Introduction to My Wonderful Weed Weekly Blog

To talk kindly about the weeds in my weekly blog, we first need to identify those weeds of which many people despise…!

I found the RHS website very useful please see here.

and how to tackle them:

This website mentions over 20 most troublesome weeds, upon which I will hope to do a write up in the coming weeks. As my partner is going through 1000’s of pictures taken by him in the last 10 years, I will occasionally stray to another weed/native plant which I think is worth you knowing about!

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Useful Native Grasses or the Poaceae

A typical weedy grass called Hordeum murinum or Wall Barley

Grasses are very useful as well as beautiful!

The family of Poaceae or Grasses in common language, is family number 177, which is the last family in Stace’s.

It is by far the largest family in the temperate world as grasses flourish in nearly every habitat!

Not a surprise therefore that they are most useful for us and other animals!

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Lythrum hyssopifolia or grass-poly

The rare grass-poly (picture from Wikipedia)

Grass-poly or Lythrum hyssopifolia was in the news the other day:

A rare plant that vanished from a farmland pond more than a century ago has ‘come back from the dead’.

Delighted conservationists found the pinkish-flowered species, known as grass-poly, growing in rural Norfolk by a neglected waterhole.

The stunning plant reappeared after seeds submerged in the mud were disturbed during work to restore the pond.

Lets have a look at this plant and the rest of its family!

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Conifers in the British Isles

This week I was inspired to write something about the Ethnobotanical uses of conifers!

Conifers are magnificent, awe-inspiring plants that have resisted 300 million years of whatever the planet has thrown at them!

Scots Pines at Church Preen, Shropshire

My earlier posts have all been about Flowering Plants or Angiosperms which evolved from ~125 million years ago.

The main difference with the conifers is that the seeds develop in ovaries and are surrounded by a protective fruit.

The conifers are also called Gymnosperms or Naked seeds bearers in plain English..

See here for a longer explanation between Gymnosperms and Angiosperms.

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Resedaceae or the Mignonette family

Wild Mignonette growing at Abbotstone Downs in Hampshire

This week I like to write about a small family here on the British Isles with only 5 species mentioned in Stace, whereby just 2 are native and 3 are introduced species.

I got inspired to write this post as I noticed the Weld plant on a boatyard we visited last week. I love the rosettes of wrinkly leaves and the tall spikes of small flowers.

Another mignonette, not native, called the Garden Mignonette or Reseda odorata is well worth growing due to its lovely scent! I have been growing it in hanging baskets this last season on our allotment for this reason. It is supposed to be annual although it survived last year’s winter!

All the information found is again from various Floras and websites and the links for those are provided. Have utilized the info in our very own Flora of Birmingham and the Black Country this time which is produced by Ecorecord. Pictures by Matt Summers unless stated otherwise.

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Part Two of the Malvaceae: The Limes

The Lime trees are recognisable large trees often planted along roads and in parks. They often get pruned very hard, a process called: pollarding, which may happen in restricted areas such as shown in the picture above. Fortunately the trees in Walsall are not pruned so are extremely scented when in flower and very useful for honeybees!

They have heart-shaped leaves, fragrant flowers in summer and later the round, pea-size fruit are attached to the persistent papery leaf called a bracteole which ‘sails’ down to the ground eventually and possibly form a new tree if it finds some suitable soil!

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Mallows and Limes in the Malvaceae family- Part 1

Malva sylvestris or Common Mallow growing as a pretty weed (by Mike Poulton)

I was inspired to write up about the Mallows this week as I have many seedlings of the Common Mallow below a large mother plant on my allotment and I noticed that my opposite neighbour also had some. When I spoke to her she was just about to dig some large specimen up and told me she had several all over her allotment too. So this lovely, innocent looking plant can be a little invasive!

The Malvaceae includes the easy recognisable, pink flowered Mallows as well as our Lime trees. This seems very unlikely as they do not resemble each other in the slightest and therefore they have often been separated into the Tiliaceae as for example in the Wild Flower Key by F. Rose. However according to Stace the molecular evidence shows that genus Tilia should be united in the Mallow family. As there are too many Mallows to write about I will cover the Limes in a next post!

Most information is again from various websites or books and floras for which are provided links throughout the text for some more information. If you are very interested in this family it is worth getting the Mallow notebook through the fabulous Eatweeds.co.uk. It has a lot more descriptions about the individual Mallows as well as good pictures for identification.

Now first some more scientific stuff:

Plumbaginaceae; the Thrift or Sea Lavender Family

The Plumbaginaceae is an attractive family with ca 30 genera world wide although on the British Isles we only got 2 genera: Armeria and Limonium.

Armeria in wintertime is an attractive site!

We start with Armeria maritima or Thrift which is the only native species growing along our coasts. It is a common sight in British salt marshes too, where it flowers April to October.

Armeria maritima has a great copper-tolerance, and is able to grow in soils with copper concentrations of up to 6400 mg/kg. One mechanism proposed is that not much copper is transported up the shoot of the plant, and is excreted from decaying leaves.

All pictures by Matt Summers.

Viburnum, Moschatel and Dwarf Elder: more members of the Adoxaceae

The last 2 posts were about the native members of the Caprifoliaceae and members which had moved into the Adoxacea in the last edition of Stace. This post will talk about all the plants I missed out on.

The Adoxaceae is a small family consisting of five genera and about 150–200 species.

In older classifications, this entire family was part of Caprifoliaceae, the honeysuckle family.  Adoxa (moschatel) was the first plant to be moved to this new group. Much later, the genera Sambucus (Elders) and Viburnum were added after careful morphological analysis and biochemical tests by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group.

The Elder and other members of the Adoxaceae family Part 1

Sambucus nigra or Common Elder is a hugely useful plant and therefore cannot be called a weed at all!

It used to be a member of the Caprifoliaceae but now it belongs in the Adoxacea together with Viburnum and Adoxa with the most modern thinking in Plant Taxonomy.

I had done a post back in 2018, which was all about the virtues of our Common Elder.

As there is a lot of information available about this plant on various websites I will just list most of the uses in a very edited form and you can find links to the various websites available. I like to specially mention the Eatweeds website by Robin Harford giving much interesting information about Elder and many other so called weeds!

All pictures and poem by my partner Matt Summers.

Honeysuckle, Elders, and other (former) genera from the Caprifoliaceae family

I was just reminded that The Elder does not belong into the Caprifoliaceae family any longer but is now in the Adoxaceae family together with genus Viburnum which also used to be in the Caprifoliaceae!

Adoxacea is now family number 137 and Caprifoliaceae follows with number 138 in Stace.

But the Lonicera or Honeysuckle remains in the Caprifoliaceae or Honeysuckle family.

So this post is now going to be shorter than anticipated and I will just talk about our useful native members as well as a few ‘weedy’ non natives. Info with thanks from various websites given in the links.