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!

Continue reading “Introduction to My Wonderful Weed Weekly Blog”

Part Two of the Malvaceae: The Limes

Pollarded lime trees on a busy road in Dudley.
Pollarded limes in Dudley (by Mike Poulton)

The Lime trees are recognisable large trees often planted along roads and in parks. They often get pollarded in restricted areas such as shown in the picture above.

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!

Pollarded limes in Dudley (by Mike Poulton)

The Lime trees are recognisable large trees often planted along roads and in parks. They often get pollarded in restricted areas such as shown in the picture above.

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!PAGE BREAK

All known uses are listed below with blue background for Wildlife Uses, pink for Medicinal Uses and green for all Other Uses! Information found on various websites as well as books for which links are provided.

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Common Lime showing 2 undersides and 1 upper side of the epicormic leaves as well as the fruits with bracteoles attached (by Matt Summers)

There are 3 known native species and the cross we mostly see is the Common Lime or Tilia x europaea .

T. x europaea is a cross between the Large-leaved Lime and the Small-leaved Lime and rare to find in some native woods as it is only partly fertile, but it is the commonest planted in parks, avenues and roads. Walsall seems to have many and the scent is heavenly when it is in flower! It is recognisable also on the amount of epicormic or suckering growth at the base of the tree. The leaves on this growth are a lot larger and thinner than the main leaves.

Wildlife uses:

  • Lime leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of many moth species, including the lime hawk, peppered, vapourer, triangle and scarce hook-tip moths.
  • They are very attractive to aphids, providing a source of food for their predators, including hoverflies, ladybirds and many species of bird.
  • Bees also drink the aphid honeydew deposited on the leaves.
  •  The flowers provide nectar and pollen for insects, particularly bees.
  • Long-lived trees provide dead wood for wood-boring beetles, and nesting holes for birds.

Edible uses:

Young leaves – raw:

  • Excellent in salads, they are mild and mucilaginous.

Flowers:

  • A refreshing tea is made from the dried flowers

 If the flowers are too old they may produce symptoms of narcotic intoxication!

  • Flowers  are used as a vegetable

Tree sap:

  •  used as a drink or concentrated to make a syrup and used as a sweetener.

Medicinal Uses:

See below with next species

 Other Uses:

  • Lime wood is soft and light, white-yellow and finely textured. It is easy to work and often used in wood turning, carving and furniture making.
  •  Lime bark was traditionally used to make rope.
  • The wood does not warp and is still used today to make sounding boards and piano keys.
  •  Limes can be coppiced and used for fuel, hop-poles, bean sticks, cups, ladles, bowls and even Morris-dancing sticks.
  • Lime flowers are a valuable source of food for honey bees.
  • The most common use of common lime is as an ornamental tree.
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Tilia platyphyllos in flower (Picture by Warburg-Wikipedia)

Tilia platyphyllos or Large-leaved Lime

This is one of the parents of the above described Common Lime

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Sculpturous roots and much less suckering growth than on our Common Lime (Picture by Jean-Pol GRANDMONT – Wikipedia)

It has none or much less base or suckering growth than the Common Lime.

Mostly the same uses as above but found some others in Wikipedia:

Sap was made into wine

Tilia spp. are also important for amenity use, 

Medicinal Use: (From Medicinal Flora by Julian Barker)

The inflorescence (including the bracts) are used fresh or dried and harvested early in flowering.

  • Nervous tension and resulting headaches and insomnia.
  • Hypertension and arteriosclerosis (combines here well with Hawthorn)
  • Common cold with fever (combine with elder)
  • Poor peripheral circulation

The bark is used in anti-inflammatory poultices

Other Medicinal uses (by PFAF):

The flowers are harvested commercially and often sold in health shops etc.

  • A charcoal made from the wood is used in the treatment of gastric or dyspeptic disturbances and is also made into a powder then applied to burns or sore places.
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Leaf comparison between Large and Small-leaved Lime (Picture Wikipedia by Ptelea-Own Work)

Tilia cordata or Small-leaved Lime, the other parent of our Common Lime  is probably the most common native lime and has the same uses as the other 2 species above.

