Thursday, 13 October 2011

More from Ards

As you can see from previous posts, Ards forest is a wonderful place for fungi, but it doesn't stop there: the Ards peninsula is based on limestone. This is of particular interest to me because my local soil is very acidic and  soil type has a major influence over which types of plant grow in any particular location. Following on from that, many insects are dependent on particular plants, so plants are a major factor in controlling which insects are to be found in a particular habitat (and also which fungi, for that matter). So it can be seen that underlying geological composition has a major impact on the range of wildlife that can be found in any location.

If I have time when I'm at Ards, I take a slight detour from the trees and wander down to the grassland area near the sea and have a look at plants which I rarely see.

The Harebell is the 'Bluebell' of my youth in west Scotland:


Lady's Bedstraw is closely related to Cleavers ('Sticky Willie') and the other Galium species, but is the only one with yellow flowers:
Lady's Bedstraw

Thyme grows at the fringes of the grassland and on the dunes. I'm always tempted to take some home for the kitchen, but I find its smell is very muted when compared to the cultivated versions:
Wild Thyme
Grassland is also home to a number of Waxcap mushrooms. I found this specimen of Hygrocybe langei shining brightly through the grass:

Hygrocybe langei

It's worth mentioning that this wide, flat area of grassland between the forest and the sand dunes is a particularly defined habitat known as Machair: a habitat type unique to western Ireland and Scotland.

As I was walking back to the car park, I noticed this larva of the White Ermine moth digging in a depression in the sand. It appeared to be making no effort to leave the shallow hole and actually appeared to be making the hole larger. Most odd.

Larva of White Ermine moth
This was above the high water mark, so perhaps it was simply looking for somewhere to pupate.


Gerry Snape said...

thankyou for all of this wonderful information of this magic place!

Toffeeapple said...

I wasn't aware that Lady's Bedstraw was related to Cleavers, thank you for educating me.

Gill said...

More great pictures, especially as most of these are difficult plants to photograph well.