Snowdrop

Tags

,

SNOWDROP – Galanthus nivalis

Flowering : (January) February to March

Snowdrops are iconic flowers that traditionally herald the ending of winter and are the first bulbs to bloom and to show signs of life after the winter months. In Britain, Snowdrops are possibly both native and naturalised and were not recorded as growing wild here until the 1770s. It is likely that many of our colonies of wild Snowdrops originated with ecclesiastical plantings. The pure white blooms of the Snowdrop have long been accepted by the Catholic Church as a symbol of Candlemas, celebrated on February 2nd, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary, and their association with monastic sites is apparent right across Britain.

170130-st-trillo-churchyard-1-snowdrops

130216-chirk-castle-5

Common English name: Snowdrop Scientific name: Galanthus nivalis L. Welsh:Eirlys

Other common names: Candlemas bells, Mary’s taper, Snow-piercer, February fairmaids, Dingle-dangle

Description: Height 15-25cm (6-10″). Strap-shaped bluish-green leaves grow at the base of each stem, which bears a single drooping blossom. The flower has three spreading sepals that grow longer than the its green-tipped petals.

Conservation status: Rated as Near Threatened (NT) according to IUCN Red List criteria.

Habitat: On the European continent Snowdrops grow in wild habitats, in damp woods and meadows up to 1,600 metres.130216-chirk-castle-2

One of the local names for the snowdrop is the ‘snow piercer’ and this describes exactly how the flower pushes its head up through the snow or winter-hardened earth to brighten otherwise gloomy February woodlands.

170102-berc-74-snowdrops

A small leaf-like spathe, or protective sheath, covers the tip of the flowering stem and enables the snowdrop flower to force its way up through the snow.

130216-chirk-castle-1

FOLKLORE

130216-chirk-castleAlthough the flowers are sanctified for Candlemas, the snowdrop is one of the many white blossoms that are still regarded as being unlucky if brought into the house. In parts of Northumberland, Westmorland and Hampshire, single flowers particularly are still viewed as ‘death-tokens’. This may be as one Victorian explanation was that the flower “looked for all the world like a corpse in its shroud”. According to the ‘language of the flowers’, the snowdrop was an emblem for virginity, and a few blooms enclosed in an envelope were often used to warn off over-ardent wooers. In a similar vein, in Yorkshire there was an old custom, again celebrated on Candlemas, for village maidens to gather bunches of snowdrops and wear them as symbols of purity. (extracts from Flora Britannica, Richard Mabey)

170130-st-trillo-churchyard-2-snowdrops

 

RELATIONSHIP WITH INSECTS

130216-chirk-castle-7The snowdrop provides an early source of nectar for bees, which in turn pollinate the flowers. Nectar is secreted by the green-spotted inner petals of the snowdrop and as the bee forages, it brushes onto the female stigma some of the pollen that has stuck to its body whilst visiting other flowers.

TRADITIONAL USES

Ornamental. Medicinal. Insecticide.

MEDICINAL USES

The alkaloid Galantamine, which was initially isolated from snowdrops, has been used in treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, neuritis and neuralgia. In parts of eastern Europe, rubbing snowdrops on the forehead was a folk remedy used for pain relief.

Known hazards: Snowdrops and their bulbs are poisonous to humans and can cause nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting if eaten in large quantities.

Advertisements

Winter Heliotrope

Tags

, ,

Almost hiding the ground with its leaves, Winter heliotrope is a creeping, patch-forming perennial plant that thrives in damp places, often beneath trees and shrubs where it may well overpower other herbaceous plants. The rounded leaves are present all year, then the flowers appear from December to March, although are at their best at the beginning of January.

160123-berc-winter-heliotrope-leaves

Winter heliotrope – Petasites fragrans

170102-berc-73-winter-heliotropeThe pinkish-lilac flowers are 10-12mm across, have a delicious vanilla or heliotrope scent and are carried in spikes 20-25mm long.

Fruits are achenes.

The leaves are present all year round. They are a pleasing rounded heart shape, green above and greyish beneath, measure about 20mm across and are long-stalked.
160123-berc-winter-heliotrope-leaf

The name heliotrope derives from the old idea that the inflorescences of the plant turned their rows of flowers to follow the sun. Helios is Greek for ‘sun’ and trepeine means ‘to turn.’

Heliotrope is much used in the perfume industry and features in many popular  fragrances.

