Thursday, November 12, 2015

Terra Incognita

I headed south today in the still warm November autumn.  Our lane runs between hedge and wood to a dead end closed by a wrought iron padlocked gate that does not seem to have been used for a long time.

To the right of this gate there are a number of plants of butcher's broom (Ruscus aculeatus) growing in the hedge.  They have been there as long as I can remember, but I expect they were planted as the species seems to occur almost entirely in hedges in our area.

It is, rather surprisingly, a plant of the asparagus family (Asparagaceae) and has had many uses both practical (brooms etc.) and medicinal being presented, as with many herbs, as a universal cure-all.  I won't list the conditions it is supposed to alleviate, though one remedy I do like is given by Mrs Grieve in her famous herbal "The boughs have been employed for flogging chilblains."  (I hope 'chilblains' isn't a misprint for 'children')  It is supposed to flower in spring, but I found one in bloom today (see picture).  The spear-like 'leaves' are, technically, cladodes, flattened leaf stalks and the flowers appear in the middle of the undersurface of these. Occasionally they turn into attractive red berries.

I carried on into Terra Incognita in the shape of the interior of Framabo Wood.  Framabo is a small property with a caravan and a couple of sheds but has a quite large secondary woodland which is virtually unvisited and whose interior I have never explored.  One hundred and fifty years ago it was an open field then in the early 20th century an orchard.  Now is has large mature trees and coppiced hazels like those in the picture below that look as though they have been there for centuries.  It is salutary to observe how quickly the woods return without any planting or special 'management' help.

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