The flora of Périgord in South-West France is abundant and diverse. In this blog you can find, in pictures, brief encounters with wild flowers and plants as they grow here. There are portraits of about hundred different plants, and following the seasons other species are added.

Corine is a botanist and photographer and she offers guided Botanical Walks and other activities around plants and vegetation in nature in Perigord.

Do you want to know more? See About Walks and the Calendar at the right below on this page.


December 20, 2018

Maidenhair Spleenwort

In a wood on a steep Northern slope grow Oaks and Beeches that nearly never see the sun. Hidden between the trees, high above the river Dordogne there are some limestone cliffs. Here grows this little fern.

It is a Maidenhair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes), but which one? In Dordogne there are three subspecies known, and this one is rather atypical.

Generally, Maidenhair Spleenworts grow on stone walls or vertical rocks, like here. They all have fronds with a dark brown  central stem, the rachis, that is pinnate compound, with on both sides small simple green leaves.

Here a Common Maidenhair Spleenwort as can be found in many places: Asplenium trichomanes subsp. quadrivalens. It has rather long fronds tapering towards the end, with symmetrical pinnate leaves that are finely dented.

The subspecies here below grows mainly on vertical limestone rocks, like cliffs or cave entrances.

This Maidenhair Spleenwort  (Asplenium trichomanes subsp. pachyrachis) is much less common, already because the right kind of vertical limestone rock is not everywhere, not even in Perigord. It is tiny and its fronds follow the rock surface as if they are glued to it. The pinnate leaves cover each other like roof tiles.

But this fern? It looks a bit like the subspecies above, but...

It has rather long pinnate leaves lobed like little hands that do not cover each other like roof tiles. And the end leaf is at least twice as big as the others. The fronds are free from the rock, not glued to it, and they heve everywhere the same width instead of tapering. It does not look like a Perigordian subspecies, it looks more like a subspecies that grows exclusively in the Alps. Quite improbable to find that one here...

Moreover, when you look at the underside of a fertile frond as in the centre of the image here below, you see is has not many sores. The sores are the whitish small structures wherein sporangia (here tiny black points) develop. Are there fertile spores in those sporangia? Now way to know without a microscope.

Hybrid plants are sometimes less fertile than pure species. Is it possible this plant is a hybrid, and in case of yes, between which species or subspecies?
Maybe yes. We do not know yet very well the Spleenworts and their subdivisions and how species and subspecies can be distinguished and how they differ. They are tiny plants, often rather inconspicuous and growing in places difficult to get to. Not easy for botanists.

December 5, 2018

'Holy Hawksbeard'

In this graveyard there are not only the faded chrysanthemums of last month. Near a tomb slmall yellow flowers are opening themselves to the December sun.

This Hawksbeard has no official English name, so let us call it 'Holy Hawksbeard'(Crepis sancta subsp. nemausensis). It is a little Asteraceae that normally flowers in Mediterranean regions at the end of winter or the beginning of spring. The last years it is seen more and more North of its area, and now it is common in Dordogne. But to see it in flower in December is really exceptional.

It does not grow only in cemeteries, also in vineyards, gardens, and trodden places in towns.

Its little rosettes are visible a long time before the flowers appear. Here they are surrounded by at least eight other plant species; the blue-green rosette is from a Prickly Sow-Thistle (Sonchus asper).

To open up the flowers need sunshine.

December 4, 2018

Sweet Chestnut (2)

The Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) has beautiful leaves, long and regular and very green.

In October they fall, a bit before the leaves of most Oaks. At least in a normal year, this year there will be leaves on the trees around christmas!

Sweet Chestnut leaves are dented, and every dent has a fine point. Decomposition by fungi and bacteria creates little black spots on the leaves.

Many Sweet Chestnut trees end their lives when they are still rather young. To make fence posts you don't need a big diameter. Chestnut wood is nearly imputrescent and is for this reason long lasting. In former times it was used also for stakes in vineyard and to make hoops for barrels.

