Prunella vulgaris goes by many common names – heal-all, woundwort, heart-of-the-earth, carpenter’s herb, brownwort or blue curls – but in these parts it’s best known as selfheal.
Selfheal is tough and adaptable. This specimen, photographed in the reserve last week by Clive Knight, is taking advantage of the unseasonably warm autumn by putting out new growth from its rootstock and extending its flowering season right up to the end of September and maybe even into October.
The late flower needs to attract a pollinator and make viable seed if it isn’t to be a waste of the plant’s energy, so it’s on a long stem that lifts it above the surrounding broadleaved plantain seed heads, hopefully into the flight path of a passing bee.
But if it were growing in your lawn, the stems would be much shorter to keep the flower and the precious seed heads below the reach of your mower blades. Pollinators would soon find the nectar rich flowers in the short grass.
As our climate warms, tough and adaptable are going to be valuable characteristics in the reserve’s flora.