Flora & Fauna at Bentley Old Vicarage Nature Reserve
All year
Ivy (Hedera helix) romps over most of the ground and most of the trees. Notice how the leaves on the ground have the familiar five-lobed shape, while above the ground the leaves on free branches have a completely different, simple rhombic shape. The white flowers (October-November) and black fruits form only on these high branches. In the butterfly meadow note the large clumps of pendulous sedge (Carex pendula).

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are blooming in the woods. Where the rough path to the butterfly meadow leads off from the main loop, look for flowers of the winter heliotrope (Petasites fragrans).

In the woods snowdrops are still flowering, and are joined by the blue Chionodoxa, a garden flower that may be a relic of the vicarage. All through the woods the wide, triangular leaves of lords-and-ladies (Arum maculatum) are pushing up and for a month or so form the dominant ground cover.

A number of gean (wild cherry, Prunus avium) are also in bloom. Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) is growing through the leaves of lords-and-ladies and now becomes the dominant ground cover in the woods as the trees begin to leaf.

Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is in bloom and hawthorn (Crataegus) is lovely at the edge of the butterfly meadow. From the butterfly meadow one can also see two apple trees in bloom, probably relics of the vicarage garden. Under the trees the cow parsley is in bloom, together with bluebells (Endymion non-scriptus), violets (Viola riviniana) and lords-and-ladies.

The butterfly meadow is glorious with elder (Sambucus nigra) and dog rose (Rosa canina) in bloom along the edges and red clover (Trifolium pratense), crowfoot (Ranunculus repens) and tormentil (Potentilla anglica) in the grass.

High summer under the trees
Most of the flowering at ground level is now over as the trees come into full leaf and shade out the lower plants. Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) and wood avens (Geum urbanum, like tormentil, a member of rose family that looks like a buttercup) continue to flower from June onward, and are joined in July by the tiny white flowers of enchanters nightshade (Circaea lutetiana). Bright red fruits of lords-and-ladies stand on stalks that are now isolated, all the leaves having died back. Even the cow parsley dies back, leaving the ivy once more as the dominant ground cover. Clumps of male fern (Dryopteris felix-mas) can be seen in many spots.