"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Monday, 14 September 2015

Return to the Isle of Wight - Stone Walls

When I was sorting through the holiday photos after we'd been to the Isle of Wight earlier this year I noticed there were quite a few photos taken of stone walls and decided I'd treat the subject as a separate post. I haven't had chance to do as much research into the plant id as I would have liked (severe lack of time at present due to decorating/refurbishing/decluttering/moving 1000's of books downstairs to their new home etc. etc. ad infinitum...!) so please feel free to correct me if I have any wrong or add id's where necessary.


Hottentot Fig growing on this wall - an invasive non-native plant - very pretty but it causes problems on cliffs and sand dunes where it out competes native plants.

Ivy-leaved Toadflax - often found growing on stone walls. It was introduced into Britain from Southern Europe at the beginning of the Seventeenth century. Alternative names include: Kenilworth Ivy, Climbing Sailor,Colisseum Ivy, Devil's Ribbon, Mother of Thousands and Wandering Sailor.

Ivy and Herb Robert


Red Valerian, Ivy and Bramble smothering this wall

Meadow Brown just visible (if you enlarge the photo!) in the centre of this photo

A Succulent flowering


Wall Speedwell has found a foothold in a pocket of accumulated soil.

Ivy-leaved Toadflax, lichens and I think the little blue flower may be a garden escapee???

Ivy-leaved Toadflax has an ingenious way of placing seeds in pockets of soil which accumulate between the stones. After the flowers have been pollinated the flower stalk starts to grow downwards towards darkness - an action which pushes the seed capsule deep into a crevice in the wall where the seeds will eventually be released.

Hart's Tongue Fern and Ivy

Herb Robert and a tiny hoverfly species


Hart's Tongue Fern, mosses, lichen and liverwort.

Liverwort/Moss and Ivy-leaved Toadflax


Ivy-leaved Toadflax

Lichens at Blackgang Chine

Ivy and Lichens at Arreton Manor

Hurst Castle

I puzzled for a while over this one although it looked like a Plantain of some type. I thought at first Sea Plantain but now I think its more likely to be Buck's Horn Plantain

Scarlet Pimpernel and Bladder Campion

Hart's Tongue Fern on a wall at the churchyard in Niton

The photos above have concentrated on plants growing in stone walls but walls also provide shelter for amphibians, molluscs and snails, a place for lizards to bask, and cavity nesting for bird species such as robins and wrens and mammals, for example, mice. Walls provided shelter, nest sites and places to overwinter for many types of insect species. In the absence of trees birds will use walls as a perch and they provide a highway for many species between different habitats.

I may well return to this topic in the future - hopefully, the post shows its well worth looking at and exploring the world of walls.


Margaret Adamson said...

Like youI always look at the small plants growing on stone walls although do not photograph thema lot.Alsolove the different Lichens and Mosses. You have a good selection in this post.

Ragged Robin said...

Margaret Adamson - Thanks very much Margaret. Wish I was better at moss and lichen id - but I tried the latter once and found it quite complicated!

Toffeeapple said...

I like the subject of this post, walls and other stonework always fascinates me and your ID skills are far better than mine!

Caroline Gill said...

What a lovely collection of wild flowers. I love the name 'Cornish hedge' for a dry stone wall (usually granite) in that part of the world. The Scarlet Pimpernels were particularly lovely ... have not seen many this year. Thank you, RR, for your comment on my Wicken Fen post. It is one of my favourite reserves, but a good hour plus from here.

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

Scarlet pimpernel is something I just never see these days, remember it as being very common if open fields, even playing fields, when I was a young child.

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Thanks so much :) I love items like stone walls with their own mini ecosystems. So much you can see if you just look :)

Caroline Gill - Thanks very much. The name "Cornish hedge" is a lovely description - not heard that before. I miss Cornwall - we haven't been for years. Last holiday there was on the Lizard which was a superb location and very good for wild flowers. Wicken Fen is one of those reserves I have always wanted to visit so lovely to see your post :)

Ragged Robin said...

Simon Douglas Thompson - Thanks Simon. I only seem to see Scarlet Pimpernel when I go on holiday!

David said...

An interesting subject Caroline and one which I thoroughly enjoyed. Indeed it has given me a few ideas for our new garden up on the moors as we have inherited quite a few walls with the property!

Hope all the decorating is going well and that all your books have now found a new home :-)

Kindest regards to all :-)

Ragged Robin said...

David - Thanks so much David. That is wonderful news about the walls on your new property - I do hope you share some photos when you get chance after you have moved in!!

Thanks for the good wishes. I fear we are in it for the long haul with the decorating - still have another living room to do plus our bedroom and bathroom and the kitchen needs a complete makeover :( Probably still be working on it all this time next year!!! Have moved about one third of the books!!! For the first time in my life I am actually wishing (only temporarily though!!) that I didn't have so many books!! Will post a photo when I've moved them all!

Best wishes Caroline

Chris Rohrer said...

I thought I had left a comment here but for some reason it did not show up. Anyhow, I love the plants growing on the side of rock walls and cliffs. I've tried to implement this idea with some success. But then winter comes....

Deb said...

Lovely post and really interesting. I love the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Hottentot Fig's so pretty. I'll look out for that to plant in our stone walls. :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Thanks Chris. We have some plants growing out of stone walls at home - all self-seeded. As you say its a lovely idea to replicate :)

Deb - Thanks so much Deb. Hottentot fig is very pretty - only ever see it when on holiday and then you see it everywhere!!

Millymollymandy said...

The unknown blue flower is a Campanula - probably C. portenschlagiana which is a climbing/trailing variety and one of its common names is Wall Bellflower. It's funny cos I am forever weeding out Scarlet Pimpernel from my flower beds! Ivy-leafed Toadflax I only know as the Latin name of Cymbalaria muralis (means it likes walls!) and is a rampant weed here. Lovely post, RR. I love walls and they do host so many species like you said. It always amazes me how so many plants seem to grow quite happily in them with presumably very little soil!

Ragged Robin said...

Millymollymandy - Thanks so much for the comment and id help on the blue flower :) I must look out more for Scarlet Pimpernel locally - sometimes you can overlook species. Ivy-leaved Toadflax is certainly a rampant plant on walls. I think every stone wall I see has some growing on it! It amazes me too how adaptable wildlife is and how they can grow in just little pockets of soil. I wish now I had had the idea of the post when we were away and I could have got more (and better photos). It was only when I got home that I realised how many wall pictures I had taken which gave me the idea.