Heliotrope is also the name of a colour taken from the pink-purple of the flowers of a species of this family of plants, first recorded as a colour name in English in 1882.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wildflowers in January

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

January 2017, first two weeks

Weather has its part to play in the timing of the appearance of our wildflowers and this year has already presented our bit of the North Wales coast with a mixed bag of it. So far we’ve had cold frosty days, cold strong-windy days, bright sunshine-filled days and this week, mild but dull misty days. Generally January is probably the least productive month for wildflowers in Wales, and indeed most of the British Isles, but other than in the harshest of weather, there are some that are tough enough to bring forth their blossoms to brighten our walks.

Wildflowers in season

“When gorse is not in flower, kissing is out of season”

170111-berc006-walk-woodland-trail

The old quotation above is meant to imply that as kissing is never ‘out of season’, then rarely is gorse not in flower, which is largely true. Although it blossoms more prolifically in some months than in others, it is usually to be found somewhere along a walk, bringing a burst of welcome sunshine gold to the dullest January day. Although cold days don’t coax out the blossom’s delicious coconut-vanilla fragrance into the air, it’s always worth getting in close to seek it out. It’s such an uplifting scent.

170102-berc-20-gorse

Gorse-January 2nd

Winter heliotrope is another plant worth getting close to for their lovely vanilla-like scent. This is one of the more unusual wildflowers that grows here and I know of only two patches locally, so they probably originally escaped from one of the gardens of one of the nearby large Victorian houses.

170102-berc-71-winter-heliotrope

Winter heliotrope – January 2nd

Although they are a wild flower, the snowdrops I come across are mostly in gardens. These are my first ones for this year.

170102-berc-74-snowdrops

Snowdrops – January 2nd

Maybe a little early? 

170111-berc013-walk-hazel-catkinsHazel begins to produce its new catkins in the late autumn, but I was surprised to find one tree with a full crop of fully-grown catkins quite this early. It is one tree of many growing in a little grove of once-coppiced hazel trees that line part of one of my regular walking paths. I can’t begin to guess why it so far ahead of its neighbours, unless it has a particularly sheltered spot reached by the sun perhaps?

170111-berc011-walk-hazel-catkins

Hazel catkins – January 11th

There may be a shortage of flowers to be found, but there are still berries to be found on holly, wild rose and hawthorn. They may not last long now as most will have been ‘frosted’, which may need to happen before birds eat them.

Fruits in the wake of  flowers

170111-berc001-walk-holly-berries

Holly berries

Rose hips

Rose hips

Haws

Haws

Tutsan is present here, doubtless a one-time escapee from a local garden but now included as a wildflower. It has retained many of its leaves and its berries are now fully ripe, black and beginning to wither.

170111-berc007-walk-tutsan-berries-are-black

Ivy is prolific here and berries are in varying stages of ripeness in different locations; they are an extremely important source of winter food  for many species of birds when little else is available to them.

170111-berc025-walk-ivy-berries

170111-berc015-walk-iris-foetidissima-berries

The curious Stinking Iris (Iris foetidissima) is native to this part of the country and fairly prolific now, quite possibly due to the distribution of its bright red berries by birds, particularly blackbirds, although they are not eating them yet. It too retains its foliage throughout the winter.

170111-berc016-walk-iris-foetidissima-leaves

Some plants retain their seedheads throughout the winter, most famously the Wild Clematis, or Old Man’s Beard for the way in which it drapes its white fluffy seedheads over other shrubs.

Old mans beard over blackthorn

Old mans beard over blackthorn

170102-berc-64-clematis-seedheads

Knapweed too still has its seedheads and a stand of them on the hillside looked pretty when lit by the low sunshine.

170102-berc-31-knapweed-seedheads

All-year rounders

When winters are mild, some wildflowers will produce blooms throughout the year. The starry little Common Daisy is one such, although this year I have seen only one so far.

170102-berc-69-daisy

Common daisy-January 2nd

Post-Summer Survivors

In a sheltered corner of an old limestone ruin, a dainty Herb Robert shows a single little flower. I’m including this as a late survivor as this is not quite an all-year round plant, flowering ‘officially’ from (March) April to November.

170111-berc026-walk-herb-robert-on-wall

Herb Robert – January 11th

Shetered by another wall, this time along the roadside, a Sow thistle, quite comfortable thank you.

