Barnwood Arboretum & Nature Reserve

       Wildflower of the month March 2019 Lesser Celandine

           Lesser Celandine – Ficaria verna (Ranunculus ficaria)

Other names include – Butter and Cheese, Pilewort*
One of the Buttercup family Ranunculaceae, (just about the largest plant family in the world) - from the Latin for frog (Rana). Other species include Marsh Marigold, Hellibores, Clematis and Anemones.
Early flowering species with a consistent average flowering date of 21st February, valuable nectar source for early insects such as Queen Bumble bees. Prefers damp soils in grassland, woodland and hedgebanks; very common, often carpeting areas.
Leaves glossy green, rounded/cordate (heart-shaped) in rosettes; flowers composed of 8 or more narrow yellow petals. Creeping stems, spreads mainly by rooting at nodes on stems or in some cases by bulbils – growths in axils of leaves that eventually fall off and new plants grow from these.
Celandine comes form the Greek word for Swallow (Chelidon) supposed to signify the coming of Spring; also known as ‘Spring messenger’ due to early flowering. High in Vitamin C, the young leaves can be eaten in salad although care needs to be taken as sap can cause contact dermatitis.
An unusual use of the petals and leaves in Cumbria was for cleaning teeth!
Not to be confused with the unrelated Greater Celandine which is part of the Poppy family.
*For treating of piles from the doctrine of signatures as bulbous roots said to resemble haemorrhoids.

               Wildflower of the month September 2018 Teasel

                                    Teasel - Dipsacus fullonum

Vernacular names: Venus’s Basin, Brushes and Combs
Flowers: July to August
A biennial plant of the Teasel family – Dipsacaceae (normally seeds germinate one year and plant forms just leaves; second year: flowers, fruits and dies).
This is easily distinguishable with its spiky stem and conical flower heads. Below these is a calyx-like whorl of rigid, spiny bracts; the head also has stiff bracts that surround (known as an epicalyx) and are slightly longer than its pink/purple corollas (collective name for petals). The clusters of flowers first appear in the middle, often forming rings up and down the head.
The leaves in the first year form a basal rosette and are oblong to lanceolate with swollen prickles on the surface; in the second year when stem appears (can reach approx. 2 metres) the leaves are similar in shape but only have prickles on the underside midrib. They also form a cup at the base which collects water (see below).
Their name relates to the teasing out of wool fibres before spinning (known as carding) and raising the nap on fabrics. However, a cultivated variety was more often used in mills. In the 19th Century they were replaced with steel brushes. As mentioned, the water collected in the leaf cup, known as Teasel Water, was believed in the 17th century to remove freckles! In some places is said to still be used such as for relieving itchy eyes – but don’t try this at home.
Other members of the family are Small Teasel and Scabious with their globular heads and oval leaves.

 Wildflower of the month August 2018 Common (black) Knapweed

                      Common (black) Knapweed - Centaurea nigra

Vernacular names: Hard head, Paintbrush, Iron Knobs, Bachelor’s buttons
Flowers: July to September
One of the extensive Daisy (Asteraceae) family, this is one of our later flowering species. It has rough/hairy grooved stems with, more or less, unlobed linear leaves – also known as ‘entire’ leaves. Dull green.
The flower head has what is called an ‘involucre’ which consists of many small bracts (leaf-like structures that initially surround the developing florets) and this helps in identification. They are triangular in shape with brown tips. The flowers themselves, as with all of the Daisy family, consist of many individual florets (a composite head) and are mostly pink/purple – the outer florets can sometimes form a crown-like whorl. Looks a bit thistle-like.
Common in all sorts of grassland including road-verges, quite a hardy species.
John Clare (the 18th Century Poet) describes a Love-divination game where the picking of Knapweed florets is used – a bit like ‘he loves me, he loves me not’.
Also highly rated for its production of nectar – in the Top 5 of all plants.
Said to have once been used for healing ruptures, wounds, bruises and sores.

Wildflower of the month July 2018 Lady's Bedstraw

Lady's bedstraw - Gallium verum

This delicate looking plant is a member of the Bedstraw family (Rubiaceae), which have whorls of leaves along the stem – which is usually four-angled; small white or yellow flowers in clusters (Panicle).
Lady’s Bedstraw has creeping stems with whorls of 8-12 narrow dark green leaves, the margins of these are rolled back (rather than flat like it’s cousins), rough above , paler and hairy below. Small golden yellow flowers, on leafy panicles, that are ‘honey scented’. It does sometimes hybridise with Hedge Bedstraw. In flower from June to August.
It has the scent of new-mown hay when dried and would have been included in straw mattresses – especially in beds used by women giving birth. The scent of the dried flowers is said to act as a flea repellent. Also, once used to add colour to Double Gloucester cheese.
Another name for this plant is Lady’s Tresses.
Other members of the bedstraw family are Cleavers or Goosegrass (Gallium aparine), Hedge Bedstraw (Gallium mollugo) and Wild Madder (Rubia peregrina). Coffee plants are also related to the Bedstraws.

           Wildflower of the month June 2018 Yellow Rattle

                               Yellow rattle - Rinanthus Minor

An intriguing plant – part of the Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae) that includes the likes of Speedwells (Veronica) and Foxgloves (Digitalis). Semi-parasitic on grasses and legumes, that is, it gains some of its nutrients from host plants but still photosynthesises. An important component of semi-natural grasslands as helps contain the more vigorous nature of some grasses, often allowing for more species-rich meadows.
Yellow Rattle has rough, sessile leaves (stalkless), that are lanceolate (lance shaped) with coarse blunt teeth, on black-spotted stems. Yellow flowers form on short spikes and are two-lipped – the upper lip is flattened with two short violet teeth and the lower lip is 3-lobed (divided but not completely separated). The calyx which consists of the sepals (outer set of leaf-like parts surrounding the petals) are very flattened, these turn brown and become inflated. In these the large seeds form and ‘Rattle’ hence the name of the plant. Flowers from May to August.
Other names for the plant are Hay Rattle, Rattlebaskets and Pots and Pans.

           Wildflower of the month May 2018 Cow Parsley

Cow Parsley - Anthriscus sylvestris

A common plant found on most road verges, hedge banks and on woodland edges. Flowering from April to beginning of June.
A member of the ‘Umbellifers’ or Carrot Family (Apiaceae), who can mainly be identified by their flowers which form as an umbel – where the flowers are on stalks (pedicels) that all arise from the top of the main stem. With many of this family further rays arise from the end of these upon which the flowers form. At the base of the leaf-stalks are often sheaths that clasp the stem.
Quite easy to identify, Cow Parsley has fresh-green, fern-like leaves which are 2-3 times pinnate (known as a compound leaf)– where the leaf is divided into leaflets arranged along the stalk and these leaflets may also be divided into further leaflets, as in this case. The flowers are white with small leaf-like appendages at the base of the umbel called bracteoles. Stems and stalks are downy/hairy and hollow, without spots.
Another name for this plant is Queen Anne’s Lace with many explanations to it’s name such as to when she travelled the countryside in May where the roadsides were supposed to have been decorated for her; or that the leaves were said to resemble the lace patterns carried around by Queen Anne’s court ladies. Other interesting vernacular names are Grandpa’s pepper, Badman’s oatmeal or Rabbit meat. The term Cow Parsley is probably a reference to being an inferior version of real parsley.
It is related to the herb garden chervil and it’s young leaves can be mildly aromatic when crushed.
Similar species – Upright Hedge-parsley which has solid, rough stems; dull green, roughly hairy leaves and also has bracts (leaf-like appendages) at base of main umbel which are absent in Cow Parsley. Flowers July-August.

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