Lets face it - you’ve heard plenty from me about the seabirds on the reserve, so this time I thought I would mix it up a bit and introduce you to some my favourite wild flowers that you might see on a walk at the Oysterbeds.  Apt you might say, as it is British flower week (13th-19th June) after all!

Firstly I want to talk about one of my (new) favourites that has been popping up all over the Oysterbeds – Woody Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara). You may already know from the ‘nightshade’ part that this is indeed poisonous, and it is a member of the family ‘Solonaceae’ which also contains tomato, potato, tobacco and eggplants. These all contain the chemical compound solanine but this is only present in miniscule amounts in our everyday food sources. However, the attractive, bright red berries that this nightshade plant produces hold this glycoalkaloid at a much higher concentration, so please don’t eat them! Despite the adverse effects that this fruit has on humans, birds will often seek out these watery berries in dry spells, when the berries are ripening in August/September, before the arrival of slightly more palatable favourites such as the blackberry.

Woody Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) flowers

Next up is the tiny Scarlet Pimpernel. The Scarlet Pimpernel owes it’s name to the brick red colouration of it’s flowers, and you can find these along the edges of the saline lagoon at the Oysterbeds. It is otherwise known as ‘shepherds weather glass’ due to the fact that it will close up it’s flowers in humid or damp conditions. There is also a subspecies of the Scarlet Pimpernel that has blue flowers instead of red, which is very rare in Britain, but much more abundant in warmer climes such as Southern Spain. Not so scarlet after all!

Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis) - Photo taken by Wez Smith

The third flower I want to introduce you to is the absolutely beautiful Bee Orchid.  From looking at the picture below, you may be able to guess where this flower got it’s name. It is believed that it’s main pollinator (you guessed it...the bee) has driven the evolution to it’s very specific appearance. Bees are attracted to the furry brown and yellow lip of the flower, thinking this is another bee to mate with, transferring the pollen as it lands. This is fantastic for the flower, but not so much for the poor bee! However, the correct species of bee does not exist in the UK, so this flower self-pollinates here.

Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera)

 Lastly I will talk about Viper’s Bugloss, which is another abundant species at the Oysterbeds. This spiky blue and pink flower derives it’s name from the fact that it was once used as an anti-venom for the victims of Spotted Viper bites. However, touching this flower might actually cause irritation to the skin itself, so you have to wonder which was better! This plant provides a fantastic source of food for various insects, including beautiful Painted Lady butterflies, charismatic Honey Bees and several species of Bumblebee. 

  

Vipers Bugloss (Echium vulgare)

And now a few photos of other species to help you further your flower ID!

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)


Common Mallow (Malva neglecta)


Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber)

  

Oxeye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) - Photo taken by Wez Smith

Obviously this is only a very small taster of the great diversity of flowers we get down at the Oysterbeds. Why not see what you can find?

Happy (flower) hunting!

Anonymous