170102-berc-66-sow-thistle

Sow thistle-January 2nd

New beginnings

In sheltered spots there are already plants producing new leaves. Those of Alexanders, which will be one of the first to bring forth its flowers, usually during February, are already quite well grown in the shelter of the woods.

170111-berc005-walk-alexanders-leaves

Alexanders – January 11th

Also sheltered by shrubbery, dead leaves and last year’s dried stems, these new Stinging nettle leaves have already been nibbled.

170111-berc030-walk-nettles

Stinging nettle – January 11th

That’s what I’ve photographed in the last couple of weeks, so although January may appear to be resting time, just waiting for the Spring, nature never truly sleeps.

 

Eyebright

Tags

, , , , , ,

Common Eyebright Euphrasia nemorosa (formerly E.officinalis): other English names: Euphrasy: in Welsh it is Effros  

One of the prettiest wildflowers of late summer, brightening the British countryside from our lowland moors to mountain peaks. Adaptable little plants, Eyebright species are generally semi-parasitic, feeding off the nutrients from the roots of nearby grasses in undisturbed habitats. 

120818-Eyebright plant, Little Orme

Common Eyebright-Euphrasia nemorosa-Little Orme

Flowering: (June) July to September

Height: Low to  Short; 5-25cm (2-8″)

Native to Great Britain, Eyebright is a member of the Orobanchaceae family (formerly included in the Scrophulariaceae family).

Status: Widespread throughout and locally common, but declining.

Habitat & Ecology:  Found in a wide variety of undisturbed grassy places on downs, pastures, heaths, cliffs and woods. Semi-parasitic they grow successfully only where their roots can attach themselves to other plants such as grasses, clovers and plantains. For this reason, they are quite useful plants in terms of keeping vigorous grasses at bay in order that wildflowers can thrive.

150714-Little Orme-Eyebright

DESCRIPTION

Eyebrights are extremely variable in appearance with 20 or more species that have a tendency to hybridise with each other, resulting in about 60 micro-species, so many would need an expert to make more than an intelligent guess at identification. My description refers mainly to the most frequently-occurring Common Eyebright – Euphrasia nemerosa. I have included images of variations that I have found locally, but would not like to even hazard a guess as to whether or not they may be recognised sub-species.

151008-Bryn Pydew-Eyebright flowers151008-Bryn Pydew-Eyebright with lilac flowers 2The small flowers are 5-10mm long, in leafy spikes; the corolla is two-lipped; lower lip is three-lobed; whitish in colour, but sometimes wholly or partly lilac; they have a yellow throat and purple veins, (nectar guides for insects), radiate from the centre towards the edges of the upper and lower petals: fruits are capsules: the stem is strong and branched, branches coming off in opposite pairs leaves are more or less oval, sharply toothed, pale, dark , bronzy or purplish-green and borne in opposite pairs. 

140805TGNW-8- Eyebright with purple leaves-Bryn Euryn

Most of the plants growing on Bryn Euryn are strongly tinged reddish-purple

RELATIONSHIP WITH INSECTS

Pollination: The lower lip of the flower acts as a landing stage for visiting insects which are then guided to the nectar source by the purple lines marked on its surface. The upper lip protects the stamens and the style, the latter projecting forwards so it touches visiting insects first and receives pollen from another flower, thus ensuring cross-pollination. As the insect probes deeply for nectar, pollen is showered onto its back from the stamens which are above it.

ETYMOLOGY ( THE PLANT NAME )      

160805-Bryn Euryn- Eyebright-with purple on petals

There are sometimes a few plants occurring on the downland slope of Bryn Euryn that are overall more bronze-green with flowers that are lilac with large purple blotches

The generic name Euphrasia is derived from the Greek word euphraino, translated as ‘to gladden’, possibly a reference to the plant’s reputed medicinal powers ‘to gladden the eye’. The common name Eyebright may have come about for similar reasons or maybe just because the flowers do indeed have a bright eye.

FOLKLORE, LEGEND & LITERATURE

The 17th century botanist, William Cole recorded in his book titled Adam in Eden, that eyebright was the herb used by the Linnet to clear its eyesight. In the 18th century, the belief was held that certain plants, based on their appearance or characteristics could cure human ailments. So maybe it is not surprising that this plant, with its ‘bright-eyed’ appearance was thought to improve poor eyesight. In ‘Paradise Lost’, the poet Milton wrote:

Michael from Adam’s eyes the filme remov’d

Which that false Fruit that promis’d clearer sight

Had bred; then purg’d with Euphrasie and Rue

The visual Nerve, for he had much to see.

