30 Days Wild 2020 – Days 16-20

Here’s the round up for days 16-20 of 30 Days Wild 2020.

Day 16: identify a plant


For day 16 of 30 Days Wild I spent some time getting to know a plant that grows in the meadow.

This is Hawk’s-bit. I think.

At first glance you might be mistaken in thinking this plant is just a Dandelion – after all, it is a many petaled, composite flower that forms puffy white seedheads that easily disperse on the wind. It could also be Sow Thistle, Hawk’s-beard, Hawk’s-bit, Hawkweed or Cat’s-ear. I’ve always struggled to tell these six families of plants apart.

Today I’ve learned a few things about the different plants to help me do so.

Firstly, Dandelions always have just a single flower per stem. If the stem divides, it’s not a dandelion. A dandelion’s stem is also hollow, with a white latex that is released when it is crushed. The leaves are confined to a basal rosette and are hairless, and their lobestend to point downwards towards the base of the leaf.

A Sow’s Thistle has a dandelion type flower and a hollow, branching stem, with a white latex that turns orange with time. The leaves initially grow in a basal rosette and they’re toothed until the flower stem appears. Leaves then grow from higher up the stem, becoming less toothed the higher they are, until they are very distinctly different to the leaves of the dandelion. 

Hawk’s-beardshave branched, leafy flower stems, though flowers do also sometimes grow on single stems. Their leaves are usually hairless but can sometimes be hairy, depending on the species. The lobes of hawk’s-beard leaves point directly outwards, unlike those of dandelion.

Hawk’s Bit have unbranched and leafless flower stems. Their only leaves are in a basal rosette. They’re very hairy, and if you look carefully, you’ll see that the hairs are forked,

Cat’s-ears stems are branched but leafless, and the leaves in the basal rosette are very hairy but without forked hairs.

The final group of similar flowers are the Hawkweeds. These are usually hairy and have branched and leafy flower stems. The leaves are lanceolate in shape and lightly toothed.

There are so many similarities between these six families of plants, and there are so many species within each family – all with their own variations – that identification is a very difficult task. I think that this one is Hawk’s-bit, though I’d need to further examine the plant to be certain. I had previously identified it as Hawk’s-beard…

Here are a few pictures I drew of the flower and its leaf:

If you’d like to read more on this subject, there’s a great page here from Massey University (NZ) with more information and pictures that compare the plants and their leaves.  I also found this site, from Dr M, which I will definitely be using again for plant identification. It was very useful!

Day 17: encounter with a damselfly

On day 17 I encountered a damselfly during my daily walk around the local lanes and down to the meadow. I think it might be an immature female White-legged Damselfly. If I’m correct then when she matures her body should darken to green. They’re also known as the blue featherleg, due to their pale feathery legs.

They’re often found along unshaded, slow-flowing sections of muddy rivers and streams, with abundant floating vegetation. They’re relatively uncommon, though they can be locally abundant on rivers and canals in southern England and a few sites in Wales. I’m on the border between Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, which is quite far north for  their range… if I’m right about her identity.Day 18: rain on the garden

On day 18 it was raining when I got up and didn’t stop until late afternoon. It didn’t particularly inspire to spend a great deal of time out and about. The sun came out for a little white, so I nipped outside to enjoy the sight of the raindrops on the garden plants and flowers.

Day 19 – bug hunt

For day 19 of 30 Days Wild I spent some time hunting for bugs in the meadow. I also tried to identify them. I haven’t yet manage to figure out all of them, but I’m getting there! I’ve captioned all of the insects in the gallery that I’ve identified. If anyone recognizes anything I’ve not identified, or can correct me on anything I’ve misidentified, please do let me know!

Day 20 – catching dawn sunbeams

For day 20, I ventured out for a dawn walk. The official midsummer solstice was at 10.44pm in the evening of June 20th, and the sunrise being observed at Stonehenge is that on the morning of the 21st, but as we’re expecting rain here in Nottinghamshire until mid to late morning, I thought I’d greet the dawn on Midsummer’s Eve instead. Dawn was at 4.36am, so I had a lovely few hours with no manmade noises, nothing but birdsong and the awakening insects.

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