ovate-mucronate with +/- spreading spiny points, the inner longer lanceolate-acuminate with erect scarious tips

Strongly honey-scented and visited freely by a great variety of insects. Very common in Pakistan and Kashmir on wet or poorly drained soils or on the banks of irrigation ditches from the plains to  4250m in Ladakh - I observed this during my first expedition to the borderlands of Western Tibet in 1980

Very variable, especially in the leaves - varieties have been recognised; basal leaves not in a compact rosette, oblong-lanceolate in outline, narrowed to a short stalk-like based usually +/- pinnatifid and undulate with triangular toothed and spiny-ciliate lobes ending in strong spines; middle and upper leaves (see above) but sessile, semi-amplexicaul, more deeply pinnatifid


Windsor, just about qualifies within the 'district' part of 'Iver & District', so am including some images of 'wild' flowers I took when travelling to Weybridge to deliver a lecture.

View from Windsor Central Station

I have long been interested in 'alien and adventive' species within the British flora and fascinated by the means of dispersal and spread around the UK.  My frequent journeys by train afford an insight into the distribution of the likes of Oxford Ragwort and Buddleia davidii (introduced from China about 1890); cultivars of Buddleia are very popular in gardens as the 'Butterfly Bush' - vast expanses of this can be seed nearby to train and tube stations in West London

Some plants whose seeds are wind-dispersed (or possibly through bird droppings) find precarious footholds on buildings and here, bridges, more than equivalent to a sheer cliff face!

No doubt the foreign tourists snapping away as they wandered around Windsor assumed I was doing likewise, rather than taking close-ups of the 'weeds'!!

'Oxford Ragwort' (SENECIO  SQUALIDUS) finding a perch, some distance away from railway ballast - its main means of spread from Oxford after the coming of the railway in the 19th century; note 'Ivy-leaved Toadflax' (CYMBALARIA  MURALIS) bottom right.  I would need to abseil down the walls of nearby Windsor Castle to record all the species growing on them.


My first exploration (on foot - best to avoid the bicycle for the time being after my accident at the end of April) at the start of June took me to a small copse opposite Richings Park Golf Club - where my youngest son will be giving his first ever full digital presentation on the 'Wildlife of Black and Langley Park' to Iver & Langley Rotary at the end of the month.  I was primarily in search of grasses (this being the best time of the year to find them in flower)

'Charlock' - a weed of arable land, growing on roadside by sign above


'Goosegrass' or 'Cleavers' (GALIUM  APARINE) - Druce found this to be very common and generally distributed in Buckinghamshire a century ago in hedgerows, thickets, waste places and cultivated ground except in uncultivated areas of the Chalk

Very variable in size; Druce contrasted specimens from dry fields only about 10cm high with great rampant plants nearly 1.5m long; an annual with prostrate or more usually scrambling-ascending diffusely branched stems which are 4-angled, the angles very rough with downwardly directed prickles; margins of leaves also with prickles; corolla whitish 

'Oil Seed Rape' (BRASSICA  NAPUS subsp. OLEIFERA) - has long been grown as a fodder crop but nowadays mostly for its oil-seeds

A century ago Druce recorded this as local alien of cultivated ground and waste places, first found in 1780 by Sir Joseph banks at Salt Hill, Slough - he would be shocked by its abundance nowadays

Showy bright yellow flowers (though some find over-powering, rather gawdy en masse); petals almost twice as long as sepals; all leaves glaucous, lowest stalked, lyrate

Fruit, obliquely erect - a narrow beaked siliqua with convex valves each with 1 dominant central vein


'Broad-leaved Dock' (RUMEX OBTUSIFOLIUS)

Druce found this dock very common and widely distributed in Buckinghamshire pastures, waysides, waste places, low meadows and orchards at century ago; upper leaves (seed above) ovate-lanceolate to lanceolate; a branched perennial 50-100cm

Whorls distinct; best to examine docks at fruiting stage to check perianth segments

Lower leaves up to 25cm, ovate-oblong, cordate at base, margins undulate

Upper leaves ovate-lanceolate to lanceolate


'Cut-leaved Cranesbill' (GERANIUM DISSECTUM); petals reddish-pink, emarginated at apex; the aristate sepals can be seen in the image below

