Documenting the seasons of coastal Dorset. I'm a complete amateur so don't trust I'm always right. If ever you see I'm wrong - whether with identifications or in anything else - do say!

Thursday, 16 December 2010


Every year is odd in some way. This year had its discomforts - for a while I was without a camera. But having a new one has been a delight!

Disregarding that blip, Loose and Leafy has documented a year in the hedgerows. Old scenes have been re-visited. New interests developed. The only constant is that I respond to what I see rather than have a detailed plan ahead - so the posts flit about randomly, depending on what I notice of what has flowered, died or reappeared. Much depends on weather! Much depends on page space (and time!) so all sorts of interesting things get missed out. 

(I’ve seen them though. Rarely a few days go by without a camera walk.)

June 5th 2010

In May and June, the focus was on colour

Viper's Bugloss (Echium vulagere) and Wild Fennel (Foeniculum vulagare)
June 30th 2010
and patterns.

July 1st 2010

In July I stood up for Bindweed.

(When I'm not championing Bindweed, I'm sticking up for Ground Elder - this is the blog where villains are allowed to celebrate!)

Cowslip - Primula veris -
August 15th 2010

In August, seeds roused my interest.

September 22nd 2010

In September, I began to pay attention to the wild plants of towns and cities.

Sandsfoot Castle, Dorset.
Built in the 1530s.
Now falling into the sea.

October 12th 2010

In October, I was drawn to the seashore - looking up as well as down!

Beadlet Anemone - Actinia equina - November 5th 2010
In November, I began to notice creatures - not cuddly ones but interesting none the less. This blob which looks like a shiny bit of plastic is a Beadlet Anemone. When the sea comes in, its top opens and tentacles emerge to grab food from the water. These creatures are carnivores and though small (rising up to about 5cm when fully expanded) are violent. They'll tolerate members of their own group but are likely to attack Beadlet anemone intruders and sting them! (Looking at this shiny red thingy, I find it hard to grasp that it is animate, let alone able to distinguish one being from another.) They are common but I have only ever seen them under water before I came across this one. And even though they are common, scientists don't yet properly understand how they reproduce. (Collins Pocket Guide to the Seashore talks about both male and females disgorging their young. Sounds disgusting, doesn't it?) I find this very reassuring. It's nice to know that, although I am more ignorant than others, ignorance isn't completely avoidable!

Each year, I’ve looked for fungi. Now I’ve become more aware of  lichen too - and here is some on frosted rocks.

December 9th 2010

Frost on rocks on this part of the south coast isn’t common but, hopefully, through the year, I have shown the uncommon in the common - and a few things new too. I have certainly found plants, fungi, seaweeds, lichens and creatures I haven't thought about before, even if they are ordinary in the experience of 'proper' naturalists and however many there are in the wild. 

Thank you for accompanying me on this journey.

The spring will come and we'll be back to pretty flowers, wonderful colours  and unfurling leaves but, just at present, the hedgerows are full of berries and birds hunting for food. It's all pretty stark, the light is dull and it's getting close to Christmas.

Have a wonderful celebration!

Here’s to the year (s!) to come!

Meanwhile . . . .

P.S. This is an advert for my other blog  - Message in a Milk Bottle

Message in a Milk Bottle takes up where Pictures Just Pictures left off. (A picture a day without words). There are lots of plants and twigs and leaves and stones shown but Message in a Milk bottle offers a place to the urban, the abstract and the domestic as well. Why not follow me there too? I’d be glad to read your comments.

Saturday, 11 December 2010


Old Man's Beard - 9th December 2010
Although I stick firmly to the belief that you can often appreciate plants better when you know nothing about them, I sometimes find myself tempted to research a bit further, to identify what I see. This, of course, nearly always turns out to be a bad idea. Not only do I start counting petals instead of appreciating them, I get distracted into looking through the pages of books and searching through sites merely to see pictures of the extraordinary plants and fungi there - whether they have anything to do with what I am looking for or not. (Generally not!)

On the other hand, browsing along the amazing, the beautiful and the ugly is a pleasure in its own right so I thought, for this post, I’d share with you four links to wonderful images of wonderful parts of nature.

The first is Science Images at PSmigrographs.

I didn’t find this for myself. Val Littlewood at Pencil and Leaf recommended it in one of her posts. It is the world through a microscope and she was sending us to see pollen.

But it isn’t just pollen. There are the stoma in leaves, tarantula fangs and bee’s penises! The oil glands in lavender and geraniums too. And gecko toes!

On the front page, there’s a slide show. I suggest you take a few moments to watch that, then go exploring. You won’t be able to resist! Set aside an hour. Bookmark it - you’ll want to go back!

December 9th 2010
Next up is Plants for a Future - an illustrated, annotated index of 7,000 Edible, Medicinal and Useful plants.

It’s another wander-round site. Here’s an example. Type Ground Elder into the search box. You will be taken to a grid which gives the Latin name (Aegopodium podagraria) and tells you this plant is in the family Umbelliferai.

Click the Latin name and this comes up

Beautiful, isn’t it? Botanical drawing (wonderful in its own right) photograph, quick information about where to find it, whether to eat it, how to look after it (!) then lots of detail in the text.

Another site to spend some time in! Another bookmark.

Next is Wildlife and Nature Photo Gallerya Czech site for stock photos -  - in other words, photos for sale. You may not be wanting to buy them but you may well enjoy browsing.

IVY BERRIES - December 3rd 2010
Choose your preferred language by clicking on a flag in the top right hand corner.

I enjoy the fungi section.

There’s a photographic index at the top of the page if you are looking for a particular type of mushroom.

I tried Stomach Fungus,

in part because of its name and in part because these endearing little creature-like fungi (Lycoperdon echinatum) were illustrated.

If you scroll down the page you will be able to click a link to say why you want mushrooms. . . for eating?  to know which are poisonous?

December 9th 2010
Then there’s a link for mushrooms by the month. Here’s December.

I’m not clear December where but I don’t mind. The fungi are wonderful to look at!

If you already know precisely which mushroom you are looking for, there’s a list of botanical and common names at the foot of the main fungi page. On the other hand - you can have fun clicking on a name which intrigues you to find out what it describes.

Have a look at Porcelain Fungus (beautiful)

Red Banded Polypore (disgusting)

Scarlet Elf Cup (Sarcoscypha sp.pretty and weird)

Scarlet Elf Cup - (Sarcoscypha coccinea - colourful and surprising)

Holwaya mucida - Crinula calciiformis (a sort of drowning hand)

Remember, this is not a scientific site, it is a photographic one so it isn’t exhaustive . . . none the less . . .

And the last recommendation - Alan Silverside’s Lichen Pages on Last Dragon.Org

December 9th 2010
These pages put me in my place, bring me to my knees, almost make me despair. It’s part of a project in process. I first went there hoping it would help me identify a lichen near where I live. I came away knowing I hadn’t a hope and that lichen experts must be among the cleverest scientists in the world.

Here’s the page for lichen with Latin names beginning either with N or O.

Imagine being able to tell some of these apart with confidence!

(It’s a site in progress. I hope there will, one day, be easier ways to find things by description but it is interesting even without them.)

If this leaves you depressed rather than in awe of Stephen, maybe you should return to

Science Images at PSmigrographs.

and look at some of the photos from the flowers and plants

or, if you are feeling brave, the ticks and fleas

 hmm . . . maybe you’d prefer to stick to pollen!

I hope you enjoy these sites - the dramatic, the beautiful and the useful!