MODERN HERBAL OR MEDICINAL USES

An extract made from eyebright and the herb Golden seal is still used today as a lotion to relieve eye irritations and eye strain.

 

August on the Bryn

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

August 5th

In the woods foliage is verdant and heavy, reaching out to the light across the tracks and rides. But the signs of a summer past its peak are beginning to show as plants divert their energies into their most important task; that of fruit production.

160805-Bryn Euryn (16)-Woodland trail

The Hazels bear a few fully-formed nuts, but here at least only a few will achieve maturity. Grey squirrels grab all they can reach, careless of whether they are ripe or not, leaving the debris of their wanton pickings strewn on the ground beneath the trees.

In the meadow the grasses have set seed, their long stems golden and hay-dry. The mid-summer flush of wildflowers has more or less subsided with only scattered blooms of dainty harebell, lady’s bedstraw and white clover tucked down in the long grass.

160805-Bryn Euryn (27)-Adder's field

In their stead the tougher, bolder-coloured blooms characteristic of late summer are peaking and will provide the nectar and pollen vital to the sustenance of the insect population.

160805-Bryn Euryn (60)-stand of Hemp Agrimony

The swathe of Hemp Agrimony bordering between the meadow’s edge and the trees, was literally buzzing with insects on this sunny but windy day. Many of the visitors were male bumblebees. With no hive duties to perform they have only themselves to care for and can afford to spend what remains of their lives lingering long and gorging on nectar. The plant is a favourite of the bigger butterflies too – you may see Red Admiral or a gorgeous Peacock feasting here – provided there are any about of course.

Ragwort is  not as abundant here as in other places locally, but what there is was well-visited by a variety of insects from tiny hoverflies to butterflies.

160805-Bryn Euryn (8)-Ragwort flowers

One particular flowerhead was occupied by a damaged 6-spot Burnet moth that was still in situ a couple of hours later as I passed by on my way home. It will be safe there- the moths are poisonous, so left alone by potential predators.

One of the more unusual wildflowers found in this little hillside meadow is the Wild Onion, or Nodding Wild Onion as it is sometimes referred to. In previous years I have found it was particularly attractive to the little Common Blue butterflies, but alas there were no blue butterflies to be found today and the flowers are already producing fruits – a rounded cluster of tiny bulbils.

160703-Bryn Euryn-Eyebright 2There are two semi-parasitic wildflowers to be found here now. One is the lovely little Eyebright which has been in flower for a while now but that will continue into September; the other in lesser amounts, is Red Bartsia. Both plants take their nourishment from the roots of grasses. Much of the Eyebright here on Bryn Euryn shows up from where it grows low in the grass as all parts of the plant other than the flowers are tinged a strong bronzy-purple.

160805-Bryn Euryn (79a)-Red Bartsia-Odontites vernus

Red Bartsia – Odontites vernus

Higher up towards the summit of the hill and again on the downland slope Knapweed is more prolific. It too is beloved by insects, but on a windy day such as today when the flowers are vigorously bending and swaying, they make for a tricky landing and even trickier photographs.

160805-Bryn Euryn (78)-View

Hogweed is still flowering strongly and feeding insects whilst simultaneously setting seed.

160805-Bryn Euryn (21)-hogweed flowering & seeding

And there are ripe blackberries and sweet wild raspberries to add little treats to the walk home.

The ‘Bryn’ referred to in the post title is Bryn Euryn, a limestone hill of which much is a Local Nature Reserve, located in Rhos-on-Sea (Llandrillo-yn-Rhos), in Conwy, North Wales.  Grid Reference: SH 832798

The Bryn is the basis of many posts on my longer-established blog ‘Everyday Nature Trails’.

Yarrow-Achillea millefolium

Tags

, , , , , ,

Yarrow-Achillea millefolium, also known in English as woundwort; nosebleed plant; staunch grass; old man’s pepper; devil’s nettle, sanguinary; milfoil; soldier’s woundwort; thousand-leaf, and thousand-seal. In Welsh it is Milddail.

Yarrow is tough, a survivor in a wide variety of habitats, with a history of use by mankind culturally and medicinally reaching back to ancient times.  

