Sunday, November 22, 2015

End of season, start of season

On one of my most frequent walking routes around Hurst Lane in Sedlescombe I spotted this fading plant of betony (Stachys officinalis) the other day. I cannot imagine how I have missed it until now since, from the green spiky bit at the top of the stalk, it has clearly borne quite a number of flowers through the summer.  It was much used in the past by herbalists as a cure for almost everything.

When I was younger it was much commoner in the countryside than it is today.  It likes road banks and rough fields, but road banks are regularly cut and rough fields ploughed up for 'improvement'.  The one in the photo is, I am sure, the only one over a mile of more of the lane verge and I doubt that it will survive for many more years and not return.

Along the same verge leaves of  winter green cow parsley have been showing for a few weeks. Mostly they are fresh, bright green as in the upper part of the picture right, but sometimes they fade prematurely through pink and white and ultimately brown when they are infected by the microfungus Ramularia anthrisci.  There is also a small fly, Phytomyza chaerophylli, that produces tiny whitish mines towards the tips of the leaves.  Both these are quite common in our area, but probably not often recorded.

Another microfungus that shows up both itself and its host plant at this time of year is Melampsora hypericorum, the hypericum rust shown left spotting the leaves of tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum).  It is not, in my experience, a fatal affliction and the host plant should recover for next year.

Also from the verge of Hurst Lane.

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