US social scientist Kenneth Boulding : ‘If you believe exponential growth can go on in a finite world, you are either a madman or an economist’.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

9/10/10: Erith miscellany includes Southern Green Shieldbug and Jasmine

Continuing my roundabout route home from Crossness, I took in a number of streets in Erith, London Borough of Bexley, that I had not botanised before.

The Sandcliff Road flora included Pellitory-of-the-wall, Green Alkanet, Annual Mercury, Herb Robert, Yarrow, Nipplewort and a single Wild Carrot, the last of these on a bank behind old factories.

Common Cat's-ear and White Clover were in a grass verge on Wheatstone Rd.

My first ever Southern Green Shieldbug (Nezara viridula) - possibly a 4th instar nymph according to LNHS expert Tristan Bantock - was found on Urtica dioica by the fence of a rough grassy area next to disused factories off Sandcliff Rd, by Footpath 18. TQ 50631 78353. A recent arrival in the UK, this species is native to Africa, but has been frequently brought in with food imports. Reportedly widespread in southern Europe, it has been recorded annually in southern Britain since 2003.

Southern Green Shieldbug (Nezara viridula) - possibly a 4th instar nymph - was found on Urtica dioica. This is a one-handed, significantly-enlarged mobile phone camera picture taken in poor light, hence the slight lack of sharpness

In an alleyway between Friday Rd and Alford Rd. were several small Sun Spurge and also escaped Strawberry.

This demolition site on Fraser Rd has been vacant for a couple of years, but used to have a lot more vegetation. It looks like it has been part 'sanitised' by bulldozer simply for the sake of applying a warped notion of tidiness to everything and anything. Can't it be left to the wildlife until proper work begins?

Seed heads of Wild Carrot seen through chain link fence and green plastic mesh present an ethereal, slightly artistic picture of the site margin

Another bit of 'greenspace' destined for the chop - once the economy 'improves', one suspects - is the former Erith Tramways Depot site by Walnut Tree Rd. It ought to be possible to leave a goodly belt of trees round the perimeter, and I hope that's what will happen .......

White Melilot, recorded here last year, was still present on the Tramways Depot site, and Narrow-leaved Ragwort has also found its way to this patch of ground.

I was rather taken aback to see a Red Admiral flutter overhead on the adjoining Cricketers' Close at 17.18, in what were not sunny conditions.

On the railway cutting sides just south of Erith Station and the Bexley Road overbridge a Greater Celandine was noted, also an Asparagus plant. There were a number of Ash trees, and a circa ten feet tall Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris) carrying acorns.

Not having run my botanical eye over Queens Rd. before, this Jasmine (probably officinale ) growing out from under several trees (left foreground) and over the railway fence just past the Avenue Rd. footbridge, was most surprising. Given the location it seemed unlikely that it had been planted, but I have never seen it as a garden escape before.

Further down the line there was quite a lot of Elm.

There was Spotted Medick on Thanet Rd, lots of Buck's-horn Plantain at Boundary Street and a Greater Celandine behind the derelict 'Style and Winch' public house on Northend Rd. Black Horehound was by a housing estate here.

It was by now rather gloomy, but I was cheered by coming across a fourth site in the Borough for the uncommmon plant Dittander - on a mound at the south-east corner of a grassy area by flats on Northend Rd, next to a garage/petrol station. This neatly fills in a gap between my other three locations which are Thames Road Wetland, part way up Thames Rd towards the junction with Northend Rd and then the south east corner of the Erith Quarry site.

A Senecio cinerea above a retaining wall at the top of the hill on Colyers Lane appeared to be outside the garden boundary, and had the look of an 'escape', though it might conceivably have been planted. There was also a lone Narrow-leaved Ragwort here.

9/10/10: Crossness clover to Franks Park fungi

An LNHS bird-watching meeting, starting at Belvedere station and walking out to the sea-wall at Crossness. I took very few notes on this one.

Close inspection of the relevant piece of ground did reveal that the patch of Strawberry Clover was just about hanging on in a trackside verge, despite the effects of heavy lorry movements associated with ditch restoration and other habitat improvements. There was a big flock of Teal on the Thames. A Kestrel perched briefly on the modern Sewage Works building.

