The leaves on the nipplewort are fading and browning now, but the flowers are at their best.
They are much visited by Meligethes pollen beetles.
Following the success of the very small Square Metre and Windowbox nature reserves I have given the area in front of the hedge outside our kitchen window the RNR (Roper Nature Reserve) designation. It is about 2 x 1 metres in extent and comprises just about all I can see through the window. I have been looking at it for years without paying much attention and suddenly it has become exciting. Initially rather barren and unimpressive, I forsee a great increase in biodiversity.
This is now coming into flower in KWR.
The name is supposed to derive from the fact that the plant was used for cracked and sore nipples, though this seems to be an idea imported by early botanist Parkinson from Prussia.
Apart from this the plant seems largely to have been ignored in UK, though the leaves are eaten in a variety of dishes in Italy.
At 23:00 last night the grey shape of a badger like a shadowy submarine slid along the path through the Kitchen Window Reserve. I expect this happens every night: it reminds me of Kipling's line "Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!" Enjoy in full here: http://poetry.poetryx.com/poems/1225/
Our shrubby honeysuckle Lonicera nitida 'Baggesen's Gold' that forms much of the hedge bordering the Kitchen Window Reserve has produced quite a few of its tiny flowers.
The golden plant was selected from the green form of L. nitida at Niels Baggesen's nursery in Pembury, Kent in the 1960s and was given an Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993.
The wild green form comes from south west China where the first Westerner to come across it was the celebrated plant hunter Ernest Henry Wilson. It has been introduced to cultivation twice, in 1908 and in 1939, and apparently flowers are only borne on plants originating from the second introduction.
I have written a much fuller account of Baggesen's Gold and the man who introduced it here.
The reserve is, perhaps, visually at its best just now. The early dog-violets (Viola reichenbachiana) are like a patch of pale mauve-blue mist and contrast well with the rising stalks of Mrs Robb's spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides robbiae).
Most of the dead leaves seem to have settled back into a flattish carpet and the grass is rising fresh and green through those in front of the limestone rock.
The nipplewort (Lapsana communis) is spreading its basal leaves and makes an attractive contrasting feature. It is not the sort of plant that would be recommended for ornamental gardens but, like many wild things, it has a special grace, needs no attention and seems to be proof against the depredations of slug and caterpillar. The leaves, apparently, can be used as salad or cooked like spinach and there was a time when it was cultivated for this purpose. I prefer to leave mine to grow unmolested.
As it is spring I did a vascular plant audit of the reserve and, to date, 28 species have bee recorded in this small area.
The violet can be distinguished not only by its early flowering, but from the paler, more mauve tinged blossoms with a dark spur behind.
The violet is a British native and both were introduced to the reserve some years back, but persist happily and without asking too many questions.
A noctuid moth turned up on the kitchen window yesterday that was identified (after some difficulty) as a satellite (Eupsilia transversa).
The English name comes from the small spot on each forewing which has usually two satellite spots beside it. In this close up picture one satellite is quite clear, but the other, to the south west of the orange main spot, is very faint.
The moth is quite common in the British Isles and overwinters as an adult.
The sudden heavy fall of snow has highlighted the young spurge plants that came up last year. They are an exotic species that has appeared around the garden for many years and, when they flower, I shall have to make a concerted effort to work out their identity. Clearly, their leaves are quite efficient at shedding snow.
Two moths have appeared in KWR so far this year - a male winter moth and, yesterday, a cow-parsnip flat-body (Agonopterix heracliana), a species I have not come across before that must have been tempted out of hibernation in the mild weather that followed an extremely cold spell. It is, however, a common species, though there are few records on the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre's database.