Weeds

The Weed Act of 1959 requires landowners and occupiers to control the spread of five species of injurious weeds: ragwort, creeping thistle, spear thistle, common dock and curled dock. The Weed Act’s purpose was to increase the productivity of arable land and to protect livestock at a time, post WWII, when self sufficiency seemed at lot more important than ecology.

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Creeping thistle

Like ragwort, creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense) is classed as an injurious weed by the Weed Act of 1959. Our hedges and edges are full of it: beautiful, pollen-rich, heavily scented flowers, buzzing with invertebrates, followed by seed heads elevated on stems sturdy enough to support seed-eating birds. Gorgeous.

 

Photographs by DKG

A common spotted orchid, photographed today by Julie Newble.

More orchids here

    Common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)

Ring barking

Ring barking or girdling can kill a tree. It happens when the tree’s bark is removed right the way round its trunk. Accidental girdling may be the result of a carelessly used strimmer, or over-tight wires and ties; it might be mammals gnawing on the bark or, in the case of deer, rubbing their antlers against it.

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Blackthorn

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) is the earliest of our native flowering trees.  In late February it is very distinctive: masses of creamy white blossom on bare black branches. Now, in April, the small nondescript leaves are opening and the plant becomes just one of the many spiny and spiked elements in our hedgerows. In the autumn, blackthorn is once again easily identified by the blue-black fruits we call sloes.

Blackthorn fruits prolifically;  the sloes are very bitter but become more palatable after the first frost. Neolithic peoples dried them to sweeten them and archeologists have found straw lined pits full of sloe-stones, which suggests a method of preservation we no longer understand.

The blue part of a sloe’s blue-black colour is a bloom of yeast; sloes will ferment on the tree and intoxicate the birds that eat them. While there is no proof, it is hard to believe that neolithic people didn’t make sloe wine.

The tree’s thorns, hardened in urine or in a chimney, were used as pins, skewers and awls.

Blackthorn wood is tough and resilient and takes a fine polish. It makes excellent tool handles (the earliest examples we have date from the Roman period) but has been used to make blunt instruments, cudgels, knobkerries, shillelaghs, for a lot longer than that. With judicious pruning and a little patience, blackthorn will produce a thick knobbly stick with a lump on the end.

Black Rod’s black rod is supposedly a blackthorn stick.

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Pictures: Google Images

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Sunday Morning in the Park

BY IAN B.


Pleasant saunter with Pat and all the hounds this morning round Southwick Country Park.  The long tailed tit’s nest is now finished with a cladding of lichen.

 

 

Two reports: a little egret at the pond and a barn owl hunting on Lambrok Meadow but we didn’t see either. We looked for the daffs we planted last year and saw about fifty in flower and lots of blind bulbs all along the edge of Village Green from the decorated bridge around to the seat, and also down by the stream. Not a bad return considering they were supposed to be bedding in the first year.

 

 

The primroses are out all over the place and the first of the blackthorn and the pussy willow are beginning to show. Spring just round the corner. . . . .

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Pictures: Ian B. and SMH

Lesser Celandine

The lesser celandine (Ficaria verna) is the floral equivalent of the swallow, it appears around the same time and marks the coming of spring. In fact the word celandine comes from the Greek name for swallow: chelidon. One of its local names is spring messenger; others are brighteye, butter and cheese, frog’s foot, golden guineas and, less romantically, pilewort because it was once used to treat haemorrhoids.

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