Moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina) is a new addition to our species lists, reported in May this year by County Recorder, Richard Aisbitt.

It’s a small, low growing, spring flowering perennial that likes damp woodlands. The flowers grow on the tip of a single stem in a cluster of five, positioned at right angles to each other like five of the six faces of a cube. The outward facing flowers usually have five petals and five bifurcated stamens, while the upward facing flower’s constituents come in sets of four. For obvious reasons, it’s sometimes known as townhall clock or five faced bishop.

The flowers are green; instead of using colour to attract day-flying pollinators, it has evolved a musky scent to advertise its presence to flies and nocturnal moths, neither of which rely on colour to find nectar sources. The scent is particularly strong in the evening. Despite the activities of these night-time pollinators, this plant makes few seeds in this country and more usually reproduces by spreading from its rhizomatous roots. 

Like a lot of spring flowering woodland species by this time of year, moschatel’s flowering season is over, what few seeds it is going to make have been made, and the plant is dying back, sending all its resources down into its rhizome to be stored away to fuel next season’s growth.

Header image: moschatel by Andreas Rockstein (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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