Our longest day is now behind us and flowers are appearing at many coastal sites, as well as woodlands. At Forvie National Nature Reserve, for example, you can now enjoy wild pansy and bird’s-foot trefoil in abundance, a mosaic of yellow and purple. The trefoil is a member of the pea family, named for having leaves divided into three.
Other members of the pea family to look out for on coastal grassland are kidney vetch and purple milk-vetch. These ‘peas’ have distinctively shaped flowers which are similar whether they are on tiny plants or on large trees. This is something the great John Muir noticed one day and which helped inspire him about nature. However, that is another story.
Truly tiny, the purple milk vetch grows in short coastal turf, often close to the trefoil or kidney vetch. It can be found scattered along the east coast but it’s scarce and usually tricky to spot. If you find it, pause and congratulate yourself for a job well done!
Yellow kidney vetch is more common and a very important flower for a rare butterfly, the small blue. Our smallest butterfly lays its eggs on the leaves of yellow kidney vetch but only at a few locations. Look out for a dark butterfly the size of a man’s thumbnail flitting about near sand dunes where there are patches of coastal grassland.
Information about where our plants are growing is really useful. The Botanical Society for the British Isles has a network of plant recorders who would be very grateful to receive your plant records. The results are used to inform updated versions of The Atlas of the British Flora and online maps produced by the National Biodiversity Network.