Many Sweet Chestnut woods in Dordogne were coppiced. Regrowth after felling gives after ten or fifteen years bunches of not too big trunks.

You can see the trees are not in very good health, Sweet Chestive are sensitive to all kinds of diseases, bleeding cancer and others.

This tree is old, planted maybe eighty or sixry years ago. It is surrounded by its progeniture.

December 3, 2018

Sweet Chestnut (1)

Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) is a typical Perigordin tree. It grows everywhere where the soil is not limestone. Today's Chestnut woods are the descendants of former Sweet Chestnut forests planted for their fruits and wood. People, especially the poor, harvested chestnuts for flour. This very big trunk here below is what is left from a tree planted long ago, it is dying from old age now.

Don't worry, new trees begin to grow at the feet of this Methusalem.

Here, in June, a Sweet Chestnut wood in flower. Fluffy bunches of male catkins give the trees a festive look.

The male flowers in long catkins produce masses of pollen which the wind brings everywhere. There is a dusty smell in the air. The female flowers are very tiny and you don't notice them when you don't look from nearby.

Chestnut season is October. The burrs, with their nasty spikes that protect them against hungry intruders, open up when the fruits inside are ripe.

And now the feast can begin. Wild boar, badgers, mice, jays and other animals adore chestnuts and now they eat and eat and eat until they just can't anymore. They cannot eat everything, the tree has let loose all its fruits at once en there is too much food. So the tree can be sure at last some chestnuts remain un-eaten and can germinate.

Here, a mouse had its dinner, and a little slug takes care of the leftovers.

October 24, 2018

True Service Tree

A walking path is already covered in fallen leaves; amongst them some strange fruits like little apples with a dull skin. You can try to eat them, but you get a strange feeling on your tongue. They are edible, the fruits of the True Service Tree (Sorbus domestica), but you have to wait until they begin to rot and the adstringent taste disappears. Like them or not, at least they are sweet.

When you look upwards in the spot you see pinnate leaves on rather thin branches where the fruits come from. They are no longer there, they have fallen already. The leaves are beginning to turn.

From green to yellow to brown. In the picture below, it is already November.

The True Service Tree is a tree, often small, and it can be a bit lost between the Oaks, Hornbeams, Maples, Sweet Chestnuts and other trees from the Perigordine woods. They are not uncommon bit normally you find only a few trees here and there between the other species; a True Service Tree forest does not exist.

The bark is smooth on young trees, but when it grows older it becomes fissured.

This was summer...

September 30, 2018

Marsh Scullcap

This little plant grows in places where the soil is wet and disturbed by let's say tractors or wild boar. It is rather common and flowers at the end of summer, sometimes in large amounts. It even grows in corn fields, if there has been enough rain.

Apparently it can grow even when herbicides applied in spring have done their work.

Marsh Scullcap (Scutellaria galericulata) is an at first sight rather inconspicuous member of the Mint (Lamiaceae) family. It is not even aromatic, like most other Mints.

Flowers always appear two by two. In the picture the 'scullcap' is clearly visible; a kind of helmet-like protrusion on the calyx. What function does it have? No idea.

Here a well-developed plant, new square branches are developing above the leaves of the main stem. And how pretty are the flowers!

September 17, 2018

Guelder Rose

It is berry season, and this year there is a lot to eat for the birds.

As, for an exemple, the fruits of the Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus). Its boughs bend over under their weight. The berries come in bunches and they are round, shiny, slightly transparent drupes.

A ray of sunshine embellishes them still more. The leaves, lobed like Maple leaves, already begin to change into autumn colour.

The flowers also are not to be overlooked. They appear in May. The small flowers in the centre of the corymb are fertile, the larger ones on the outside are not. They make the flowering more visible to insects.

Guelder Rose is a bush that grows on humid soils. Here they screen a small stream from our view.