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Try making your own! The Big Wiltshire Wildlife Trust Coombe Bissett Nature Reserve Plant Quiz
Wiltshire Wildlife Trust Plant Quiz, to help learn the plants of Coombe Bissett Down nature reserve. This species identification training aid has been funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of a three year community engagement project. You can learn all about this remarkable Wiltshire Wildlife Trust reserve and the plants in it
here. We'd like to thank everyone who provided the images for the quiz, who are credited in the training booklet. So here’s 40 plants you’ll find at the reserve, and on other chalk grasslands. Can you name them all?
Unique in having slightly greyer under-leaves. Carnation Sedge does look a bit similar, but only occurs in bogs and wet heaths (and is equally grey on both sides of the leaf). In late summer Glaucous Sedge has very visible black seed heads.
While not limited to chalk grassland it is often found there. most easily recognised in the hand with its rough hairiness. The flowers also do a cool thing where the central floret is often deep crimson, acting as in insect lure.
A bit tricky with just a leaf, but it's a good one to be able to do vegetatively. The key is in the hairs on the leaf, but on the underside and margins. White Clover has no hairs. Also don't be misled by the white arrows - loads of clovers have those...
So, that was a predominantly male flowerhead, with dangling red stamens. Here is the very wonderful female flowers, with deep red tentacled flowers. Sometimes you get inflorescences with both on...
Fairly consistently pink-purple flowers and the pyramid shape to the flowerhead help pin this one down.
A real specialist on the chalk, it can be easily recognised when not in flower with its needle-like leaves
Very common and sometimes over-abundant in grasslands where the grazing pressure is too low. Look for tall nodding heads, and if you pluck a leaf from the base you'll see 'camel's eyelashes' along the margin, which is unique to this species.
Well done if you get this one! The main difficulty with this plant is the leaf variation, with the basal ones looking very like Salad Burnet (presumably where the name comes from) and the top ones looking totally different, more like fennel. But once you've learnt it it becomes quite easy to spot!
Nice and easy, with the terminal leaflets forming clover-like trefoils, and the largest flowers eventually forming pods resembling a bird's claws.
With its very fine leaves this barely looks like a sedge at all - but if you look at the leaf bases you will see them join up in threes to form that familiar sedgy base. This one is a real chalk grassland indicator, and only thrives on well-managed sites.
A mirage of dancing sugar-puffs in a summer breeze!
In midsummer the pinky-white flowers of this plantain are enough to stop you in your tracks!
One of a small group of orchids with spotted leaves, on this one the spots go across the leaves (in Early Purple Orchid they run end to end)
Note the extra border of frilly ray florets
This one is a bit twisty, but you can clearly see one side has a back, and the other a crest. Also if you flick it it wags like a dog's tail
Couple of things to look for - the inflorescence is reactively tidy, with lovely black bracts looking like mites crawling up the flower. Also the leaves have minute prickles on the margins, which helps to separate it from the scabious species. Boom!
The leaves on this are more regularly pinnate, and lack the terminal trefoil. It has smaller, but more numerous flowers, sometimes in a horseshoe crescent and sometimes in a circle. And check out these crazy pods, also in chains of horseshoes. It's also the main food plant for the Adonis Blue butterfly.
This is the rather magical seedhead of the Devil's-bit Scabious - a wonderful plant which grows both on dry chalk and wet mildly acidic meadows. It is the food plant for the Marsh Fritillary butterfly, which causes the confusion when one spots Marsh Fritillaries flying about on parched pieces of grassland. In leaf look for striking white mid-ribs on the basal leaves, making look a bit like Pak Choi.
The hook here are the downward pointing sepals (this is really unusual in flowers, evolution took a weird turn with this one). If you haven't got a flower gently rootle around at the base of the stem and you should find the bulb..
Just look at those flowers!
Closely related to Meadowsweet, this species only grows in dry chalk grassland
The colour is unmistakable with the white base and deep crimson top. What is more surprising is how small they can be, with some specimens one a few centimetres tall, so they really do need some looking for
Leaves in pairs, looking like upright bunny ears. And very visible tendrils, which is a key character of many types of pea.
By far the largest flowers of any of the terrestrial speedwells - if in doubt check the stem hairs, which should be in two distinct rows
An absolute gem of chalk grasslands, only surviving on sites where good grazing keeps the sward open enough
Not entirely easy out of context - but if you find a grass with this sort of sausage-shaped head, check the awns to see if they have two 'devil's-horns' - if so you have a Cat's-tail, and if it's smaller than 6cm and you're on chalk grassland it will be this one (>6cm would be Timothy, and if it only had one horn it would be a Foxtail)
This plant is much easier when you have it in the hand as it has noticeably rough leaves. With a hand lens you can observe all the hairs have split ends, and this is the only large dandelion-like plant to do this
A lovely sprawling plant of chalk banks - just look at the red strips on the sepals!
Unmistakable with its yellow-green rosette of leaves; if you find one in flower look for a club shaped male spike at the top.
More profusely flowering than Cleavers, with a wonderful sweet smell. Totally lacking in comedy effect when you try and stick it on someone's back though...(but good a way of telling apart from the much more sticky cleavers)
A super cool member of the broader Rush family. Very early flowering, this has the colloquial name of 'Good Friday grass' The leaves are superbly hairy, also looking like sheep's wool has got stuck on them. This is the only species of this genus you can find in dry grasslands, but if you're not sure, look for the red nobs on the end of the leaves.
As well as having beautifully hairy leaves with white undersides, you can also look for the sulphurous yellow flowers. To be honest the hardest thing with this group of plants is the common names, which sound like they were made up by someone who was obsessed with hawks and cats (and occasionally goats)
One of the larger scabious species - with bristly hairy stem and leaves, which you can see in the top photo.
Lovely tall spikes of yellow flowers. Not so lovely when the burrs get stuck in your dog/socks/underwear
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