Bugle (Ajuga reptans) photographed in the park by Julie Newblé.
Bugle is a member of the mint family and like all mints its stems are square in cross section and its leaves grow in opposing pairs. It forms a dense low-growing mat of dark purple-ish green from which spikes of bright blue flowers can shoot up as high as 20cm.
It is sometimes confused with selfheal, another mint, which has a smaller inflorescence with less densely packed flowers and grows in dryer and more open places.
 flower spikes of Ajuga reptans  selfheal (Prunella vulgaris)  dark green fritillary butterfly
Bugle grows in damp meadows and shady woodland margins and spreads easily by means of long leafy runners that root at the nodes. This easy propagation, its mat-forming habit and tolerance of wet and shady places has made it a garden favourite and there are now many cultivars that focus on its dark shiny leaves and the drama of the flower spikes.
It has been introduced into gardens around the world, from where it has escaped into environments where it is not native and does not face pressure from competitor species. In parts of North America it has become invasive, damaging indigenous woodland habitat.
Here, in its European home, bugle is pollinated by bees, butterflies and moths. Bumble bees love it and it is a primary nectar source for some important and increasingly rare species of fritillary butterflies. Hopefully its presence in the reserve will add to our growing list of Lepidoptera.