160714-Gt Orme 02-West Beach-Yarrow jpg

Flowering: (June) July to September

160714-Gt Orme 01-West Beach-Yarrow

14/7/16-Yarrow lining a sandy path of West Shore, Llandudno

HabitatYarrow grows from sea level to 3,500 metres (11,500 ft) in elevation. It thrives throughout the British Isles in meadows and hedgerows, on road verges and wasteland and in sandy coastal places.  Having deep, water-seeking tap roots, yarrow is able to resist drought and to persist on roadsides and verges that are mown: cutting blades are usually set high, resulting in only the flowers being lost while the rest of the plant remains to grow again. They also flower after the spring cut and by the time the autumn cut is made, most of the plants are seeding.

140722TGNW-Yarrow-Little Orme

Description:

A plant native to Great Britain, Yarrow is a member of the Asteraceae (Daisy) family.

Yarrow is an upright, short to medium height, downy, strongly aromatic perennial plant. Stems are furrowed, stiff, unbranched  and creeping. The flowers are 4-6mm across and arranged in clusters in flat-topped  heads comprising yellowish disc florets and white to pink ray florets. The attractive feathery leaves are dark green and finely divided. Fruits are achenes.

THE PLANT NAME

The genus name, Achillea is said to have been attributed to the plant as Achilles, the legendary Greek warrior-hero, was said to have applied yarrow to heal wounds made by iron weapons in the Trojan War. The species name millefolium, meaning ‘thousand leaf’, refers to the plants numerous feathery leaves.The English name yarrow comes from the Old English word gearwe, which is related to both the Dutch word gerw and the Old High German word garawa.

IMPORTANCE TO INSECTS

It attracts predatory wasps, which drink the nectar and then use insect pests as food for their larvae.

Wasp nectaring on yarrow flowers- Llandudno

Yarrow provides a rich source of nectar in late summer when many earlier wildflowers have finished flowering. It is particularly attractive to predatory wasps and hoverflies and is useful in gardens as a companion plant to attract these insects, which drink the nectar and then take insect pests as food for their larvae.

 

FOLKLORE & LEGEND

2012-9-15TGNW-Yarrow seedhead

Yarrow seedhead

In East Anglia, as late as 1900, yarrow was credited with the power to avert spells and sickness if it was scattered on doorsteps and hung on cradles on Midsummer Eve. In the Fens, yarrow-stuffed cushions were a safeguarding household accessory. Similarly in Ireland, yarrow was held to drive away evil and sickness, but also as a potion that would not only increase physical attractiveness, but also protect people from being hurt by the opposite sex. In a Gaelic chant a woman says: ” I will pick the green yarrow that my figure may be fuller… that my voice will be sweeter… that my lips will be like the juice of the strawberry… I shall wound every man, but no man shall harm me.” In the Hebrides a leaf held against the eyes was believed to give second sight.

TRADITIONAL USES

In the Middle Ages, yarrow was part of an herbal mixture known as gruit used in the flavoring of beer prior to the use of hops. Yarrow has also been used as a food or in teas, and was very popular as a vegetable in the 17th century. The younger leaves are said to be a pleasant leaf vegetable when cooked like spinach, or in a soup. Yarrow is sweet with a slight bitter taste. The dried leaves can also be used as a flavouring herb in cooking.

MEDICINAL USES

A. millefolium has a well-documented historical use in traditional medicine, often because of its astringent effects. The herb is purported to be a diaphoretic (inducing sweating), astringent, tonic,]stimulant and mild aromatic. It contains isovaleric acid, salicylic acid, asparagin, sterols, flavonoids, bitters, tannins, and coumarins. This medicinal use is also reflected in some of the common names mentioned above, such as ‘staunchweed’ and ‘soldier’s woundwort’.

As with Achilles, in Great Britain the Anglo-Saxons also believed that the plant, which is sometimes also referred to as woundwortwould instantly cleanse and heal injuries made with sharp-edged tools. In this event it was pounded with grease and applied as an ointment or poultice. Another old name ‘nosebleed plant’ is a little confusing, some sources claim the fresh leaves will staunch a nosebleed, whilst others say it will cause a nosebleed, thus relieving a headache or ‘megrim’. In Suffolk an old rhyme says ‘Green yarrow, green yarrow, you bears a white blow, If my love loves me, my nose will bleed now!’

