On Sunday I set off in the cool of the morning for a day's botanising in some under-worked parts of the vice-county north-west of Sleaford. My first stop was the village of Cranwell (having driven swiftly through the RAF college whose grounds seemed far too orderly to hold any botanical jewels). This is one of the more intensively arable parts of VC53, but has limestone soils, and there were still fragments of species-rich grassland with an abundance of Field Scabious Knautia arvensis along the green lane and footpaths that I walked.
However, the arable field margins at the top of the hill were the richest hunting ground, with smoky clouds of Common Fumitory Fumaria officinalis, sprawling masses of Round-leaved Fluellen Kickxia spuria, Musk thistle Carduus nutans in profusion and five plants of Prickly Poppy Papaver argemone, a species that was once widespread in south-east England, but is now considered to be Endangered in the England Red List. It's only the second time I've found it, the first being almost thirty years ago. The small orange-red flowers are very distinctive, and only last a day. In fact in hot weather, the petals seem to drop by lunchtime, so one to get up early for!
|Seed-head of Papaver argemone|
|The soft, hairy leaves of Kickxia spuria|
|Flower of Kickxia spuria|
|One of many plants of Kickxia spuria|
|Carduus nutans as an arable weed|
By half past ten it was getting pretty hot, but I drove round to the northern part of my first tetrad, where a number of fields had been some with a wildflower mix containing plenty of Chicory Cichorium intybus and the fodder form of Bird's-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus var. sativus.
On the side of a green lane I spotted three rose bushes that were quite upright in form and just looked a bit different from the Dog-rose Rosa canina I had been seeing scrambling through the hedges. I managed to extract some samples (reminder - carry secateurs!) and when I keyed them out they seemed to fit well with Round-leaved Dog-rose Rosa obtusifolia, which has strongly reflexed bipinnate sepals that fall early, and neat, rather overlapping biserrate leaves that are pubescent. There are few records for this species in VC53 and this seems to be the first since 1989.
|Views of Rosa obtusifolia hips and leaves|
By the time I returned to the car at about midday, it was really very hot and steamy, but I felt I couldn't give up and went for a walk around a contrasting area of sheep-grazed grassland and woodland west of Bloxhom. Initially it didn't seem as interesting, but on a very ordinary wayside I found a couple of plants of Good-King-Henry Chenopodium bonus-henricus, another rare species that's now considered to be Vulnerable in the UK, and one I'd never seen before. It is an archaeophyte, present in Roman times and once grown for its edible leaves - one of its vernacular names is Lincolnshire Spinach! It often grows in scruffy areas and has declined enormously, possibly as a result of the general tidying of ruderal vegetation.
|Plants of Chenopodium bonus-henricus in improved grassland|