Hedgerow colours

A recent post on the blog Life on La Lune spurred me into action – I had to get out and photograph some wildflowers before they faded!!  Today was the perfect day – we’d had rain yesterday and nature looked so lush and clean!

Sturdy shoes – tick.  Camera bag – tick. Spare camera battery – tick.  Macro lens – tick.

In Saint-Chinian we are so lucky to be able to find great walks in pretty much every direction.  Some walks are a little more challenging, such as the one I took today, but it is still an easy walk.  I set off along the D177, leaving the market square in the direction of Assignan.

Centranthus ruber - red valerian

Centranthus ruber – red valerian

In Languedoc, there is something flowering at any time of the year, even if it’s just common daisies.  I promise you that you’ll always find at least one kind of plant flowering, whenever you go for a walk!

Bellis perennis - common daisy

Bellis perennis – common daisy

I kept my eyes open as I walked along the road – there are many flowers along the verges!

Allium roseum - wild garlic

Allium roseum – wild garlic

Trifolium pratense - red clover

Trifolium pratense – red clover

Ranunculus acris – common buttercup

Urospermum dalecampii - prickly goldenfleece

Urospermum dalecampii – prickly goldenfleece

Trying to identify the plants whilst writing this post has been very educational!  In order to differentiate whether the above plant belonged to the genus of taraxacum or hypochaeris, I would have had to have a look at the flower stem and the leaves!  I won’t be able to tell for sure, since I didn’t photograph either…  Luckily, help was at hand – my friend Gill Pound at La Petite Pepiniere identified the flower for me!!  Did you know that in French, dandelion is called dent de lion and also pissenlit?  Yes, it really means “pee in the bed”!!  The young leaves of the plant are added to salads, and they are supposed to have diuretic properties, hence the second of the common names!! 🙂

The orchid below grew just on the other side of the ditch which runs along the road!

Orchis purpurea - lady orchid

Orchis purpurea – lady orchid

On my walk I saw a number of tassel hyacinths:

About 1 kilometre along the D177, a track turns off on the left and climbs the hillside.  That’s where I  continued my walk!  Soon after the turn I came across this pretty flower – it was absolutely tiny, smaller than the nail on my little finger.

Vicia sativa - common vetch

Vicia sativa – common vetch

This plant with the pink flower bud was growing close-by, but I’ve no idea what it could be!  Do you know what it could be?

I was able to identify the following plant – ribwort plantain.  This simple herb is supposed to be highly effective for treating coughs and respiratory problems!!

Plantago lanceolata - ribwort plantain

Plantago lanceolata – ribwort plantain

A tiny thistle grew by the side of the road:

Carduus pycnocephalus - Italian thistle

Carduus pycnocephalus – Italian thistle

The path climbed fairly steeply until it came to a junction with Chemin de la Rouquette.  I turned left here – the path continued level for some time, before it started to descend gently back towards the village.

Wild thyme is flowering everywhere, and insects love it!  I’ve not been able to identify the insect in the picture below left.  I think the one in the picture below right is a bumble bee.

In our area, wild orchids can still be found quite easily – these three beauties were in a field.

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Orchis purpurea – lady orchid

A little farther on, I came across this orchid:

Cephalanthera longifolia - narrow leaved helleborine

Cephalanthera longifolia – narrow leaved helleborine

The following two lady orchids grew within two metres of one another – one appeared to get more sun than the other.

Coronilla forms large shrubs, which flower abundantly in spring!

Coronilla valentina - scrubby scorpion vetch

Coronilla valentina – scrubby scorpion vetch

Certain types of euphorbia flourish in our area – it’s a genus which has around 2000 members.  The poinsettia we see at Christmas time belongs to it.

Euphorbia characias - mediterranean spurge

Euphorbia characias – mediterranean spurge

Euphorbia cyparissias - cypress spurge

Euphorbia sp. – spurge

This delicate pink flower looked so beautiful – there was a little wind, so taking a photograph was challenging!!

Lychnis flos-cuculi - ragged robin

Lychnis flos-cuculi – ragged robin

Another orchid – the first of two bee orchids I saw:

Orphys scolopax - bee orchid

Orphys scolopax – bee orchid

Orphys scolopax - bee orchid

Orphys scolopax – bee orchid

And this is the other one:

Orphys sp. - bee orchid

Orphys sp. – bee orchid

It was thrilling to see so many different orchids in one afternoon!!  But there were many more humble flowers to be looked at!!

Latuca perennis - blue lettuce

Latuca perennis – blue lettuce

Linum perenne - blue flax

Linum perenne – blue flax

Vinca - periwinkle

Vinca – periwinkle

As I got closer to the village, there were a few lovely views!

What a wonderful finish to the walk – I feel so fortunate that I have all this on my doorstep!!

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Call of the wild

Last Sunday I went for a trip down memory lane.  About 20 years ago, whilst going for a walk along the canal from the pretty village of Le Somail, I came across a little restaurant on the banks of the Canal du Midi.  It must have been at about the same time of year as now. The restaurant was called La Cascade, after the water which cascaded through an overflow sluice in the canal right next to the terrace of the restaurant.  The terrace looked very inviting, and so I stopped for a drink or an ice cream, or maybe both.  The owners were very friendly and chatty, and I returned there many times for meals and celebrations.  Sadly the restaurant closed down a good many years ago, but the memories remain!

