Sunday, April 28, 2013

Red-dead nettle, Lamium purpureum

This little flowering plant, so often described as a weed, is currently brightening the ground by the north east corner of our house.


On close inspection the flowers are quite intricate and look like some alien babies with furry hoods and butterfly skirts flying above the maroon-flushed leaves.


Apparently a decoction from the roots was used in County Meath, Ireland "to bring out the rash in measles", something that I thought happened in the normal course of events.  Despite the current measles epidemic, I hope people aren't rushing for the red-dead nettle roots.

Even more remarkable is a comment in Medicinal Plants in Folk Tradition (Allen & Hatfield, 2004) which I feel needs no further comment: "An infusion of Lamium purpureum, in a quart of wine, has been drunk in Essex as a treatment for piles."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lichens and an egg

In a wild part of St Leonards on Sea (sic), I found a dense belt of blackthorn with a post and rail fence running through.  For reasons that were not entirely clear, the branches on one side of the fence were festooned with lichens among the flower buds, while those on the other side had none, not even the smallest amount.

20130418 Mayfield J blackthorn & lichen(8)

I think the phenomenon may have had something to do with the age of the bushes, though there did not appear to be that much difference.

In the garden this afternoon, a female brimstone butterfly located our coppiced alder buckthorn bush and I watched her as she spent several minutes seeking out the twigs she favoured and laying a solitary egg just on or under a leaf bud.

20130425 SV brimstone egg

This is  the only alder buckthorn I know of within a radius of at least a mile (though I may have overlooked some) and I will always marvel at the unerring ability the females have in finding the plants.

Monday, April 01, 2013

More spring than winter

Although it is still very cold, with a biting wind from the east, the sun shone for most of the day and in the garden at long last it felt more like spring than winter.

We have primroses and daffodils out but a very welcome newcomer was a daisy on the lawn opening its petals wide to the sunshine

As Shelley said in his poem The Question:

I dream'd that, as I wander'd by the way,
Bare Winter suddenly was changed to Spring

And later:

Daisies, those pearl'd Arcturi of the earth,
The constellated flower that never sets


'Arcturi' refers to stars, presumably in the region of Arcturus.   The reference to it never setting means, I think, that daisies are nearly always in flower not that the petals do not close up at night.

Chaucer was also a great fan of daisies:

But I am up and walking in the mead
To see this flower against the sunshine spread.
When it upriseth early by the morrow :
That blissful sight doth soften all my sorrow

As well as daisies there were one or two insects about including this fly on our back wall.  Not sure of the identity, but possibly an Egle species, an Anthomiid associated with sallow blossom.