I took a typically long detour home, this time passing through Franks Park , Erith where a number of (unidentified) fungi, pictured below, were photographed.

Franks Park - east-facing bank with bramble, Broom and Oak

Franks Park with Sweet Chestnut to the right - a species typical of the woodland in this part of Bexley

Assorted (unidentified) fungi in Franks Park, Erith

Thursday, 7 October 2010

7/10/10: Crayford Creek exotics and missing Marsh plant

The land-filled 'landward' end of Crayford Marshes, along Crayford Creek, has long been known for its 'exotics'. There are a number of such records in Rodney Burton's 'Flora of the London Area' (published by the London Natural History Society in 1983).

A few more were gleaned today. On a bund of clay-ey spoil by the 'entrance' to the marsh (TQ 53026 75581), were the following garden escapes, all in flower ........

Ice Plant (Sedum spectabile)

and a red-flowered single Dahlia (foreground) with two substantial yellow-flowered Marvel of Peru (Mirabilis jalapa) behind, left.

My actual 'mission' was to search for any remnant of the very rare Marsh Sow-thistle (Sonchus palustris), for which the bank of the Creek was a well-known site. Indeed Burton says that there used to be a 20 yard strip of it. Armed with a grid reference provided by someone who had recorded it there in the past, I checked some tens of metres along the bank either side of the stated location. As thoroughly as I thought prudent, at any rate - given that this involved 'wading' up to my thighs in flattened Phragmites, and a blanket of Cow Parsley, Nettles and decaying Hedge Bindweed, such that I could not see where my feet were going and I was concerned I might disappear down into some hidden, wet and deep ditch. But there was no sign of the Sow-thistle which, it has been alleged, was deliberately destroyed by persons with development proposals in mind.

Former Marsh Sow-thistle site, now a mat of Common Reed and coarse 'weeds'

Mayweeds and Bristly Ox-tongue brighten up landfill capping on Crayford Marshes

Looking across Dartford Creek (the River Darent) towards the flood control barrier near the Thames, showing the flat, open character of the marshes. The low rise on the horizon, in the centre of the picture, is part of Essex, on the north bank.

Further on, the was a small patch of Tansy in the footpath, and a larger one not far from the fence in a neighbouring field. A Little Egret took flight from the Dartford Creek.

Along Moat Lane several Geranium pyrenaicum, Common Toadflax, Spotted Medick and a single White Melilot were seen. There were two Mute Swans on Howbury Grange moat.

Towards dusk now, around 80 Starlings were wheeling over Slade Green station.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

3/10/10: From Lesser Calamint to a riot of red Apples

Lesnes Abbey Conservation Volunteer (LACV) work today.

Great to see such a fabulous show of Lesser Calamint (Clinopodium calamintha syn. Calamintha nepeta) flower at its only know site in London, near the ruined Abbey.

Lesser Calamint, at Lesnes Abbey. Second, close-up shot, shows it next to fellow Labiate Black Horehound (Ballota nigra).

In the mud round the lower of the Abbey ponds were several Trifid Bur-marigold and some Celery-leaved Crowfoot (Ranunculus sceleratus). The alien water fern Azolla, present last year, appears to have died out, maybe because of the hard winter, the subsequent drought, silt clearance or some combination of these.

After some pond-clearance work with LACV members up in the woods themselves, I made my way to the 'sea wall' at Crossness, via Belvedere railway station, during which time the weather improved somewhat. Unusually, there was only one Shelduck in sight and few Mallard, but lots of Gadwall. An unidentified Hawker Dragonfly whizzed past.

There was an Asparagus plant by the Incinerator. Towards Erith, by the fence at Dee Dee removals, a previously unnoticed Apple tree (pictured below) now stood out with its massive crop of small (27mm diameter) red fruits, looking just like cherries when viewed from above.

Further east, and past the pinkish-flowered Rosa rugosa previously noted on the upper 'shore' below the sea wall, I spotted a white-flowered specimen in the same habitat, though with only one bloom that was by now 'going over'.

In Erith, Annual Nettle (Urtica urens) was still present along the fence line around the former Riverside Swimming Baths site.