Thursday, 13 August 2015

quiet riot

I wrote earlier in the summer about how I wasn’t doing any cycling because it was either cold, wet or windy—or all three—but conditions have been improving recently, so I have started to get out on my bike. The bonus is that during the last three weeks, the roadside verges have been a riot of pinks, purples, blues and whites, with the occasional splash of yellow provided by ragwort, buttercups and a few late dandelions. It is an unexpected bonus, because most of the wildflowers that provide this display should have finished flowering more than a month ago, but as I pointed out in Haywire, the weather has been even more unpredictable this year than it usually is—in the case of Hong Kong, warmer than usual; in the UK, colder than usual, so much colder that I’ve been wearing a thermal undershirt, which I’d brought with me so that I could continue to cycle into October. I didn’t expect to need it in July!

In Twenty Miles of Bad Road, written last summer, I described a 3.2-mile addition to the 20-mile circuit that I’d originally devised, and this is now my default ride. It is probably around the maximum distance that I can manage and still have enough energy to do it again the following day. In fact, last September I set myself a small challenge: to do the 23.2-mile circuit every day—unless it rained. However, I reckoned without the driest September on record and ended up doing it 13 days in a row. Oddly enough, I felt more tired after the second day’s ride than I did after the tenth.

Anyway, enough of this waffle. You would probably prefer to see some pictures. Easily the most spectacular, in bloom, of the roadside flowers is rose bay willow herb, which grows in huge stands containing up to a thousand individual flower spikes. There are many such stands on the route, and here are photos of two of them. The colour is more intense than these pictures suggest.

Another plant that grows in large stands is shown in the next photograph. I have yet to identify these cream-coloured flowers, which remind me of candy floss (cotton candy).

The pink flowers in the next photograph are much less common, and they are also as yet unidentified. The cream-coloured flowers in the foreground are the same as those in the previous photo.

Purple vetch is scattered in small clumps along the way but was dying off by the time I decided that I wanted to take a photo:

Yet another common flower that I haven’t been able to identify is shown in the next picture. This too grows in small clusters (the cream-coloured flowers are clover).

Thistles are attractive plants to look at, but their spiky leaves, and the fact that they also grow in large stands, make them a vicious obstacle on an overgrown path. The thistles in the next photo are about to start dispersing their airborne seeds (the main reason they are so ubiquitous).

The next picture shows a comparative rarity. I’ve tentatively identified the white flower as a northern marsh orchid, and on this route it is seen only along a short stretch of the road that marks the highest point, where, surprisingly, the ground is quite boggy. Like many purple flowers, it has faded to white in the sun. The yellow flower is a dandelion.

Finally, I’ve included two photos of a plant that looks to me to be far too elaborate for a mere wildflower. I wonder if it is an escapee from someone’s garden. It can be seen at only two locations on the route, which does provide some support for my hypothesis. There is one photo from each location.

I don’t like unanswered questions, so I will be updating this post once I’ve discovered answers to the questions posed above.

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