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!

Sunday, 29 April 2012


The yellow bladders belong to Spiral Wrack (Fucus spiralis) on a rock.
These yellow bladders belong to Spiral Wrack (Fucus spiralis) OR (!) suggests another Ispotter - Bladder Wrack (Fucus  Vesiculosus)

I suspect I have too many photographs for this post. But the purpose behind it is to take you from a beach, up a narrow path, to the top of a little cliff beside Portland Harbour in Dorset. To walk it, it would take about three minutes - unless you stopped to look at some of the plants and creatures on the way, which is the theme of this post. What I introduce you to is very selective for the number of plants and birds and shell fish and seaweeds and insects . . . pretty much infinite!

Egg Wrack - (Aschophyllum  nodosum)
Egg Wrack - (Aschophyllum  nodosum)

Many of the rocks on this little beach are covered in seaweed but others, further back from the water, are bare.

A rock flaking on the beach.

We don't have enough words for stones. This is larger than a pebble but smaller than a bolder. I'm trying to think - the rough, exposed bit in the foreground . . . about two and a half feet high? If this weren't supposed to be a blog about plants I could do post after post about the variety of rocks on this one little story-book-style beach.

The cliffs of Charmouth.

This is a massive cliff about thirty-five miles to the west of 'our' beach. You can see the passing of millennia in its stripes. Our little beach is not dramatic like this. Its cliff is a toddler in comparison. But wander a little way along (there are lots of little ins and outs) and you can find yourself sinking in a sticky grey mud of a kind which makes the cliff above dangerous. It's at Charmouth - more or less where the study of fossils began. Many of the rocks on our beach have imprints of the fossils that have fallen out of them - like this one on my other blog.

Back to where we were. We'll walk up the path from 'Our Beach' . . .

One of last year's blackberry leaves.

I've mentioned before how many of last years blackberry leaves have stayed on their bushes through winter. I took this photo on 27th April 2012. Since then, the rains and winds we missed in the autumn and winter seem to have come all at once so I anticipate this leaf will have blown away by the time I go back to the path.

One of last year's blackberry leaves close up.

Here is a close up.

Hoverflies are beginning to make their appearance.

Hoverfly (Myathropa florea) on a blackberry leaf.

Close up -

This one being Myathropa florea - which may make this a good moment to mention the identifications on this post.

I have sought help from two sources. One is from the members of Ispot - where identifications can be made at the same time as a visual resource is being built up by the Open University. As always - if you haven't already taken a look . . . do so!

This time, I've had the additional help of Chris Webster who has a wonderful collection of hoverfly photos on the site 'British Hoverflies'. (There's a link in the tab for IDs at the top of the blog.)

This may also be the moment to wander off the path even further to mention National Insect Week, 25th June - 1st July. (There's currently a banner link at the top of the sidebar.) There will be more information about this nearer the time.

I'm beginning to sound like a notice board!

Dandelions - wonderful from start to finish. Beautifully shaped leaves, wonderfully cheerfully, bright yellow flowers which turn into clocks. Everyone likes to take pictures of the clocks. They are a bit overdone. I realise that. But the reason they are over-photoed is because . . . well, just look!

Close up of Dandelion Clock.

How can they be resisted?

Close to the top of the path - is the clump of elderberry trees I'm following. Now rains have come, the lichen which has been bright yellow throughout the dry weather, is rapidly turning green - it's what it does!

Common Orange Lichen - Xanthoria parietina - turning green because the air is damp
Common Orange Lichen - Xanthoria parietina - turning green because the air is damp.
When we have dry weather again, it will go back to being bright yellow.
The elderberry shoot we have been 'following' almost obscured by other leaves.

The leaf we have been following since it was a shoot is difficult now to get to because of the undergrowth which has grown in the way. It's also smaller than the other leaves opening around it . . . but it's still visible in the crook of the V shaped branch straight ahead.

And at the very top of the path we have come up

Alexanders in flower, dandelion with clock blown away and young fennel leaves.

alexanders (with the yellow flowers) dandelions (with their clocks blown away) and fennel (the feathery leaves). If this year follows the pattern of other years, chicory and vipers bugloss will grow here too in the summer.

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This is such a long post already, I'll do a double catch up of tree followings next week.

Saturday, 21 April 2012


It's surprising how many old leaves and dessicated berries there still are in the bushes.

Some of the ivy flowers and berries which were like firework balls in the autumn have turned into woody, spiky, fascinating things in which texture and structure are more prominent than colour.

They are mixed in with glossy, established leaves.

(Flies like ivy.)

And, because it's spring - there are new leaf buds.

And new leaves!
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Clusters of buds for elderberry flowers are beginning to form. More on some trees than on others.

And, beneath them, the scented flowers of alexanders.

Here's our elderberry shoot - it's the smallest one in the middle. Before long we will not be able to see it for other leaves. I chose it because it's in the crook of a branch and, therefore, easily identifiable but it's rather annoying that it's the slowest on the tree to grow!


Pictures are important. In them, we can see all sorts of things which we'd probably not notice if we weren't taking time to examine a static image. However, a tree is more than a picture. Below are a couple of short video clips of 'our' elderberry clump. Nothing happens. That's the point. It's a little pause to listen. I've not yet managed to upload anything of a satisfying length so they stop almost as soon as they start. Apologies for that. My intention was to offer a moment in which to stand (or sit!) and stare and to be aware. Hopefully, I'll work out how to load longer clips without destroying the quality as time goes by. Meanwhile . . . oh, and if you click the YouTube option you can see them larger.