In Britain T. cordata,  is considered an indicator of ancient woodland, and is becoming increasingly rare. Owing to its rarity, a number of woods have been given SSSI status. Cocklode Wood, part of the Bardney Limewoods, is the best surviving spread of medieval small leaved limes in England.Another site is Shrawley Wood in Worcestershire.Small-leaved lime was once regarded as holy and good for carving.

Modern mature woodland trees were estimated to have germinated between 1150 and 1300 AD, making them around 800 years old. Precise age determination is impossible as heartwood at the centre disintegrates and therefore rings cannot be counted, and other methods are used.

Uses:

Ornamental:

Wikipedia mentions 4 cultivars including:

Wood: The white, finely-grained wood is not a structurally strong material but a classic choice for refined woodcarvings. It  was the prime choice for the carvings in St. Paul’s CathedralWindsor Castle, and Chatsworth. It is also commonly used for lightweight projects such as carved spoons, light furniture, bee hives and honeycomb frames.

Honey: A monofloral honey is produced by bees using the trees and is widely used all over Europe. “Linden honey” is said to be nutritious and to have medicinal qualities.

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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.

The Other Useful Umbellifers

The Wild Carrot is easily recognisable as a typical Umbellifer!

Last week the Ground-elder was fully covered in my blog for all its useful attributes and this week I hope to tackle all the remaining ones in the last family of all the Dicot families in Stace.

It is a large family with 50 genera although many genera have just the one native species and only a few having a small number of different species. 

This post is again ‘colour coded’ for hopefully ease of reading! White and blue background for general information. Mostly this time there is a green background for edible and other uses. Pink background is when there is a warning for poisonous, which can also sometimes mean medicinal!

Several of our root vegetables and herbs belong to this family, although these are cultivated varieties, not always native (NN in list below) to the British Isles. I would as an exception like to talk about those towards the end of this post as they are fascinating to me and hopefully to you too. You can also follow the links below their names to find out more about their edibility (often as flavouring or herb) and medicinal uses. I’ve used Wikipedia a lot again as they have such valuable information about the individual species about their uses.

Ground-elder as an introduction to the Apiaceae family

Illustration from Otto Wilhelm Thomé‘sFlora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz (1885) (Wikipedia)

Noticed recently that one of the most menacing ‘weeds’ in this family I have done as a post earlier was lost on my site so will have to do this again!

The other improved posts on the Apiaceae or Umbels parts can be found in the following edition tomorrow!

and here for part 2:

Ground-elder is mentioned by the RHS as a big menace in the garden and therefore an excellent reason for me to do this post!

Rosebay willowherb and other natives of the Willowherb or Onagraceae family

Rosebay willowherb and Hogweed make a surprisingly attractive display at the Dingle, Walsall

The RHS have mentioned the Rosebay willowherb to be a weed which is therefore a good reason for me to write about this plant as well as some others in the same family.

It is in the Willowherb family or Onagraceae which is number 68 in Stace, just after the Geraniaceae or Crane’s-bill (66) and the Lythraceae or Purple-loosestrife (67).

Please Note: This is an educational blog only and can’t be responsible for self medication!

Find out more about this interesting plant family on the next page:

The Plantain family

This week a relative small family in our regions; the Plantaginaceae or the Plantains.

Greater Plantain or Plantago major is probably our best known species in this family

The Plantaginaceae is now in the 121st family in the latest 4th edition of Stace, behind the colourful Veronicaceae (Speedwell family) and before the obscure Hippuridaceae (Mare’s-tail family). It consist of just two genera, Plantago with 7 species and Littorella with just one species.

Each species is a much more humble plant, not really shouting out for attention as some of our plant families covered in earlier blogs.

The generic name Plantago is derived from the Latin for sole and it should not be confused with the other unrelated plantain which is a starchy banana.

In my eyes it is an attractive genus with boldness in its various leaf outlines and interesting flower spikes.

Find out about all their uses to us people and our wildlife on the next page.