September may be upon us, but it’s still not too late to do a bit of amateur botanising in the countryside. At this time of year, late flowering plants have to be taller and showier to get above the accumulated growth of summer grasses and undergrowth, so they are usually much easier to find.
At the weekend I went up my local stretch of riverside to see what was about and I wasn’t disappointed. Much the most obvious was the rosebay willowherb which will soon set seed and cast its fluffy down to the wind for dispersal.
In amongst it I spotted a hairy pinkish purple flower spike, obviously of the nettle family. It was marsh woundwort and was attracting the attention of the local hoverfly population.
A little further on was the unmistakable snowy-white trumpet of hedge bindweed. Instead of growing above the undergrowth, this tenacious climber scrambles to the light, twisting around anything it can get hold of. It is a very attractive flower, but not easy to get rid of if you have it in your garden.
The previously mentioned woundwort was, as its name suggests, used herbally in times gone by to treat wounds and I later came upon another plant much used, even today, in herbal remedies – St John’s wort. There are several native varieties and I didn’t linger to identify it, but paused long enough to capture its lovely golden flowers with my camera.
Next to the river I encountered a plant which has become a bit of an old friend. I first found it in 2008 and I’m pleased to say it is still hanging on and has even spread a bit. Keeled garlic is a member of the onion family and is not native – probably a garden escape which has been brought down by the river. Nonetheless, its loose purple flower heads were a welcome sight.
The feathered variety of redshank may have left the riverside, but the plant remains in profusion. A weed of waste ground, redshank, like most others of its ilk, is often overlooked, however, closer examination will reveal a very attractive and unusual flower with distinct tightly-crowded pink and red flower heads.
Yes, it’s not too late to get out and enjoy our local flora, but hurry before the first frosts finish everything off for another year.