Category Archives: Botany

Back home: June at Navasola, Wild flowers and Wicked ways. Never pick wild flowers. No recoge las flores salvaje.

‘Wild flowers are for everyone to enjoy. Leave them alone.’ The photo is of a wild iris for all to admire, part of the ecosystem for bees and pollinators, the plant needs to fulfil its life cycle to survive and reproduce.  Never pick wild flowers. No recogas flores salvajes. Some are very rare now and some extinct. Many are extremely poisonous. Best left alone!

I have spent over a month away from Navasola. While I have experienced snow in Dorset, spring  breezes in Rhodes and hot weather in London and Manchester during April and May the weather here in the South of Spain has been mainly wet. This desperate downfall of water has created an abundance of growth: wild flowers, bracken and high grasses. My vegetable garden is hard to see and also the rock flower garden. But with a bit of work I am getting it less sneeze inducing and for better or worse a bit less wild. I struggle with this but need a few patches where I can try and grow things. This is where I have to discern rare flowers from less rare but all have their part and I love seeing how so many can self seed. I leave many but the cultivated ones struggle to survive if overgrown with the wild ones!  Below is the view from my sanctuary window after a bit of work. I moved the lemon balm which had gone mad and put in a rose from Ruth. There are some wild ones in the photo, a local lily,  three wild alliums  and some to be named! This type of red rose is cultivated and irrigated in this area. It flowers for a long time and the bees love it.

new card April 24 to June 6th 2016 1591

new card April 24 to June 6th 2016 1587

 

 

 

 

 

I have been busy in the UK visiting friends, family and two lovely weddings and for the last week I have had friends and family to stay with me here. We have walked around the finca and found lots of different wild flowers and exuberant growth. Lotti, Ruth’s dog also found where the boar had been taking mud baths and had left their two toe prints. For a short while we had had a stream running into our pond and out the other side. I could have grown rice!

There are also lots of wild iris and foxglove about. Higher up on the hillside it is covered with pink silene and some white ones. There are also lots of yellow flowers and tolpis with tiny white snowflake flowers close to the ground. Too hard to photograph the beauty of such a spread.

Last year outside our gate there was a beautiful wild orchid which I photographed but not clearly enough. This year I was sent a message and we joked and using the expression from the German New Year comedy ‘same procedure as last year’ . Unfortunately, this year within the last few days, someone has come and picked the flower stem.  It seems that the wild iris  is picked too. It is such a shame when wild flowers are interfered with and the orchids are rare. I can only hope that the main part of the plant will be able to flower again. I’m sure it was my parents who used to say wild flowers are for everyone to enjoy, leave them alone. Now, it is a conservation issue too. Too much of the wild is being lost by human hands.

Wild gladioli outside the gate to Navasola
Wild gladioli outside the gate to Navasola

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Thapsia, tall and elegant on the verge.
Thapsia, tall and elegant on the verge.

new card April 24 to June 6th 2016 1477

 

 

 

Now I am back I hope to catch up with as many of you as I can  while trying to grow my own veg and finish that novel about the wild ones.

Botany and Birds: Early to mid Spring at Navasola.

bl grape hyacinth frosty days end Feb march 2016 085
Grape hyacinth, muscari botryoides
Teuchrium
Teuchrium fruticans
bl celandine frosty days end Feb march 2016 078
Celandine, lesser, ficaria verna, invasive in USA but native here and few and far between!

The first flowers and blossoms for early Spring have been the wild grape hyacinth and celandine. However, the wild Viburnum Tinus has been breaking into bud from January. The Teuchrium too and the simple gorse seem to keep a few flowers through the winter months and this seems to help the white tailed bumble bees. These two plants have been flowering for a long time but are full of their blossoms now.

Mimosa in March
Mimosa in March

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mimosa was planted by a previous owner and is incredibly invasive. Very pretty in March but its roots come up everywhere near the house and created quite a jungle. I am concerned about trying to keep the native flora here as it is so pretty and well adapted to the climate. I really do not need to think about planting a garden even though I try and the frost seems to harm many plants.  I am still finding my way with the climate here. We are a microclimate and lemon trees cannot grow here but will be fine about 6 miles away. I have lost quite a few plants to the February frosts. But the wild ones stay strong.

Viburnum Tinus, Raven in clouds above?
Viburnum Tinus, Raven in clouds above?

 

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Wild viburnum now in full bloom but has had some flowers from January.

