Dartmoor Nature Tours

Discover Dartmoor's wildlife with a professional local guide  


August (updated on Friday 27 July 2018)

August was named after the Roman Emperor Augustus, nephew of Julius. Although it was not Augustus birth month it was considered a lucky month for him. The Romans added an extra day to August to make sure that it had the same number of days as July!

The long dry and hot weather continued through July although Dartmoor did have a few periods of rain most of which obligingly fell during the night. Looks like a change could be on the way though.

The moorland flowers are at their peak now as the common heather and western gorse come into flower (see picture below, top left). At the same time as the gorse comes into flower the mysterious dodder (see picture below, top right) also appears as if by magic!

Dodder is a true parasitic plant but unlike other parasitic plants, which have green leaves and only extract water and nutrients from host plants, dodder has no leaves and must extract its nourishment (carbohydrates) from the host plant.

In late-spring a slender stem emerges from germinating over-wintered dodder seeds, and entwines itself, always anti-clockwise, around the nearest host plant. At this stage it depends entirely on food reserves contained in the seed, for the plant has no green chlorophyll, but once the plant is established, the lower part of the stem withers and falls away, leaving the dodder to depend solely on its unfortunate host, from which it takes sugar and other nutrients through suckers that penetrate stem and branches.

Growth is rapid, and it quickly engulfs host and adjacent plants in a tangled cloak of incredibly fine threads, colouring the landscape with a wine-red mantle.

One of the best local floral displays is on an old stone wall on the edge of the moorland (see picture below, bottom left). This unique spot has a profusion of wild thyme and English stonecrop, sheeps bit, birds-foot trefoil, bell heather and smooth cats-ear. The wall is south-west facing in a sheltered depression and stands out against the acidic moorland flora just across the road.

When the sun shines there are also good numbers of silver washed fritillary butterflies (see picture below, bottom right) gliding through the woodland rides and clearings plus gatekeepers, meadow browns and green-veined whites whilst small heath and graylings are found on the moorland.

The silver washed fritillary is a large fast-flying species that comes readily to buddleia bushes and other nectar sources. The female lays her eggs singly on a tree trunk and after hatching the caterpillars hibernate until the following spring when they feed on violet leaves. It is certainly species that likes the warmth and sunshine and is superabundant this year.

Telephone (0785 8421 148) or e-mail me at enquiries@dartmoornaturetours.co.uk if you need more information.

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