The Scribe in the Fields

New Hill 24 Jun 20

There’s only one way to beat the heat. I ventured outside at 4:15am this morning with a dog who was surprised but instantly approving. With the mist in the valley and the sun still hiding, we spent time with the foxes – notably an ambitious cub who hopefully charged a woodpigeon, and ruefully learned that birds can fly.

But the grand sweep of chalk grassland to the north of my village holds other lessons – ofย  the mind-boggling variety of small wild things. This wolf spider carries her young with her on her travels. The Russians say that wolves are fed by their feet, and the eight legs of this spider will let her catch her next meal.

Wolf spider 24 Jun 20

But other stories are of people, and the names that we have found for plants. Fragrant-orchid makes literal sense, although there was no perfume that early in the day.

Fragrant orchid 24 Jun 20

As does greater yellow-rattle. One of the UK’s rarest plants, the seed pods will rattle as they mature.

GYR 24 Jun 20

It is the worts that are most human. St John’s wort, still used in traditional medicine – albeit with limited evidence – is said to flower around the feast day of St John the Baptist. Which is today, as it happens: June 24th. It was named in 1551 by William Turner, a botanist and reformer.

St Johns Wort 24 Jun 20

Much less famous is dropwort. Wort is an old English name for a herb, and ‘drop’ in this case refers to tubers on its roots. It is no relation to hemlock water-dropwort, which unlike this innocent cluster of white petals is extremely poisonous.

Dropwort 24 Jun 20

But to finish, another orchid, and one whose name of pyramidal needs no explanation.

Pyramidal 24 Jun 20

21 thoughts on “The Scribe in the Fields

  1. THis has started my day well -You’re right the only way to beat the heat is get up early. Great photo’s again especially of the spider & I liked the yellow rattle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That valley has almost the entire UK population of greater yellow-rattle – it’s a real rarity elsewhere. Looking forward to tomorrow being a bit cooler though.


  2. 4:15 is way too early even for me. But days start early at this time of year and if that’s the best to avoid heat, go for it! You can always have a nap later ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, at this latitude it gets light so early in June.

      In Croatia, I did surveys before breakfast and then basically disappeared in the middle of the day! It is interesting that 40c there feels like 30c here. I think southern Europe’s steady boiling is one challenge, but the abrupt ups and downs of British weather are quite another. It should be a lot cooler next week though,


  3. Great post, Adele. I thought the spider was very interesting. I’ve never seen one carry its young on it back (like a merganser!), and although I get the shudders when I look at a spider, this was fascinating to see. And the greater yellow-rattle – what an amazing plant to have little duckling heads for flowers. Do you see the yellow baby duck heads with their dark bills? Wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I do see the ducklings! And that’s a really helpful because the way to distinguish this species from common yellow-rattle is that the purple teeth are narrow and long, like duck bills, rather than flat and short. So I may borrow that description next time I’m showing them to people ๐Ÿ™‚

      Wolf spiders are very much the mavericks of the spider world. There’s an exceptionally large species in southern Europe called the Lycosa tarantula, which was the original spider species with that name (although it’s not related to tropical tarantulas). It’s the one that inspired the Tarantella, the fast Italian dance that was once believed to somehow cure a bite. I saw the Lycosa tarantula in Croatia, no dancing though.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It must be great to be up so early and that it is already so light! I really enjoyed the flowering plants you photographed (and their names) and the interesting spider too.


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