The hedgerows at Tregew are a riot of vivid colour during the early summer months
This blog was fully intended to be an update on what we have been up to in the countryside over the early summer months. On reflection, a great deal of our work at this time of year consists of strimming, trimming and mowing the irrepressible growth of vegetation that almost explodes out of the hedgerows in response to the warmth and sunshine. All well and good- without this work the footpaths that criss-cross our beautiful estate would be decidedly less accessible and certainly a bit more prickly – but strimming can be an awfully dull topic on which to wax lyrical. Far better to have some kind of celebration and photographic record of the wonderfully colourful wildflowers and insects that are currently making a home of our hedgerows.
The marsh thistle is one of our tallest native thistles and favours damp habitats such as road side ditches, moist meadows and close proximity to rivers and ponds. Unsurprisingly then, they are all over Trelissick and their candelabras of vivid purple flowers are a feast for bees and butterflies whilst their seeds provide nourishment for goldfinches and linnets
The beautiful blue, almost ghost-like flowers of the hairy vetch. A member of the pea family, this character likes to climb up other plants which it takes into custody with grasping little tendrils – a hallmark of the vetches.
Elder trees are a common and widespread species that, in early summer, sweeten the hedgerows with their fragrant clutches of creamy white flowers. Later in the summer, these will ripen into purple elderberries that eaten by mammals like the dormouse and bank vole. The leaves of the elder are a food plant for many moth caterpillars like the dot moth, buff ermine, white spotted pug and swallowtail. You can often find an elder next to a badger sett or a rabbit warren because the animals distribute the seeds via their droppings!
Dead nettles flowering in the meadow at Tregew are not actually nettles at all but are in fact a member of the mint family. The were bestowed the moniker ‘dead’ because they lack a sting, although the apparent similarity to a conventional nettle is said to be enough to put off rabbits and other herbivorous animals. In Britain, the plant is commonly known as archangel, possibly because it blooms around the 8th May – a date that was once celebrated as Archangel Michael’s feast day.
Brambles might be the bane of many a gardener but their flowers are beautiful in summer and are a cornerstone of woodland and hedgerow ecology, providing a huge amount of nectar whilst their thorns offer protection to nesting birds.
In early June we spotted Early Purple Orchids growing at Tregew Community Orchard for the very first time! It’s great to remember that, before the National Trust purchased this land a mere 8 years ago, this field was being used solely to grow broccoli and is now reverting to a natural meadow with the continued absence of fertilisers and ‘inputs’. Each new species we record at Tregew is very special and this one happens to be very pretty too!
Have you ever wondered what the white, frothy liquid that hangs from plants throughout the summer is? It’s called cuckoo spit and, apart from appearing at a time when the famous call of the cuckoo can be heard, has no connection with the bird. It is actually secreted by the young of a sap-sucking insect called a froghopper and protects the tiny nymph from predators and insulates against large temperature fluctuations. Froghoppers can jump more effectively than a flea with some species leaping as much as 70cm to reach desirable plants!
A time of plenty: Flowers bring in pollinating insects and a spider waits patiently to take full advantage of this abundance of prey.
The dog rose – a thorny woodland climber – is visited by a strikingly striped hoverfly.
The flowers of the clover (below) and ground ivy (above) are fascinatingly beautiful when viewed up close.
Well, that’s probably enough indulging in pretty pictures of flowers…..please forgive us but we thought, just this once, why not? It really is a stunning time of year and the estate is teeming with life. Keep a look out if you are visiting us – there really is something to see and appreciate in every hedgerow if you look closely.
– Ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford