The Sid Valley Biodiversity Group volunteers are still cataloguing the local wildflowers. They are comparing the modern flora with the species noted in 1849 by the Victorian doctor and amateur botanist WH Cullen in his book Flora Sidostiensis.
There are fewer and fewer flying insects and so there is little point in plants expending resources to produce new flowers, it is now all about next year’s seeds. Yet, the volunteers still found 102 species in flower, although they are nowhere near the abundance of summer. Several of these, such as the Sea Campion on the beach, Green Alkanet in Salcombe Regis hedges, and Wood Avens around the edge of Margaret’s Meadow, should have finished flowering by now but our sheltered valley allows many species to thrive outside of their usual seasons.
The volunteers have found 10 new species this month. One collection of species is new to the valley because they were introduced with the turf laid as part of the flood alleviation scheme in Knowle. All of a sudden, we have White Campion and Carthusian Pink in our midst, as well as a new colony of Ragged Robin.
Another new find is the delightfully named Shaggy Soldier, growing by the backdoor of Winchester’s greengrocers. It is an agricultural ‘weed’ and seeds probably came in with a consignment of fresh vegetables. There is a tension between those who want the town to be tidy and those who are happy to see plants such as Shaggy Soldier and Danish Scurvy Grass making their home in the cracks at the foot of our town centre walls and supporting local insect diversity.
There are two more months of the project and, while more and more species will give up flowering, the old faithfuls such as Dandelion and Daisy will carry on. It will be interesting to see if the early spring flowers such as Winter Heliotrope, Winter Aconite, Sweet Violet, and Snowdrops open for business in time for Christmas. Full details of the survey can be found on the SVBG website.