Friday 14 June 2024

Cornwall Botany - Kynance Area, Early June 2024

 At the end of May I went on a Wildflower Society field trip to The Lizard, along with the VCR, to help members identify the special plants there. I took many photos of the amazing flora there and reviewed them afterwards to make sure they were really good before we moved on to the next area. Near the end of the trip, my SD card corrupted and I lost all my photos from that day. I couldn't retrieve the data, even after taking it to a local computer shop who ran some recovery programmes. As such, I would have to revisit the area at a later date to capture those special plants again.

However, a few days after that trip I had a week long holiday in Kent (see and it wasn't until early June that I could return. Of course, the incessant rain for much of May had stopped and there had been 10 consecutive dry days on The Lizard in my absence. This didn't bode well for tiny annuals that would rapidly seed and shrivel up in such conditions. So it was with some trepidation that I set out to retrace my steps once again.

I had good cause to worry, as on arrival the ground was dry and crispy and it looked so different to when I visited there 2 weeks prior. However, I did find almost all the plants again, so here they are, in scientific name alphabetical order. I hope you find them interesting.

Wild Chives are abundant here and form a carpet in some areas, however, I was drawn to this one silhouetted by a small cave in the rock behind it, thus highlighting the flower structure.

Allium schoenoprasum

Kidney vetch is a common plant, but not so common is the red form. Many people in other areas never see this variant.

Anthyllis vulneraria var. coccinea

Lesser Marshwort in flower elduded me last year, although I did find some leaves of the species in a dried up pond last September. So it was great to see some in flower and in fine form in one of the pools on the dry heath. It is actually an umbellifer and closely related to Fool's Watercress, with which it sometimes hybridises. The flowers are tiny and the underwater leaves are very finely pinnately divided and not like the above water leaves at all.

Helosciadium (formerly Apium) inundatum

Some sedges were now fruiting, such as this lovely Star Sedge.

Carex echinata

On my last visit, 2 weeks prior, there were no flowering Common Centaury to be seen, but now the heath was dotted with their lovely little pink flower clusters. There were no Lesser Centaury as yet to be found, but they usually flower a bit later. Common Centaury has a basal rosette at flowering and light pink flowers and lacks an elongated calyx. I also hoped to find one of its relatives while here, the Yellow Centaury.

Centaurea erythraea

I searched for the Yellow Centaury where I had seen it 2 weeks before along with Dwarf Rush (Juncus capitatus), but noted with dismay that the small herd of ponies there had grazed them all off. This was clearly evident with the rushes, with just the bottom 1/2" of the plant ungrazed, with the tops neatly cut off. So, I had a look around and thankfully found a small group of Yellow Centaury in another area.

These are very slender plants ranging in height from around 2" to 6" tall with tiny 4 petalled yellow flowers showing singly on top.

Cicendia filiformis

Nearby on either side of a small stream that cut through the heath, was a stand of hundreds of Great Fen Sedge. I'd not seen these before my last visit and I was surprised at how sharp all parts of it are. Even the leaves can cut you like a paper cut if you brush past them. Impressive plants though with some spikes over 6' tall.

Cladium mariscus

Heath Spotted Orchids are in places, very common on The Lizard heaths. Around Kynance there are hundreds of them. Unlike other areas, most plants are of a very similar colour and patterning. None of them are large, the harsh coastal climate keeping them short in stature.

Dactylorhiza maculata subsp ericetorum

On the guided trip, the VCR pointed out to us the hybrid between Cornish Heath and Cross-leaved Heath, obviously not in flower until July/August. I hoped I would be able to refind them without guidance, but I remembered the rough area and that the hybrid had bright green tips to the shoots, whereas the other parents did not. As such, I soon found them and recreated my original photograph.

Erica x williamsii comparison with its parents.

Apart from a couple of odd records, Dropwort is only found in The Lizard peninsular in Cornwall, so it was odd seeing it all the place. It's a pretty flowered plant with pink buds and creamy white flowers that  I used to only see on the chalk of the North and South Downs back East.

