By far the tallest plant in flower are the very woolly great mulleins, which grace the perimeter of the car park and the edges of the breckland field to the east of the Centre. In ideal conditions these can reach an impressive seven feet tall, but the poor sandy soil of Lackford and the occasional nibble from the rabbits keeps them a little shorter- perhaps five feet at most. These have a long spire of yellow flowers, a few of which open at a time and the leaves are the foodplant of mullein moth- their white caterpillars with rows of black and yellow spots often adorn the leaves in late summer on the reserve and are an impressive sight.
|dark mullein spire|
|dark mullein (flower detail)|
The royal-blue flowers of viper's bugloss are still visible all around the edges of the Kingfisher Trail, and these are a favourite with bumblebees (especially common carder), butterflies and the odd hummingbird hawkmoth (who visit usually on hotter days).
Church Walk is currently dotted with the yellow star-like flowers of cat's-ear, a member of the dandelion family but much shorter and more delicate-looking. If you look over the fence that borders the path here you'll also the tawny brown flowerheads of carline thistles, another breckland speciality, sitting ten to fifteen inches above the ground. Carline thistles are usually found growing in coastal sand dunes, but the sandy inland conditions at Lackford prove just as suitable! Three other thistles can be readily seen on the reserve at the moment- the very small but numerous lilac flowers of creeping thistle, the larger violet blooms of spear thistle, and the nodding purple heads of musk thistle which grow in clumps in the fields either side of Church Walk.
The diversity of habitats at Lackford mean the reserve also has its fair share of plants which prefer things damp and shady too- at the moment there are lots of harebell in flower on the path between the Viewing Platform and Double Decker hide and the orchid-like spikes of purple horehound are mingled in amongst the nettles on summer trail. Out this evening, I noticed that the damp scrapes on the Slough have turned into a blaze of colour with the flowers of purple loosestrife, lilac water-mint and yellow common fleabane- a favourite nectar source for the common blue butterfly.
|The Slough in full summer colour!|
These are just a few of the many beautiful plants which are on show at Lackford at the moment- so do keep an eye open for them next time you visit. Some of those mentioned here feature on markers dotted along the kingfisher trail, between the viewing platform and the Centre, and over time we'll change these so that different plants are highlighted when they are each looking their best. A pair of binoculars are helpful for identifying more distant specimens, especially in the breckland field which lies to the east of the Centre. Here we have marked a spot on the kingfisher trail which gives a good view of this field and its plants.
by Heidi Jones (volunteer at Lackford Lakes)