AROMATHERAPY

The dark blue essential oil, extracted by steam distillation of the flowers, has been traditionally used for a wide variety of complaints including fever, nervous tension and digestive problems and also as an anti-inflammatory and in chest rubs for colds and influenza. It is said to promote hair growth and as it has astringent properties, to tone skin. This oil also kills the larvae of the mosquito Aedes albopictus.

 

Lady’s Bedstraw-Galium verum

Tags

, ,

Lady’s Bedstraw-Galium verum,  also known in English as Our Lady’s Bedstraw; Yellow Bedstraw; Maid’s Hair; Petty Mugget;cheese rennet; cheese renning. In Welsh it is Briwydd felen.

In the summer months frothy sunshine-yellow Lady’s Bedstraw brightens the grass and on a warm sunny day scents the air with the delicate fragrance of fresh-cut hay.

160703-55-Bryn Euryn-Lady's BedstrawFlowering: June to September

Habitat: Lady’s Bedstraw most often occurs in dry habitats, often near to the sea. It grows in dry grassland, on dry banks, on downs and old established sand-dunes. However, it has also been seen beside wet flushes on coastal cliffs.

A native plant to Great Britain, Lady’s Bedstraw is a member of the Rubiaceae family. A near relative of goose grass, or cleavers, but has no prickles. This slightly downy and sprawling perennial plant, bears tiny bright yellow 4-petalled flowers (2-3mm ), borne in clusters. The stem is branched, square, long, thin and weak. Leaves are exceptionally small and borne in whorls of 6-8. 

Lady's Bedstraw on sand in Norfolk-East Runton cliff

Lady’s Bedstraw on sand in Norfolk-East Runton cliff

IMPORTANCE TO INSECTS

Lady’s bedstraw is a food source for the huge Elephant hawk-moth caterpillar, then is favoured by the adult moths as a rich source of nectar. The migrant Humming-bird Hawk Moth is attracted to it too.

FOLKLORE & LEGEND

One version of a Medieval legend has it that the Virgin Mary lay on a bed of Lady’s Bedstraw in the stable of the inn in Bethlehem; a variation is that she used it to line the manger in which she laid the baby Jesus. Either way is likely that the common name for the plant was taken from this legend. It also led to the belief that a woman lying on matress filled with Lady’s Bedstraw would have a safe and easy childbirth.

160703-46-Bryn Euryn -Lady's Bedstraw

Lady’s Bedstraw growing on calcereous grassland-Bryn Euryn, North Wales

TRADITIONAL USES

150712-55-Bryn Euryn--lady's bedstrawLady’s Bedstraw was once one of the most useful of the meadow herbs; domestically it was used as a ‘strewing herb’, a natural form of air-freshening. The dried flower tops were used to stuff matresses, in part because the scent of the chemical coumarin produced by the plant acts as a deterrent to fleas.

In the north of England the yellow flowers were once used to curdle milk, giving rise to several associated names such as cheese rennet and cheese renning. The name of this genus, Galium, from the Greek word gala, milk, is supposed to have been given from this property of the plants. In Gloucestershire, it was used to colour Double Gloucester cheese. The leaves and stems yield a yellow dye and the roots a red dye, although as the plant parts are so small, large quantities are needed for that purpose; it was said that when cattle feed on it, it reddens their bones.

MEDICINAL USES

Lady’s Bedstraw contains the chemical coumarin, used in the drug dicouramol, which will prevent the blood clotting. In herbal medicine it was claimed the herb was a remedy for for urinary diseases, epilepsy and gout.

 

Lesser Celandine

Tags

,

Lesser Celandine- Ranunculus ficularia, also known in English as pilewort, small celandine, smallwort, figwort, brighteye, butter and cheese. In Welsh it is Lygad ebrill.

150318TG-Old Colwyn-Celandine flowers 3Amongst the earliest wildflowers to bloom, the Lesser celandine has long been one of my favourite wildflowers. When I was a child growing up in Northamptonshire, a part of my walking route to school was along a Green Lane. This was a narrow pathway with grass verges backed by hedgerows and mainly used as a short-cut to the village by anyone walking or riding a horse or bike.

