Earlier today saw a good turn-out for the September volunteer morning. After last month’s dreadful weather, today was the opposite, very warm, gentle breeze and lots of sunshine, a perfect day! However, after several weeks of only minimal activity in the woodlands, it was time to get on with some serious weeding. The generally cool and wet weather of the last few weeks have seen brambles, ivy and nettles run rampant, so lots of activity – see the accompanying photos – was here to remove these to keep the more delicate ground flora happy.
The apples have had quite a good few weeks, with a lot of Bramleys on the floor and on the trees, but clearly the local birds have been enjoying this free source of food too.
Last year, several small cyclamen flowers were seen in the Woodland glade, it was nice to see that these have spread to 3 small clumps, their delicate pink / mauve flowers are a welcome site at ground level.
The photo below is our pond, which has seen its water level drop and surrounding vegetation take over. Work will be needed in the next few weeks to remove the encroaching vegetation in advance of our early Autumn Open Day.
Although the ivy at this time of year can look very pretty with its flowers – and it’s a good source of food for insects – although the photo below shows some flowers in their glory, we do need to keep it in check because of its very invasive nature.
Finally, today was very warm with lots of sunshine. You wouldn’t think that banana plants could be found in th elocal area, but as you can see, the photo of a neighbour’s garden show them thriving! A real treat to those who work in the woodland!
Calling Youth and Community groups. Would you like to spend some time in nature? Try out some creative woodcraft projects?
Book a visit to our woodland in East Greenwich, near Maze Hill station.
Friends of Westcombe Woodlands. Contact Rich Sylvester / firstname.lastname@example.org / text 07833 538 143 / www.westcombewoodlands.uk
Plan a Visit for your group. A chance to explore and connect with nature. The site is a nature reserve with 340 trees, diverse plants, birds, insects, bees, a pond and a meadow. We regret the site is not wheelchair accessible.
Some Ideas. Film making. Pond dipping. Picnicking. Making bird boxes. Leaf printing. Storytelling.
In early June 2023 local botanist Jane Lawson re-visited Westcombe Woodlands as part of her follow up to her site visit several weeks ago. In this short space of time, more late Spring and early Summer flowers are in bloom, with more to follow! Jane’s list of plants that she observed is below, as well as some of the photos she took.
Ground elder Aegopdium podagraria; a patch forming hairless perennial of damp and disturbed ground. Garlic mustard Sisymbrium alliaria (Jack-by-the-hedge); the leaves grow large in winter and they have a strong garlic smell. It is favoured by the Orange tip butterfly as a food source and is good to eat especially when young.
Wood avens Geum urbanum; a member of the rose family. It has a short creeping root stock. The name is from the Greek geuo in allusion to the clove like smell of the roots which were used to flavour Augsburg beer. Green alkanet Pentaglottis sempervirens; leaves green throughout the year. Stamens deep inside the flower head.
Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium. It can grow to six feet and is a splendid sight in hedgerows and commons. Not to be confused with an entirely different plant – Giant hogweed. It’s in flower from June to September. The dry hollow stem known as kecks is often a winter home for numerous small creatures such as insects or beetles or snails. Enchanter’s nightshade. Circaea lutetiana found in damp woodland. The flower is tiny and all its parts are in twos. The genus is named after Circe the Enchantress but no one knows why. Male fern nephrodiumfilix-mas; Elm – a rare sight nowadays. Let’s hope it reaches maturity! Elder Sambucus nigra; A quick grower and very common. The flowers can be used for elderflower cordial and the berries for wine. The juicy shoots harden quickly with a core of pith with can be extracted and then used as a pea shooter or even a music pipe. Cocksfoot Dactylis glomerata; It has deep roots and survives well in drought. Dogwood Cornus sanguinea; it was the wood from which dags (daggers) or goads and skewers were made – nothing to do with dogs.
Red campion Silene dioica; attractive widespread and common. It can grow to three feet in height. Cut leaf cranesbill Geranium dissectum; There are many cranesbills and this one to my mind is the most attractive with its notched bright red petals. Common meadow grass Poa pratens; This is a very common plant. Oxeye daisy. Lucanthemum vulgare; Very attractive which can grow to 31 inches tall in some habitats. Dog rose Rosa canina; There is a multitude of species and it takes a DNA analysis to identify correctly each one. It’s common in hedges and ramble happily over other bushes and trees.
Yellow flag Iris pseudocorus; Grows in profusion on the banks of ponds ditches and rivers. Marsh woundwort Stachys palustris; Flowers from June to August in damp places. Meadow sweet Spiraea ulmaria; It has creamy white flowers and likes damp places. It has a powerful lovely fragrance and was used as a strewing herb in times past. Tutsan Hypericum androsaemum; One of the St John’s Worts but doesn’t have that name. It’s semi evergreen and is found in shady places. Hazel Corylus avellana; Mostly found as a shrub but if left alone it will develop into a tree. Hazel catkins appear in the spring with the female catkin having a fine red flower at the tip. The nuts are delicious – if the squirrels don’t get them first!