Druce found this cranesbill common and generally distributed in cultivated fields and hedgebanks in Buckinghamshire a century ago; he found it especially abundant in meadows near Uxbridge on which hay had been stored; next to GERANIUM MOLLE the commonest species in the county

An annual herb 10-60cm, usually branched and often of straggling habit

Leaf-blades 5-10 times as long as entire portions, pinnately lobed

Undersides of leaves

If you wish to examine other features of GERANIUM DISSECTUM, see my page covering 'Waste Places' in UK:


'Common Chickweed' (STELLARIA  MEDIA)

Druce found this of ubiquitous occurrence in Buckinghamshire a century ago but less frequent on chalk downs; a very polymorphic species, varying in size, habit, hairiness, length of petals, number of stamens, size and surface-detail of seeds

Petals white, not exceeding the sepals, deeply bifid, sometimes none

Upper leaves ovate or broadly elliptical more or less sessile; a single line of hairs down each internode


A colony at the edge of the copse

Purple-spots prominent on the stem of this specimen


April 2015

A pretty miniature - 'Field Forget-me-not' (MYOSOTIS ARVENSIS); common on cultivated land and in woods; this colony was on a grassy bank by the Royal Mail Sorting Office at Langley

In Druce's day this was known as 'Field Mouse-Ear' (MYOSOTIS ANNUA) - very common and generally distributed in cultivated fields, woods, hedgebanks.  First recorded by Sir Joseph Banks at Marlow in 1760 (his pressed specimen is in the herbarium of the Natural History Museum, London)

'Garden Grape Hyacinth' (MUSCARI ARMENIACUM) - uncommon in churchyards, roadsides and hedgebanks in Buckinghamshire but INCREASING.

A real nuisance in my front garden but the bees seemed to like them on the grassy bank where I photographed the miniature forget-me-not, so where is the harm, provided it does not dominate.

'Goat Willow' (SALIX CAPREA) - common in woods, hedges and by water. Catkins appear before the leaves, dense, subsessile; stamens have 2 prominent yellow anthers

Also known as 'Sallow', it is the earliest of the willows to flower.  Was common and generally distributed in damp woods and hedges in Buckinghamshire a century ago, flowering between January and April. The catkins were called 'Palms'.  First recorded at Stokenchurch in 1843.

Road-side colony of 'Alexanders' (SMRYNIUM  OLUSATRUM)

First recorded in Buckinghamshire in 1769 in hedge banks at Denham but considered extinct in the country by 1920 although still occurring in Berkshire and Surrey at that time (as so prominent, not easily missed).  Nowadays judged as Rare in the county at road-sides and in waste places incl. Denham. Apparently introduced in Roman Times.  Widely cultivated until 15th Century when displaced by Celery.  No clear explanation for its predominantly coastal distribution - though if it is salt-tolerant, the use of salt on roads in winter could impact on conditions at roadsides.  It is just a short distance from this population to Denham and on a route used by large trucks; roadside mud (with seeds in it) could easily to spread from location-to-location, aiding dispersal.

Curious and probably distinctive sheathing bases of leaf-stalks

Quite attractive when examined closely - to think I needed a x10 hand-lens to observe such detail in the past and would have needed to take a pressed specimen for my private herbarium

'White Dead-Nettle' (LAMIUM ALBUM)

Very common at roadsides, in fields and waste places in Buckinghamshire.  A century ago it was locally abundant and widely distributed but rarely or never in ground which has been undisturbed by man.  First recorded in the county at Marlow in 1843.

Upper lip of corolla with long-ciliate hairs


Violet corolla with purple spots - hairy within at base of lower lip

Very common woods, hedges, waste places and gardens in Buckinghamshire.  A century ago it was abundant and generally distributed in woods, thickets, borders of fields - often in dry situations; a conspicuous feature of spring vegetation.  First recorded at Thame in 1843.

'Lesser Celandine' (RANUNCULUS FICARIA)

Common in woods, banks, hedges and churchyards. A century ago it was also common in damp places, woods, brook sides, hedges, open fields and under trees in parks and generally distributed except on chalk downs, dry heaths and commons.