 

Wild Viburnum Tinus
Wild Viburnum Tinus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now the semi wild plum blossoms are fading and the cherry is coming out. I think the Buff tailed bumblebees are now getting ready and taking advantage of the tree blossoms. In the chestnut orchards the wild peonies are beginning to bud, along with Solomons Seal and the dreaded bracken. There are also signs of many other wild flowers and hopefully the wild foxglove. More on these later.

Buff Tailed Bumblebee, April 2016, by Ruth Konigsberger.
Buff Tailed Bumblebee, April 2016, by Ruth Konigsberger.

 

Peoni broteri bud Early April 2016
Peoni broteri bud Early April
Navasola East hillside with winged broom and halimiumWinged broomGenista sagittalis

 

 

 

Halimium on the yellow hillside
Halimium on the yellow hillside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up the east side of the valley is the yellow hillside. Here a different kind of gorse or broom is prevalent; arrow or genista sagittalis and is the first to flower in Spring followed by the Spanish broom. The common gorse isn’t found here and this hill becomes hot and dry in the summer and has a different flora to the valley and west side.

 

 

 

 

 

The blog ‘ Culture of Awareness‘ gave me a link to a plant identification app of Western Europe developed in France. Plant net. This has helped with some common flowers and a beautiful yellow Early Star of Bethlehem by the rocks at the front of the house.

Early Star of Bethlehem, gagea bohemica
Early Star of Bethlehem, gagea bohemica

 

Charlock
Charlock, sinapsis arvensis,

 

Cats eye
Cats ear, hypochaeris radicata

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I often say the birds are so wild here and it is difficult to photo them but we were very lucky to have a visiting flock of bullfinches. Near Ruth’s house are the golden Orioles , high up in the poplars. Too difficult to capture, yet! A little nearer to the house she managed a shot of a pretty warbler. These are quite common here. Many warblers have recently arrived from Africa although the chiff chaff might be resident. We have also heard the bee eaters high above with their high notes. Oh and of course the collection of Ravens which inspired my poem and many of the commoyn woodland birds. Blue, Great,long tailed and crested tits, robins, wrens, nuthatches, blackcaps, redstarts, goldcrests and a range of warblers. All fly around the old oak and cork nearby but they never stay long in one place! All are too busy to pose for a photo. Spring is here and so is the contrast of warm sunny days and heavy April showers.

Warbler of some kind by Ruth Konigsberger
Warbler of some kind by Ruth Konigsberger, chiff chaff or willow.
bl bullfinch againfrosty days end Feb march 2016 077
Bullfinch in tree by olives.

Bumblebees and Botany Notes from Navasola. A happy and prosperous 2016 to all sentient creatures!

 

Wild Viburnum tinus
Wild Viburnum tinus

 

Festive table for Christmas lunch in the sun.
Festive table for Christmas lunch in the sun.

New Year Greetings from Navasola

Christmas time in Spain has been a mix of weather but mainly warm. Warm enough to sit out on Christmas Day for lunch and have sun hats as our party hats. We began the eating of food on the sunny side of the valley at another Finca. We had decided with friends on a form of pot luck Christmas dinner but kept it to Vegetarian. C created a delicious Nigel Slater recipe and roasted veggies. R made a superb eco soup with a touch of my not so favourite veg, beetroot. But I have to say it is very tasty in soups. My offering was a blue cheese and broccoli quiche and mushroom sherry sauce. Recipes later? We were then able to walk through the lovely countryside  back to Navasola for the ‘postres’. This included Ts version of sherry trifle. We were very full and quite stuffed! George Monbiot has recently written about how reducing meat production could radically reduce carbon emissions. Need also to now think about waist reduction!

butchers broom 1December 15 Navasola 477

Being with these friends I was also shown another botanical wonder that grows wild at Navasola. I may have partly ignored it but it is a stranger plant than it looks. It can be quite festive with its red berries, a little stiff and slightly prickly. This is Butcher’s broom and N was able to show me how the leaves aren’t leaves but stalks. And on the stalks there are very small flowers. And then there are the bright red berries. This needs to go into my attempt of creating an ethnobotanical garden as it is also known for its medicinal properties. The roots have been used for over 2000 years for circulation problems. Now with current knowledge of the chemistry of plants it does contain substances which are good for improving blood flow in the arteries and veins. And yes the stiff leaf looking stalks were used by butchers to clean up their boards and floors!

