Sunday, 25 October 2015

Golden Dock at St Aidan's

With sunshine and blue skies today I thought it worth a late season trip to St Aidan's (VC64) to see if any of the Golden Dock (Rumex maritimus) rosettes seen earlier in the year had made it to flowering. I was rewarded with four plants, one of which was in peak bloom and worth photographing. This species was more abundant a couple of years ago, water levels and goose trampling haven't favoured it recently. I also wonder if the recent rapid spread of New Zealand Pigmyweed (Crassula helmsii) is also impeding germination.

Golden Dock is a rare plant in VC64 and is largely restricted to a few wetlands in the far east of the county. It is a little more frequent in VC31, but it is still a scarce plant of drawdown habitats.

Less attractive, but equally pleasing - at least to me and perhaps because it requires a little more investment in time to go beyond a species-only identification - was the scattering of the wetland specialist subspecies of Greater Plantain (Plantago major ssp. intermedia) along the drawdown zone. While identifications should always be confirmed by counting the number of seeds in a pod (>15 seeds is diagnostic) it is very distinct once known, with its typically diminutive size, pointed leaf tip, toothed and hairy leaves, and usually decumbent inflorescence. It is also much more specialist in niche than its more competitive and weedy sister (ssp. major), normally being associated with disturbed damp ground, and often only germinating and flowering late in the season.

A final lucky find was a second location for Greater Soft-rush (Juncus pallidus), again doing its best to blend in with the Club-rushes (Schoenoplectus spp.). The following photo is pretty ropey (I should have got my camera out rather than using my phone), and it does nothing to show the size of the plant which was easily as tall as me.

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