On a sunny afternoon in mid-April, we were delighted to have the presence of local resident Jane Lawson join several committee members and others to undertake our regular early-Spring flower survey. The threat of heavy rain in the week failed to materialise and the sun warmed up the woodlands. Below is a list of the plants that were recorded.
1 Lesser celandine ranunculus ficaria It’s a perennial of hedgerows and open woodland sometimes forming patches. Its folk name is pilewort following the doctrine of signatures which refers to its large number of cylindrical tubers.
2 Ramsons or Wild garlic Allium ursinum The smell of garlic is unmistakable when it’s in full flower. It likes damp woodland and calcareous soil. The flower stem is three-sided and supports an umbel of about twelve pure white starry blossoms.
3 Fringe cups Tellima grandiflora. It’s a perennial plant native to Western North America and is now popular in gardens where it frequently escapes. It seems to be spreading widely.
4 Bluebell (probably hybrid) Hyacinthoides non scripta x H hispanica A bulbous perennial that grows in woodland. Much ink has been spilled and tempers lost over the manifestations of this plant. The native bluebell is smaller with one-sided drooping-tipped spikes. The Spanish bluebell is only found in Spain and Portugal and is found only in the serra. It seems however that the native bluebell is much more fertile than any hybrids and will back fertilise. Thus each new plant will revert to being closer to the natives. Only a DNA analysis will show the proportions of native to non-native plants.
5 Red dead nettle. Lamium purpureum Not related to the stinging nettle, but a member of the mint family. It grows on disturbed ground and cultivated soils. It’s doing very well this year perhaps because of the deluges in March.
6 Primrose Primula vulgaris. Always pale yellow but very rarely a pink form will pop up. At its most abundant in April and May in woodland, hedgerows and shady meadows, its Latin name is derived from primus = first.
7 Dandelion Taraxacum officinale. There are 250 species of dandelion and even a dandelion appreciation society. For those who are interested BSBI has published a Field Guide to British and Irish dandelions. Its name come from the leaf shape dents-de-lion (lions teeth) and in France Pisenlit because of its diuretic effects.
8 Wood avens Geum urbanum A member of the rose family, it’s found in shady hedge banks and woodland. It flowers from May to August and was formerly known as Herb Benet or the blessed herb as the trefoiled leaf represented the Trinity and the five petals, the five wounds. Geum derives from the Greek geno meaning an agreeable fragrance which is reminiscent of cloves.
9 Cut leaved cranesbill Geranium dissectum Found on disturbed ground and cultivated soils. Pink flowers are 8 – 10 mm across.
10 Meadowsweet Spiraea ulmaria Aptly named for its powerful fragrance, it grows in damp places by ponds or shallow streams. The flowers are in sprays and creamy white. It’s an ancient British plant which has been here since the ice age. Used as a strewing herb on floors in the past it also contains salicylic acid and was used like aspirin today for headaches and such. It also flavours alcoholic drinks and is used in Norfolk punch.
11 Dock Rumex obtusifolius Extremely common and used as a remedy for nettle stings. There were, I think Water docks by the margins of the pond
12 Ribwort plantain Plantago lanceolata Grows on disturbed ground and tracks. The leaves are characterised by having strongly developed parallel ribs on the undersurface.
13 Salad burnet Poterium sanguisorba It likes chalky ground and smells of cucumber when crushed. It can be added to salads and flowers from June to August.
14 Garlic Mustard (Jack by the Hedge) Sisymbrium officinale It’s flowers are small and white and this plant can be found by hedges and pathways in great abundance. It’s very widespread and the garlic scent is strong. Again, it can be added to salads.
15 Creeping buttercup Ranunculus repens Very common and widespread it sends out long runners which aid its spread. It flowers from May to August.
16 Herb Robert Geranium robertianum A straggling hairy annual the smell of which some find unpleasant giving rise to its country name Stinking Bill. The flowers are pink to red.
17 Lemon balm Melissa officinalis Another one from the mint family with an intense lemon scent. It makes an excellent tea and flavouring. Bees love it. It has small white flowers in the summer.
18 Soapwort. Saponaria officinalis A straggling hairless perennial found in damp woodland it has attractive pink flowers and is often an escape. The leaves can be soaked to produce a liquid soap which is still used to clean antique carpets.
19 Annual mercury Mercurialis perennis The god Mercury is supposed to have discovered some medicinal virtues in this plant. It doesn’t have the hairiness of the Dog’s mercury, it has yellowish-green flowers.
20 Iris (yellow flag) Iris pceudocorus Found at the edge of ponds, streams and ditches it is bright yellow with faint purplish veins.
21 Hogweed (cow parsnip) Heracleum sphondylium An unmistakable tall plant of waste spaces and hedgerows. It can grow to six feet and has great umbels of white flowers. It flowers from June to September. In the winter its large hollow stems provide safe overwintering for many small insects.
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