 

b broom flower on stalkDecember 15 Navasola 472
As for the bumblebees. These again were a moving target which after the sherry I was unable to photo clearly. However, I am amazed to see these little creatures among the flowering Rosemary bushes at two of my friends’ fincas. At present these are white tailed bumblebees and at least half a dozen of them. I walked out to try and phot some at Navasola but could not find any. At the moment I do not have flowering Rosemary. I tried around the ivy but it’s flowering  seems to be over and I could not find many pollinators about. Now and again a butterfly, possibly a peacock, and possibly some solitary bees.

Blurred white tailed bumblebee or slurred!
Blurred white tailed bumblebee or slurred!

We moved to the Algarve for New Year and had some superb sea views to help us enjoy a New Year’s Eve or Old night’s Eve, Noche Viejo with friends and local fireworks. In the morning along with the gulls there were possibly swallows and house martins flying. More investigation needed to find out if this is an early return of these migratory birds. I am trying to survey the house martins in Cabanas de Tavira. It is worrying that there is still a decline in the populations of migratory birds.

Young house martins ready to leave Cabanas for Africa September 2015.
Young house martins ready to leave Cabanas for Africa September 2015.

Butchers broom has been in use over 2000 years ago. Many of these migratory birds fly over 2000 miles and have been doing for thousands of years. We are now in the year 2000 and 16. Let’s hope we can ensure that these wonders of the natural world are well known about and in abundance for the future. Let’s hope it’s a more positive year for the planet.

Happy New Year too to all you amazing bloggers. Here’s to more sharing of our news and views.

To be identified soon!
To be identified soon!

Yellow is the colour of……..Botany studies in yellow

And with thanks to Opher’s World for nominating me for some blogging awards. Check Opher out as there are plenty of references to the great music of the 60s, Dylan, definitely and maybe Donovan! But Opher Goodwin has written some great books and one that he has shown extracts of is about Anthropocene Collapse. I love one of the futures he envisages where we as a species do survive and also keep 50% of the Earth wild. Here’s to some of the wild flowers at Finca Navasola. It’s always amazing where they pop up.

Tolpis
Tolpis and so much sun makes photo difficult. A lot of radiating light.

 

A vipers grass. But the lovely lemon flower Rays often closed again within the bud.
A vipers grass. But the lovely lemon flower rays often closed again within the bud.

Yellow is the colour of these wild flowers in the morning.
Yellow is the colour of the Thapsia, tall and elegant from dawn to dusk.
Yellow is the colour of the many, many daisy and dandelion types.
Yellow is the colour that vibrates so bright
Bringing more than just the sunshine’s light.
Bringing the joy of nature’s alluring fight
For the future, the next day, the next year, not the night.

A poem to capture the variety of flowers seen at Navasola this May and June. I had to start identifying through colour as this seemed easier than botanical keys and I had got stuck with 26,000 within the daisy family. Thankfully, we have various books and our own survey which helps narrow this down. But it is still a challenge as there were about five different kinds in yellow. As I was more confident with a range of other flowers I focused on trying to narrow down the daisy types. As we move into June some of this variety are already turning to seed but there are still more to feed the interest of the range of butterflies about. Another post or poem on those!

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Perforate St John’s Wort
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Thapsia, tall and elegant.
Thapsia, tall and elegant on the verge.
Thapsia, tall and elegant on the verge.
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Leontodon Hispidus I think!
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A wild euphorbia. Yellowish. With wasp with very waspish waist!
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Curry plant and very aromatic
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A lone yellow dahlia facing the bedroom window. At least some things grow well without too much water in my real rock garden.

 

A Wild Welcome Back! All alive and well at Navasola! Or on the Verges of a dilemma. When to cut back ? What is best to help improve biodiversity?

Where to start? We were back at Navasola and nature had begun its takeover. We were greeted with abundance but not of our own making. As I walked around though I was astounded by the variety of wild flowers. Wild poppies, wild irises joined the wild gladioli and all mainly around the overgrown verges of the main tracks. In the rock garden I looked for my additions and was greeted by dahlia and lilies growing up through a mayhem of other plants. The Melissa had grown strong and high too. And I saw a beautiful small purple flower I had not noticed before. This intrigued me till I walked over to the veggie field and there it was in great abundance. The vegetable garden was overgrown to at least waist height with this variety of vetch. There was a slightly squashed trail and I followed it to the fruit patch and where our friend had planted some tomatoes and peppers for us. The following night we ate the habas beans that had survived so at least had some home produce!