Filipendula vulgaris

In coastal areas in Cornwall, we get a prostrate form of Dyer's Greenweed grow, it's always flat to the ground, unlike the upright forms inland.

Genista tinctoria subsp littoralis

Bloody Cranesbill feels at home on the serpentine bedrock here.

Geranium sanguineum

Fringed Rupturewort is mostly confined to The Lizard peninsular and the Scilly Isles. Have a look at its distribution in the UK here - It's flowers lack petals as you can see below and you tend to notice it as a lime green patch on or next to bare rocky areas.

Herniaria cilioata

Trailing St. John's-wort doesn't like much competition from other plants and the dry, open heaths suited it nicely.

Hypericum humifusum

Just come into flower were the Slender St. John's-wort as well, with orange coloured buds, matching orange anthers and dainty flowers on an upright stem.

Hypericum pulchrum

Smith's Pepperwort is mostly a coastal species, but here the ones I found were under 8" tall, as opposed to up to 2' tall inland.

Lepidium heterophyllum

A third species that was in bud 2 weeks prior, but open now, was the slender and beautiful Pale Flax. Its stem is very thin and very difficult to photograph in even the slightest breeze, so I was fortunate with this photo.

Linum bienne

Scarlet Pimpernel in its usual form of a deep orange colour is a very common plant. Here the dominant form was one with flesh coloured flowers and below you can see both types growing together. Look at the amazing shape of the seed pods in the top left of the photo below.

Lysimachia arvensis forma carnea

Thyme Broomrape is a very rare plant and outside of The Lizard area it is very rare until you go North of the Pennines. Have a look at its distribution here: -

As the name suggests it parasitises Wild Thyme (Thymus drucei here), and is a particularly attractive broomrape. Despite the name "alba" it is always this colour as shown below. No doubt the type pecimen was collected and dried and probably turned white, causing it to be mis-named. It should really be re-named now we know differently. I like it a lot, so there are a few photos below and not just one!

Orobanche alba

In a pasture field, left fallow for only a short time was Yellow Bartsia coming into flower. This species is hemipararsitical on nearby plants, and it produces chlorophyll, unlike the  Broomrapes.

Parentucelia viscosa

Spring Sandwort is restricted to The Lizard in Cornwall, with the only other southern site being in the Mendip Hills. It's a small but pretty flower. It was looking at its best 2 weeks ago, but now the dry weather had wilted the leaves, however the flowers remained fresh. In the 2nd photo below it's growing with a small Common Centaury where you can see the basal rosette of that species clearly.

Sabulina verna

Finally, we come to the Clovers for which this area is famous. I didn't find Long-headed Clover which apparently has had a bad year here, but I found a few others.

Below is Twin-headed Clover, though in reality, the vast majority only have one head of flowers. In the 1st photo below you can just see a 2nd flower head forming at the base of the 1st.

Trifolium bocconei

By the cliffs, but almost always sheltered by some rocks, were clumps of Western Clover. These are superficially like White Clover but the calyx teeth are red and the leaves are quite different, lacking any chevron markings and much smaller than White Clover leaves.

Trifolium occidentale

On my last visit 2 weeks prior, I saw many Upright Clovers in flower. It was different now and I had to search a long time to find just one plant remaining with a flower showing, the rest had seeded.

Trifolium strictum

Finally, a photo of T. bocconei and T. strictum together.

A habitat photo for one of the rare Trifoliums. As you can see, it is bone dry and parched. However, that will be good for next year's clovers as these bare patches are what they need to germinate and grow. If other plants established in such places, the rarities would be lost.

As I saw the following plant 2 weeks ago, but didn't refind it thanks to recent grazing, I thought I would add a photo from last year, the lovely little red coloured Dwarf Rush

Juncus capitatus

I hope you enjoyed the blog and its wonderful plants, until next time.

Take Care


@Botany2021 on X

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Dave really enjoyed this blog…..on my bucket list to do the lizard in spring!


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