Behind the hedge on one side was a small field that was often boggy and there was a drainage ditch on the lane side to prevent it flooding. Needless to say it was damp there and generally shady; the perfect place for celandines to thrive. They were the first of the wildlowers to appear here and I looked forward to their appearance avidly.

f329582190I used to think their shiny golden yellow faces captured some of the sunshine whilst it shone, then held it within their tightly closed petals to keep them warm on cold dull cloudy days. I learnt very young that these were not the flowers to pick to take home to my mum, but I remember how the sight of them used to gladden my heart, as it still does, signalling that the spring was on its way.

21/2/12-Lesser Celandines, Colwyn Bay

The plant itself is small (5-30cm tall). The dark green, shiny, heart-shaped leaves grow spirally arranged around long weak stalks from the base. The leaves are sometimes mottled with light or dark markings; they lie flat on the ground unless held up by surrounding plants.The flowers are bright, glossy yellow, fading to nearly white at the petal base as they age.

The Lesser celandine is one of the first flowering plants to appear at the end of the winter (February to May). Gilbert White, the famed author of  ‘The Natural History of Selborne’  reported that the plants came out on February 21, but it is more commonly reported to flower from March until May, and is sometimes called the “spring messenger” as a consequence.

IMPORTANCE TO INSECTS

As with most early flowering plants, the lesser celandine provides welcome nectar to a variety of insects and although they are pollinated by bees, such as the Buff-tailed bumble bee, Red-tailed bumble bee, flies and beetles, very few seeds are typically set. They open when few insects are around so not many seeds are produced and spread is mainly vegetative by tiny bulbils which develop in the leaf axils and these drop onto the soil as the plant dies back.

THE MEANING OF THE NAME

The plant’s  common name, lesser celandine, was mistakenly given to it when it was thought to be one and the same plant as the true or greater celandine, to which it bears no resemblance except in the colour of its flowers – both being yellow. The word celandine comes from the Greek word chelidon, meaning swallow, the greater celandine coming into bloom when these birds arrive, and withering on their departure. The scientific name Ranunculus is Late Latin for “little frog,” from rana “frog” and a diminutive ending. This probably refers to many species being found near water, like frogs. The plant grows from root-tubers, which are said to look like bunches of figs. This explains the second part of the scientific name of the plant, ficaria, which is Latin for fig.

THE CELANDINE IN POETRY

The flower folds its petals on dull and wet days

A number of poems have been written about the celandine. The poet William Wordsworth was very fond of the flower and it inspired him to write three poems including the following, which are the first two verses from his ode to the celandine:

The Lesser Celandine 

There is a Flower, the Lesser Celandine,
That shrinks, like many more, from cold and rain;
And, the first moment that the sun may shine,
Bright as the sun himself, ’tis out again!

When hailstones have been falling, swarm on swarm,
Or blasts the green field and the trees distressed,
Oft have I seen it muffled up from harm,
In close self-shelter, like a Thing at rest.

William Wordsworth

Upon Wordsworth’s death it was proposed that a celandine be carved on his memorial plaque inside the church of Saint Oswald at Grasmere, but unfortunately the Greater Celandine Chelidonium majus,  was mistakenly used.

THE CELANDINE IN TRADITIONAL HERBAL MEDICINE

The plant used to be known as Pilewort because it was used to treat haemorrhoids. Supposedly, the knobbly tubers of the plant resemble piles, and according to the doctrine of signatures, this resemblance suggests that pilewort could be used to cure piles.

The German vernacular Scharbockskraut (“Scurvyherb”) derives   from the use of the early leaves, which are high in vitamin C, to prevent scurvy. The plant is widely used in Russia and is sold in most pharmacies as a dried herb.

The Moon Daisy

Tags

, , , , ,

Flowering prolifically along many of our roadsides and motorway verges nowadays, you may know this familiar and lovely daisy as the Ox-eye Daisy, but I grew up knowing it as the Moon Daisy, which I think is prettier. This is our largest native daisy. A typical grassland plant that would once have been common in meadows where there was long grass, this adaptable daisy also thrives on waste or disturbed grounds and also features along field edges and in other habitats now deliberately looked after for wildlife.

A swathe of moon daisies at Bodnant Gardens, North Wales

A swathe of moon daisies at Bodnant Gardens, North Wales

Common English names Ox-eye Daisy, Moon Daisy,Moonpenny, Dog Daisy Welsh name Llygad Llo Scientific name Leucanthemum vulgare Family Daisy family; Asteraceae ; a native plant

This is one of our loveliest summer flowers, producing blooms from June to September and frequently grows in masses of white. It is easy to identify by its large, round flower heads that appear on single, tall stems.