Wild roses over my magical path
Wild roses over my magical path
Very vetching!
Very vetching!
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Wild poppy amid grown coriander

Priorities? Well, on with my botany as this was the time to really get to grips with all the extras that were on show. Over the other side of the Finca and up a more chalky hill there were carpets of pink. I had never seen so much of the silene last year. This and more beautiful toadflax. Unfortunately I didn’t take photos of this and when I returned to this South Eastern side a week later there were just a few remains of the pink spread.The weather had been hot and dry and this is the next stage for the Mediterranean flora. Grow well while you can and withdraw to reseed when it is hot and dry. During that week though I had been busy taming my veg patch with a scythe, and then having to tame hay fever which I hadn’t suffered from last year. There were so many amazing sculptures of different kinds of grasses. But there is only so much I can do and post. More on my attempts to identify the daisy and dandelion types and much more in future blogs. It seems the summer is the time to be out and to post about all the natural wonders. Another dilemma. Reading other blogs it is amazing the diversity around the world and so much to say and view at this time.

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Wild iris
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Phlomis
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Olives blossoming
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Pink centaury amidst a meadow of much more.

Navasola has quite a few wild meadows but a lot of the variety of wild flowers does seem to be appearing on the verges of paths and tracks. It was interesting to read an article in The Guardian about advice as to when to cut the public verges by roads in the UK. It seems that this is the last bastion of wild flower variety and good for pollinators. However a recent post by Jeff Ollerton seemed to suggest leaving the cutting to much later than July and August as there are so many pollinators that need those flowers then. And with changes in climate these creatures may need more time too. I have made a decision at the moment to do as little as possible in cutting down. I didn’t cut down the wild flower meadow on the Era last year, it is full of even more flowers now. However I did decide to reopen paths into the veg garden and try and use the vetch for mulching and compost. There are also areas where the grass might need to be kept back because of my allergy to it. I also get red skin if in contact with some forms of grass. Annoying as I want to be out and about. It seems to me that closely observing the interconnection between plants, insects and animal life is key to helping enable biodiversity. Any advice is always welcome and when I have more wifi I will try and explore some of those blogs which have such a wealth of information.

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Daisy family….possibly a mayweed.
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My favourite scarlet but blue pimpernels
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Bladder campion, named on walk with N.
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Small but adds to a very aromatic environment. Pitch.
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Wild and overgrown verges.
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Oat type grass: one of many rising high above.
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Overgrown rock garden but with lily ready to come out.
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Overgrown front garden but lavender, mint and winter jasmine all growing well too!
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Wild gladioli, hop trefoil and a campanula all brightening up the building site!
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Veg patch overgrown but strawberries and raspberries growing strong.
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More common vetch!
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Wild poppy, with flowering coriander and planted flowers behind.

Oh to be in England: Yorkshire Wolds and Ways. Botany and Barn Owls.

There surely is no better time to be in England than Springtime. And the  Robert Browning poem resonates with me as there is such beauty in the English countryside and I do sometimes long for the green, vibrant and cool UK spring. But I don’t long for the tensions of countryside politics and various interest groups pitted against each other. I was also frustrated with a General Election Campaign that seemed to constantly avoid the environmental challenges we should be talking about and dealing with.

For various reasons we had spent longer than expected in the UK but this also meant we could travel further afield through the fields and discover some of the delights of Spring and meet up more with friends and family. I was also able to familiarise myself with more of the wild flowers here in the UK at this time of year.

The May in May. Hawthorn blossom
The May in May. Hawthorn blossom.
Wild Garlic
Wild Garlic
Jack in the Hedge, Garlic Mustard
Jack in the Hedge, Garlic Mustard. another blog helped me identify this and had not heard the Jack name before.

The Yorkshire Wolds might not seem so dramatic as the moorlands of Bronte and Railway children fame but David Hockney captured their beauty on his return to the UK and during his stay in his home town of Bridlington. When I saw his exhibition in London I also had thought of retracing his ways through the Yorkshire wolds and we did this about two years ago. It is an area of Yorkshire I love and lived near for a while. http://www.yocc.co.uk

Cowslips by Skidby Mill.
Cowslips by Skidby Mill.
Skidby Mill and playing with new found contrasts on the iPad!
Skidby Mill and playing with new found contrasts on the iPad!