Unfurling leaves of 'Horse Chestnut' (AESULUS HIPPOCASTANUM)

'Lords-and-Ladies' (ARUM MACULATUM) foliage

Leaves appear in spring, triangular-hastate; often blackish-spotted. Woods and shady hedge-banks

'Dandelion' (TARAXACUM OFFICINALE' Sensu lato) - being apomictic (fruit formed independently of fertilisation), dandelions present considerable problems identification-wise. I do not have the expertise nor inclination to devote time to accumulate it, to provide anything beyond classidying the numerous microspecies of the robust plants of waysides, paths, gardens and managed grasslands within Section Taraxacum.  The leaves are usually triangular-lobed.  Flower-heads large.

Unfurling leaf of 'Hemlock' (CONIUM MACULATUM) - note purple spots on young stems. VERY poisonous! Mature leaves up to 30cm, 2-3-pinnate, ovate to deltoid; segments deeply serrate

Common by rivers, canals, ditches and roadsides in Buckinghamshire. A century ago it was locally common in coppices, woods, hedges and river banks; more frequent in clays soils, especially where there is gravel (gravel extraction took place to create the lakes at Old Slade Lane, Richings Park). 

'Daffodils' by roadside near Richings Park Golf Club

Whilst a lovely thing, this is obviously a planted cultivar; the true 'Wild Daffodil' (NARCISSUS PSEUDONARCISSUS subspecies PSUEDONARCISSUS) is very rare in Buckinghamshire, perhaps in a few churchyards and grassy places - though it can be difficult to be sure they were not planted. A century ago Druce judged 'Wild Daffodil' as 'Local' in woods and coppices, preferring shelter; even then he considered those at Chalfont were probably planted.

March 2015

My first botanical outing of the year, on March 7th, involved cycling to Old Slade Lane, Richings Park - had not noticed the "Birthplace of the Paralympics" addition to the county border sign before (I live in what is now East Berkshire).

Lesser Celandines in a small copse opposite the entrance to Richings Park Gold Club


Lesser Celandine is common and generally distributed in Buckinghamshire, except on chalk downs, dry heaths and commons.  It flowers between March and June.  Found in damp places, woods, brooksides, hedges, banks, open fields and under trees in parks.

Foliage of 'LORDS-AND-LADIES' (ARUM MACULATUM) - common in all districts of Buckinghamshire but less frequent than formerly owing to trimming of hedges; found in woods, thickets, hedgebanks - preferring the sheltered borders of woodlands.

Red Dead Nettle


Common and generally distributed in Buckinghamshire; found on cultivated ground, fallow fields, hedge-sides and as a garden weed.

What a pleasant surprise, justifying an outing for flowers so early in the year - Sweet Violets

VIOLA  ODORATA - never saw this in flower before, although knew it from OLD SLADE LANE Nature Reserve in the early 1980s, when preparing a check-list for the warden; sadly, it is no longer to be found in what remains of the ancient woodland ride (precious little, as this has more or less been obliterated) which was part of the old BBONT reserve but at least a population still exists nearby....

A century ago it was rather frequent and widely distributed in woodland districts in Buckinghamshire, requiring shade and shelter; found in hedgebanks, wood-borders, open coppices.

Lake at what was the OLD SLADE LANE nature reserve site

Catkins of Hazel (CORYLUS AVELLANA)

Abundant in the lanes and woods of the Chilterns and in most of the woods of Buckinghamshire; found in woods and coppices; flowering from January to April

Black buds of Ash (FRAXINUS  EXCELSIOR) - rather common and generally distributed in Buckinghamshire; woods, hedges, thickets, parks.

Blackthorn or Sloe

PRUNUS  SPINOSA - common and generally distributed, specially frequent in the coppices on the clay in the north of Buckinghamshire and historically at 'THORNEY' (named after an abundance of Blackthorn); found in hedges, thickets and woods


Male catkins; Alder is scattered through Buckinghamshire's valleys; found at the sides of rivers and streams and in damp woods