150610-Bodnant Garden 5

May insects are attracted to the flowers

Many insect species are attracted to the flowers

The large daisy-like flowers (25-50mm) are actually not just one flower, but a composite of a number of tiny flowers which make up the yellow disc in the middle and the surrounding white ‘ray florets’ (which look like petals). They are borne on strong, erect, ridged stems (to 80cm high). The dark green leaves at the base of the plant are not unlike those of the small daisy, though larger and more deeply cleft; they are spoon-shaped, stalked and form a rosette, the stem leaves are alternate, lanceolate and sessile.

150610-Bodnant Garden 3

Origin of the names 

The  plant’s scientific name Leucanthemum is from the Ancient Greek (leukós, “white”) and (ánthos, “flower”).

The name Daisy comes from the Old English ‘dæges ēage’  or day’s eye, as the flower opened up as the sun came up.  Its large blooms are so bright that they appear to ‘glow’ in the evening, hence the alternative common names of ‘Moon Daisy’ and ‘Moonpenny’.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Ox-eye daisies growing on the Parrog, Newport, Pembrokeshire

A flowery meadow on a limestone hillside

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The meadow, known by older locals as the Adders’ Field is located on a limestone hillside in North Wales. It is not much of a field really, maybe more of a clearing in the woodland and I have yet to spot an Adder there, but despite the through-traffic of folks and dogs it is home to an array of lovely wildflowers.

At the entrance to the Adders' Field

At the entrance to the Adders’ Field (click on image to enlarge)

Although the area is relatively small, it has dry open grassland as you can see, a small rocky outcrop that is the other side of the rise, top right of the image, that dips down to a damper area sheltered by trees. On the left is a woodland edge with gorse and hawthorn shrubbery and at the top end a lovely mix of trees including oak, ash and silver birch. May is the perfect month in which to see many of the wildflowers at their best and now as June approaches those at their peak a couple of weeks ago are fading and beginning to set seed, but there are others waiting to take the limelight.

15th May-Cowslips and Early Purple Orchids

15th May-Cowslips and Early Purple Orchids

This year the Cowslips and Early Purple Orchids have produced prolific and beautiful displays.

A quietly stunning display of  Cowslips

A quietly stunning display of Cowslips on field edge

Cowslips with Salad Burnet

Cowslips with Salad Burnet

A deeply shaded Early Purple Orchid

A lighter shaded Early Purple Orchid

A lighter shaded Early Purple Orchid

The rocky outcrop I mentioned earlier is a miniature natural rockery. It is well sheltered and gets plenty of sun and is now supporting a surprising number of plant species, most of them with yellow flowers.

A natural rockery

A natural rockery

There are a couple of clumps of Hoary Rockrose, a nationally rare plant that thrives on this hillside.

Hoary Rockrose

Hoary Rockrose

Common rockrose, which is prolific across most of the upper areas of the hill;

Common Rockrose

Common Rockrose

there is Bird’s Food Trefoil cascading over the  rocks which shows off how pretty this plant is. It’ s more often at ground level where it’s harder to appreciate.

Bird's Foot Trefoil

Bird’s Foot Trefoil

There is a small patch too of Kidney Vetch; this is one of the few spots I am aware of it growing locally.

Kidney Vetch

Kidney Vetch

Then there is a little bit of the tiny- flowered Hop Trefoil

Hop Trefoil

Hop Trefoil

and for a tiny touch of contrast, a sprinkle of Wild Thyme.

Wild Thyme

Wild Thyme

This combination of plant species, except the Kidney Vetch, occurs on other parts of the upper hillside, but it is nice to see them here in this ‘mini-habitat’. The grassy area around the outcrop is also studded with golden yellow, here in the form of buttercups. 150513TGBE-Bryn Euryn woodland path 20-Buttercups In the original image you can just see the white flowers of a Burnet Rose peeking in to the frame. They are flowering now, although I fancy not as prolifically as last year and many of the flowers seem smaller.

A straggly branch of Burnet Roses

A straggly branch of Burnet Roses

I did though spot one spray of bigger roses that would have been perfect as an off-the-shrub bridal bouquet, if a bit prickly to hold.

Burnet Rose

Burnet Rose

Nearby, growing up through the grass, was a much more modest plant, a pretty pink/purple Common Vetch.

Common Vetch

Common Vetch