Strandline & Above Wildlife Series
Isle of Wight
by Chris Hicks
Hanover Point, on the south-west coast of the Isle of Wight, is formed
by a rocky peninsula between two bays, and is well worth a special visit.
Apart from the shore life, which proved to be fairly rewarding, there are
fine stretches of sheltered undercliff to the west. Formed by gradual subsidence,
these areas abound with wild flowers and butterflies.
The rare Glanville Fritillary butterfly, Melitaea cinxia, can be found here, along with the equally uncommon Hoary Stock, Matthiola incana.
The fritillary needs warm south-facing slopes with plenty of young
Plantain, Plantago lanceolata, for the caterpillars to feed
on. On the Isle of Wight, frequent small landslips allow young plantains
to flourish, and inhibits the development of taller vegetation, which would
be unsuitable for egg laying. The butterfly is usually active during May
and June and, on a fine day, it can be surprisingly abundant above Compton
Bay, near Freshwater.
Hoary Stock looks a little like a wallflower growing on the chalk cliffs and beside roads, where it could easily be mistaken for a garden escape. The flowers, which are generally purple, are sweet scented and appear from May to August. It is only found in Britain on the Isle of Wight and on the chalk cliffs and adjacent grasslands at Brighton, East Sussex.