A flush is a wet area of ground where water seeps down a slope making a wet area that barely ever dries out. As the water is generally seeping out from the ground it can be reasonably rich in minerals from the rocks in the area. At Fontburn Reservoir most of these flushes have water that comes from limestone strata making the water slightly alkaline, or ‘base-rich’ as it is often termed. This limestone influence affects the variety of plants that are round there. Most striking were the hanging heads of fen cotton-grass (Eriophorum latifolium), this is a similar plant to common cotton-grass but the latter is usually found in acidic bog pools.
Common spotted orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) were also a common sight through these flushes, their pink conical heads dotted over the area alongside the smaller pink lousewort. These orchids are flowering a little later than usual this year. Much more common, and less fussy, are the tall prickly stems of marsh thistle (Cirsium palustre), often reaching well over a metre in height. For the most part the flowers are a deep purple and a useful nectar plant for butterflies such as ringlet; a good proportion of these thistles today were the more unusual white form. One of these marsh thistles provided a handy perch for a golden-ringed dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii), one of our easier species to get close to as they seem to be happy to remain still while others tend to dart away as soon as approached.