Looking up the bank to the Elderberry Clump and listening to the birds at dawn.
April 15th 2012.

The Elderberry Shoot framed by the stems of Alexanders.
Around 3:30 pm in the afternoon of April 20th 2012.

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From On the Edge Gardening - Lime by Name
From Down by the Sea - Tree Following 4
From Gardening Ways - Plane Tree on the Move
From Walsall Wildlife - A Rotten Place to Live
From Tree Care Tips - Horse Chestnut and Red Maple
From Patio Patch - Wych Elm Cousins

For a list of the Tree Followers
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Tuesday, 17 April 2012


First, an apology. You know how I was saying how useful thorns are in distinguishing hawthorn and blackthorn before their leaves or blossom appear? You know how I have to emphasise that I am an amateur and that I do my best but mistakes are bound to come in from time to time? Do you remember that massive thorn on the blackthorn post? And me saying 'Look at this impressive blackthorn thorn'?

Later than the other trees and bushes nearby . . . instead of blackthorn flowers, hawthorn leaves are now appearing along it.

So . . . I'm withdrawing that post for re-writing and will soon produce an update.

Meanwhile . . .

I've been busy over the Easter holidays. By the time I went out yesterday, the hedgerows had been transformed. Continuity lurches when you have gaps in seeing at this time of year. Blackthorn flowers are almost all either over or getting tatty. Hawthorn trees are not only leafy, their flower buds are swelling.

I'm hurtling along and come across a blast of white blossom. I can't stop to examine it. I'm meeting a friend and I'm late. It could be blackthorn, it could be early damson. (There are damson trees not far away.) They could be daffodils for all that you should trust me when it comes to identification.

There are moments when I think I shouldn't be let loose on the internet. There are others when I'm glad I'm here. Yesterday, while photographing the beginnings of new ivy shoots, a woman stopped to ask what I was doing. We had quite a long conversation. She hadn't noticed the ivy - not in a noticing way. She'd never seen the flowers. She'd not been aware of the berries. It was exciting to talk to her. I think she was excited too by the prospect of seeing them later in the year.

I mentioned too, how for people in other parts of the world, plants which for us are very ordinary are simply unknown and, therefore, interesting. Discovering this, becoming properly aware of this (because after all one knows it in theory) is one of the excitements of blogging. (I don't think I'm over using the word 'excitement'. Noticing plants may not give the adrenaline thrill of winning the lottery but I really do find it exciting - noticing plants 'for myself' for being shown something isn't quite the same.  Being the first to go into a pyramid simply must have been different from going on a guided tour.)

But meeting her reawakened me to how many things we pass without noticing - and what wonderful fun it is to find there are treasure troves of detail on our doorsteps.

Not that anyone could have missed this blossom.


What's more - I have no idea whether the ivy bud is for leaves or a flower. The pyramid beckons!

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The Tree Following Section

The Latest Posts
Tree Followers

From Down by the Sea
Tree Following 4
From Gardening Ways
Plane Tree on the Move
From Walsall Wildlife
A Rotten Place to Live
From Tree Care Tips
and Red Maple
From Patio Patch
From In the Company of Trees and Plants
On the Edge Gardening
Naked Beech

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Tuesday, 10 April 2012


I've just emptied about four inches of rain water from a plastic ice-cream carton.. "Oh, look at this!" I said - and tipped it out without thinking. It's back in place now. I'll note the moment and measure the water properly this time round. We're glad of rain. It's steady and warm and just the kind of thing we sing about at harvest festivals - but it's no good when you need another picture for a post.

So . . . rather than get left completely behind with everything (I have several semi-posts semi-ready) we'll have a partial post about a tree that's leaking its sap - or, should I say, its resin?

Looking up at the trunk of tree with cones.

The picture I needed (still need) is of this tree from a distance so you can see its shape and help identify it with me. There are a lot in this area. They aren't wild. They are in parks and gardens and public places and I don't know what they are.

Looking through cones with branches to the blue sky beyond.

On a fine day, it's lovely to look up through their branches. On a windy one - it's a good idea to steer clear. Some of the cones fall small but many wait till they are large and heavy.

The bark is impressive but the trees are growing old. Branches are falling off and sap is oozing from some of their trunks. 

Ivy round a tree trunk which is leaking sap / resin.

It's forming globlets in the ivy

Mould on sap / resin leaked from trunk of mature tree.

and making a place for mould.

A cluster of nails in the trunk of a tree.

I don't know what the cause is (brilliantly informative post this!) but nails in the trunk don't seem to have given trouble. A cluster like this touches my sense of history. Why was it done? Don't say 'vandalism'. How did it come about that someone arrived with a hammer and nails? What were they thinking? Did they fetch them on purpose? Or, if not, what had they planned to do when they set out? Don't you think there's human interest here? I don't suppose it happened many years ago but would your reaction be different if we found something left like this from Tudor times? Or the eighteenth century? We're fascinated by graffiti from Norman days and marvel at marks left by ancient Romans.

There's a story behind this - and it's intriguing.

A globlet of sap leaks from the trunk of a tree.

And as for beauty . . . !

I'm Following a Tree
Are You? 
If you have posted recently
about the life of a particular tree
 you are 'following',
let me know 
and I'll put a link here.
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Down by the Sea
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