When I arrived at Le Somail I was surprised to see many cars parked everywhere.  Yes, it was wonderful weather, and it was Sunday, but why would there be so many people visiting?  The answer appeared soon enough – the village was hosting a gigantic vide grenier (flea market)!!  There were stalls on both sides of the canal, and lots of people browsing.  The pictures below are taken from the bridge across the canal – you can probably see just how far the stalls stretch into the distance.

Vide Grenier in Le Somail

Vide Grenier in Le Somail

 

View from the bridge in Le Somail

View from the bridge in Le Somail

I was headed in the direction of the big barge in the picture above.  Once I had made my way through the milling crowds and reached the towpath, the peace and quiet of the canal descended.  The plane trees here had not escaped the fungal disease, and for the first several hundred meters of my walk there was no shade.  Boats were moored along the opposite bank to where I was walking – the little cruiser has definitely seen better days!!

Submerged boat on the Canal du Midi near Les Somail

Submerged boat on the Canal du Midi

Yellow irises were flowering along the banks for most of the length of my walk:

Yellow Irises along the banks of the Canal du Midi

Yellow Irises along the banks of the Canal du Midi

I’m not sure what the flower below is called – any suggestions?

Unknown flower on the banks of the Canal du Midi

Unknown flower on the banks of the Canal du Midi

This beautiful butterfly sat still just long enough for me to get a picture:

Butterfly on a thistle flower

Butterfly on a thistle flower

The nightingales were singing away, and in the distance there was a cuckoo calling.  I took a brief video for you – make sure you turn on the speakers!  E-mail subscribers, please go to the website to view the video.

Along the way I came across this mother with her children – what a wonderful sight!  I counted a total of nine chicks!!

Mother duck and her chicks

Mother duck and her chicks

When I eventually reached what had been “La Cascade”, I was not surprised to see that it had changed – not beyond recognition, but it had lost the rustic charm it had once had.  It appears that the building is now used as a private house.  I hope that whoever lives in it now, is enjoying it as much as I enjoyed it when I visited all those many years ago.

On my way back to Le Somail I took this picture – any ideas of what it could be?

Mystery picture - answers  in the comments section please

Mystery picture – answers in the comments section please

There are many wonderful walks along the Canal du Midi, and this was definitely one of them!

Walk along the Canal du Midi

Walk along the Canal du Midi

 

Flowers and old bones

Some of you may remember a post, written by Anne Roberts, and published a few months ago, about a walk, which we took together, in the countryside around Cruzy.  If you don’t remember the post you can find it here.  A couple of weeks ago I found myself back in Cruzy, this time for a guided botanical walk.  The walk started at the Museum in Cruzy, where everyone met up with Christine Hervier-Roure, our guide.

Cruzy being a fairly small village, we found ourselves in the countryside soon after we started our walk, and that’s when Christine started explaining the local flora.  At this point I have a confession to make:  I had not brought along my notebook to write down the names of the plants Christine showed us, and my mind is not up to remembering all those wonderful names – I’m sorry!!  I will add names where I know them or think I remember the correct name.  I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m wrong (and feel free to point out the errors)!

The walk took us across varied terrain – the vineyards had all started to sprout new growth!

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There was a great deal of excitement in our group of walkers as this plant was found:

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From what I remember, it is a parasite which lives on the roots of cistus plants.

And the excitement heightened at the discovery of this:

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I’m not sure if it is an orchid or another parasitic plant, but I’m thinking it is an orchid.

The flowers on this cistus look like they are made of crumpled tissue paper.  They look absolutely gorgeous and are completely ephemeral – they only last for one day, but they were out in abundance!

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There was more excitement along the walk as more orchids were discovered!!  All incredibly beautiful!

 

Christine paid attention to a lot of plants, and patiently explained how to distinguish them.  Here is another cistus, this one with tiny white flowers.  If I remember correctly this one is called Cistus Monspeliensis.

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At one point the sun came out, just as we were walking through a bit of pine forest.

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This fascinating flower is the wild form of salsify:

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And this is wild lettuce:

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and wild garlic:

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After walking for just over two hours, Christine brought us to our destination:  the site of the dinosaur excavations in Montplo!!  The day was the “Journee Paleontologique” and, exceptionally, the excavation site was open to the public.  It was interesting to see everyone digging away with screwdrivers, chisels and trowels.

Having looked at it all, including examining a fossil with a magnifying glass, I honestly couldn’t say that I could tell the difference between a fossilised bone and a piece of rock – I’d be totally useless at the excavations :)!!  The bit of white in the midst of the site is a protective plaster cover over a dinosaur bone, so that it won’t break up when it gets lifted from the site.

 

I wonder if the dog was employed as a “sniffer dog” to find any old bones :)??

Christine Hervier-Roure has published a book on native wild flora, which is available from the Museum in Cruzy, either in the shop or by mail order.  A new book is to be published later this year.