Deadly nightshade

Today I noticed that a pair of great tits were using one of the nest boxes in the Benslow garden. The young have obviously hatched but not yet fledged as I could hear them calling from inside the box. I waited for a few minutes with my camera and got a small sequence of one of the adults entering and leaving the nestbox.

On the way in with a grub…
Almost there…
Off to find more food…

On our way home from Benslow we stopped for a walk at Lynford arboretum. Plenty of small song birds around, included a garden warbler which I heard but didn’t see. I wasn’t expecting to add any new birds to my 2023 list here at all, but then caught sight of a female mandarin duck with young on one of the small areas of water near the lake – a nice surprise! Mandarins are originally based on birds which have escaped from wildfowl collections, but there’s now a viable UK free-flying breeding population and they are accepted on the British list, so that’s species 192!

Brenda writes: “The big excitement this morning was that, after two days of warm sunshine, several deadly nightshade flowers had opened. I have only seen it in the Benslow garden and I guess elsewhere it is ruthlessly dispatched because, as its name implies, it is very poisonous. However, like other poisonous plants, it has in the past been used as a medicinal herb. When I mentioned it to the gardener he said it was there as a homage to the original owners of Benslow who grew medicinal herbs in the fields surrounding the house (now housing estates). It is a magnificent plant and I get a real thrill from seeing it and its glossy black berries in the autumn.

deadly nightshade

The final new plant at Benslow today was yellow oxalis which grows in a sunny spot in the courtyard.

yellow oxalis

On the way home we stopped off at Lynford arboretum. Steve set me the challenge of finding ten new species – I managed nine! The first was creeping buttercup growing among the grass in the woodland. Footpath margins and waste ground are among the best places for flowers and here I found pineapple mayweed so called because it has a pineapple-like smell when crushed. It’s the easiest of the mayweeds to identify because its green flower head has no petals.

pineapple mayweed

Black medick is similar to spotted medick but without the mark on its leaves, and gets its name from its seed pods which turn black when ripe. I’ll try to get a photo of that later in the season. Greater plantain is less common than ribwort plantain and has much broader leaves and smaller darker flowers.

greater plantain (with white clover in the background)

I also saw my first red clover flower today.

red clover

On a piece of ‘waste ground’ there was an abundance of plant species including the magnificent common wintercress with its bright yellow flowers.

common wintercress

However the greatest excitement of the evening were the plants I saw along the path by the edge of the lake, with a wildflower meadow on the other side. The new plants among this flowery bonanza included silverweed, a flower often seen on these sorts of path margins that gets its name from its leaves, which are a pale silvery green. One of the cinquefoil family it has yellow flowers with, you’ve guessed it, five petals.


At the weekend I saw wood avens and today there was lots of its near relation, water avens – such a beautiful flower.

water avens

Finally over the fence in the field was the delicate ragged robin, a member of the campion family, which likes damp meadows and marshy land.

ragged robin

I’m catching up and if it stays warm many more species will burst into flower.

New species for May 22nd:
Birds: mandarin duck
Flowers: deadly nightshade, yellow oxalis, creeping buttercup, pineapple mayweed, black medick, greater plantain, common wintercress, red clover, silverweed, water avens, ragged robin