We managed a trip into the past of Skidby Mill and Beverley and then to see Zara the horse in her grand estate. There’s an old fashioned stable block and then woodland and parkland all around. For early May this was filled with wild garlic which stretched deep into the woods. At Skidby Mill there was an insight into the past and some milling of flour still goes on. The cowslips were out in the field by the mill and I had also learnt how to adjust contrast on the iPad!I had left the camera behind again as had done a lot of traveling by train. http://www.museums.eastriding.gov.uk

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Zara in the stable.
Zara in the stable.
Wild garlic in the woods, Dalton
Wild garlic in the woods, Dalton

Barn Owl Beauty

There are some shots though that can never be captured but can be etched into the memory. As we were returning along one of the high roads across the gentle wolds from Scarborough I saw my first wild barn owl in flight along the hedgerow. As there were gulls galore in Scarborough I was transfixed by the strange shape in the distance. Just all wrong for a gull! As I drove nearer the Barn Owl it was very clear and it was flying along the hedgerow towards us and we passed quite close. It certainly wasn’t bothered by the car or was more intent on prey. I wanted to pull over and stop and glancing in the rear mirror saw the car close behind. When I glanced again the Barn Owl had turned around and was as flying back after the car. In my rear view window I had such a good glimpse of the wide face. Thankfully there was no one in front of me as I did linger a little too long looking backwards until the Barn Owl suddenly swooped down behind the hedge and into the field. Hopefully it had a good meal.

My own Barn Owl taken and on the screen of my iphone 2 years ago!
My own Barn Owl  photo taken and on the screen of my iphone about two years ago!

Barn Owl numbers in the UK were in rapid decline but there has been a great effort to reverse this and there have been successes as farmers, landowners, conservationists and many others have invested in ensuring there are nest boxes and suitable habitats. It seems so essential that party politics are set aside and all work together to ensure species survive and our planet maintains its glorious diversity. There have also been surveys and monitoring since 1932 but by the late 1980s numbers were reported to have dropped from between 5 to 9000 down to 1.400. There is now a national survey called Project Barn Owl and over many more nest sites that are monitored.  Numbers have recovered but changes in climate and very wet weather can adversely affect the Barn Owl as rain does impair flight and the ability to hunt. 2013/14 and all the flooding was not a good time for them.  http://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/

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However I carry around with me on my iphone one of the first photos I took with it and edited for the screen. So everyday I have the face of a Barn Owl looking out on me!  So I come full circle with my close encounters with the wild. This was taken at a British Wildlife Centre where rescued wildlife from these shores are kept and it does allow us to get up close to the secretive animals who try to live with us on this densely populated island.

Close encounters at The British Wildlife Centre
Close encounters at The British Wildlife Centre

Back to Botany And Back to Basics. Seeds and Weeds.

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A self seeded common weed patch in my real rock garden.

At the beginning of 2014 I set myself a target to learn more about botany and identification. In order to do this in a more creative way I signed up to a botanical illustration course at Kew Gardens in London but have not completed as many drawings as I would have liked. However, I have managed to identify some key wild flowers and shrubs at Navasola  but decided to try and see what seeded itself most easily when I prepared a patch of soil on my real rock garden. It has come up with a vivid green and grassy presence and below are some of the cheeky  common garden wild flowers or weeds that have self seeded there this Spring. I now know more about my friends and foes in the garden areas of our really wild finca and will keep watching this spot.

One lone Spring candytuft.
One lone Spring candytuft.

These have  also tested my botanical skills as some are so common and not in our Mediterranean Book of Wild Flowers. Thanks to other blogs such as Tramp in the Woods I have been able to identify the Common Fumitory and our dead nettle which is slightly different with leaves clasping close to the stem; a Hen Bit dead nettle. I have also sent everyone crazy on two different small white flowers. Our friend and ecologist  has helped but we are still struggling on the exact species. But although both small and white there is a big difference between the two; one in the Campion family and the other in Cress was our latest judgement! Small things to make me wonder and wander around looking for and looking at!

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Common Fumitory Fumitory common – fumaria officinalis  11 more in med book p.306
Hen bit dead nettle Lamium amplexicaule clasping close to stem leaves - 4 more varieties in Med book p. 1478
Hen bit dead nettle Lamium amplexicaule clasping close to stem leaves – 4 more varieties in Med book p. 1478
A self seeding weed pot. Bill and Ben , flowerpot men and weeeeed!
A self seeding weed pot. Bill and Ben , flowerpot men and weeeeed! A small  white cress and some euphorbia.
Common chickweed?
Small and white. Common chickweed? In the real rock garden!