As I mentioned in my earlier blog, there's a profusion of flowers in bloom at the moment. For many people, the chance to see orchids in the UK is a highlight of their day, and a visit to Minsmere in June is a good place to tick this off the bucket list as dozens of southern marsh orchids line the path between South Belt Crossroads and the Wildlife Lookout, as well as the entrance path to Island Mere.

These same areas are also places to see the large showy flowers of yellow flag. I've photographed many of these over the years, but particularly like this picture. taken near Island Mere yesterday.

Also in the wetter areas, keep your eyes open for the delicate pink flowers of lady's smock, or cuckooflower, on which orange tip butterflies will lay their eggs.

The drier grasslands look absolutely stunning at the moment, with a profusion of sheep's sorrel turning Whin Hill and parts of the dunes into a red carpet.

Sheep's sorrel is a tiny member of the dock family - the resemblance is obvious when you look closely at the flowers.

Another small, low-growing plant forming patches in the dunes is the star-flowered, fleshy-leaved English stonecrop.

Stonecrops, or Sedums, are popular rockery plants, so you may be familiar with this family from your garden. The closely-related, yellow-flowered biting stonecrop is just beginning to flower around the edge of the car park, so is likely to be one of the first things you notice on arrival.

Another plant to look for around the car park is hound's-tongue, with its drooping clusters of deep red flowers.

One of the best places to look for flowers is along the North Wall, where yellow is the dominant colour as buttercups mix with tiny clover-like medicks and trefoils as well as clusters of the much bigger common bird's-foot trefoil, known locally as eggs and bacon.

If you look carefully, you might be able to see the seed heads, whose distinctive shape gives the plant its name.

Bird's-foot trefoil is just one of several members of the pea family that you can see at Minsmere, and it's another member of this family that has been attracting a lot of interest this week. The grass-like leaves of grass vetchling make it difficult to spot until the deep pink flowers emerge. There is usually only one flower per stem, unlike many of the other vetches. Although we usually see several of these flowers scattered around the grasslands, it seems to be flowering in profusion along the North Wall this year.

Once you reach the dunes, it's worth looking out for another, much larger, pea as a clump of sea pea has appeared close to the end of the North Wall. I don't remember seeing this specialist plant of vegetated shingle in this part of the dunes before. It's seeds have presumably been washed ashore by high tides from larger populations elsewhere on the Suffolk coast.

Another large pea that isn't yet in flower is the large-flowered everlasting pea, which you should see closer to the sluice, just inside the boundary fence. As well as sea pea, there are several more specialist plants found in the dunes, including yellow horned-poppy and the cabbage-like sea kale, whose white flowers often attract swarms of insects.

Whilst walking along the dunes, keep your eyes open for some of our climbing plants, such as honeysuckle or this white bryony.

Two other very distinctive, non-native plants are likely to catch your eye too. These are tree lupin near the sluice, and rhododendron between Island Mere and Scott's Hall.

  

Of course, with all of these flowers in bloom, there's a great variety of insects too. Look out for brown argus and common blue butterflies in the grasslands, as well as the day-flying moths such as cinnabar and broad-bordered bee-hawkmoth.

Among the dragonflies, the most obvious will be four-spotted chasers, but there are also several hairy dragonflies and Norfolk hawkers, and a variety of damselflies. Most of the latter are blue and black species: azure, common-blue, variable, blue-tailed and red-eyed damselflies. The latter, pictured below, is best looked for from the Island Mere boardwalk.

Finally, insect-watchers will be excited to learn that the first wasps are appearing along Digger Alley, where I've seen several ruby-tailed wasps this week, and the first red-banded sand wasp hunting for caterpillars today.

Anonymous