This is common fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica); it is a plant that grows all over the place but nobody ever seems to know its name. As the park’s summer wildflowers go to seed, the fleabane is a welcome splash of colour beside the paths.
Pulix, the root of its genus name, is Latin for flea. The leaves have a soapy smell, and they were used in mediaeval times to repel fleas and other insects; hence the common name fleabane. The dried leaves were mixed in with the rushes that were used to cover earthen floors, or were burned as a fumigant to rid a house of pests and parasites.
The species name, dysenterica, comes from its use in herbal medicine as a treatment for diarrhoea. Often a botanical name contains the history of a plant’s usefulness to humankind.
The distribution of P. dysenterica is stable: common in southern Britain, rarer in the north, absent from Scotland; it reaches its northern European limit in eastern Denmark.
This post was first published in August 2019
Keep a look out for the bright yellow flowers of the Jerusalem artichokes that have settled into the park down by the Lambrok Tributary: