Foraging plants and their uses; an easy guide by Mike Poulton

Nettle tops can be used as long as they look like this!

Foraging has been done for centuries but is hopefully getting a bit of a revival, people like to have a connection with nature again, especially with their daily exercise in lockdown situation and what a better way to do this then to go out there and forage!

So today I would like to introduce you to a document received from fellow botanist Mike Poulton, who used to do training sessions on foraging for wild plants.  It was published before in my blog in 2018 but now with the aid of Gutenberg editing it can be made even more attractive.

The edible parts of the native plants are listed with their common names and categorized in 5 sections: leaves and shoots (1), herbs (2), edible flowers (3), fruits and seeds (4) and roots (5).

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Weeds encountered in Tropical countries

This is a one off blog about some weeds encountered in tropical countries. Most of those are exotics from tropical climates although you will be surprised that their are also temperate plants to be seen!

My blog now got a big brother in the form of a short video each week about ten popular, or not so popular weeds! Watch the video below.

The videos are created by my friend:

BrownPolar For PlantCentre ‘good is green’™

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The Fabaceae or Pea family

The Common Gorse or Ulex europaeus is a familiar plant in the Legume family! (All pictures unless mentioned otherwise are by Matt Summers)

What is now called The Fabaceae, was long known as Leguminosae and commonly these are known as the legume, pea, or bean family.

This is a large and economically important family in the world. It includes trees, shrubs, and perennial or annual herbaceous plants, which are easily recognized by their fruit (legume) and/or their compound, stipulate leaves.

It is not as big in Britain but an interesting and useful family all the same! Credits are due once again to Stace‘s Flora, J. Barker’s Medicinal Flora, Plantlife and Wikipedia for most information.

In case there are any medical uses stated with the plants mentioned below, please take sensible advise from a qualified herbalist.

If you would like to learn a bit more about the classification of this large family I can recommend Britannica.com webpage

The background colour of the text indicate green for positive news and pink for negative news… In bold for quick reading and any other colour then green and pink used is to make it more pretty! Links are provided on medical or other difficult words.

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Useful Betulaceae part 2

In my last blog the main genus in the Betulaceae or Betula was listed with all the known uses of its 3 species in the British Isles. Today I like to cover the other 3 genera which all only have one native species each.

The 3 genera + species are:

  • Alnus glutinosa or Alder
  • Carpinus betulus or Hornbeam
  • Corylus avellana or Hazel
A stand of Alder along the brook at Cannock Chase

Information for this blog is again from various websites, for more information follow the links on the plant names!

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The Useful Betulaceae!

Showing the very recognizable stems of our native Silver Birch.
The very recognizable stems of the Silver Birch at Cannock Chase

After all the short flowering plants, this time a blog on the tall woody trees called Betulaceae, which includes the main genus, Betula or Birch but also our native Alder, Hornbeam and Hazel belong in this family.

The Betulaceae or Birch Family is number 55 in Stace and has 3 straight native species of Birch as well as several hybrids, subspecies and introduced, ornamental varieties.

The birch is a typical pioneer, which means it can colonize new land very rapidly in the right conditions and can therefore be seen as a weed by some who wouldn’t like them to do this!

But most of us can agree that the Birch tree is very beautiful and hoping for you to learn in the following text that it is also a very useful tree as are its cousins, Alder, Hornbeam and Hazel about which I will tell you more in the second part!

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More members of Asteraceae

Close up from our Common Knapweed or Centaurea nigra. The main heading of my wonderful weed blog is of Greater Knapweed or Centaurea scabiosa! See further in today’s block to learn about all this genus virtues.

Today I will write about some more members of our native Asteraceae or composites and daisy family in common terms. All known medicinal uses and other uses are mentioned.

In the last post I covered the what we see as the common daisies: yellow centred disk flowered with a ray of white florets as well as a few other composites or Asteraceae.

This time we start with plants we don’t immediately associate with the composites, but closely observed we find always the common combination of many disc florets, surrounded or not with ray florets.

Then finishing off with the other typical group of the Asteraceae which are the various ‘dandelion like’ flower members!

Most information again from the Medicinal Flora by J. Barker. The links to the scientific and common name provide also with good, general information about the plants!

To make the post more colourful I have given the plant a background of the flower colour!

First of all then the Artemisias or Wormwoods:

The Artemisias:  There are less than a dozen native artemisias  on the British Isles and it should be noted that they are CUMULATIVELY TOXIC AND IN OVERDOSE MAY CAUSE IRREPERABLE DAMAGE TO THE BODY!

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Members of Asteraceae and their uses

Bellis perennis or our common Daisy is most welcomein any lawn!
Bellis perennis or our common Daisy is most welcome in any lawn!

In my last blog I introduced you to mainly the medicinal uses of the Asteraceae or the Daisy family.

Today I will list some of this fast and successful family in our temperate climate.

As I’ve already included pictures in the general blog on Asteraceae back in the summer I will only include links on both of the plant names so you will be able to read more about each plant on other useful websites.

I will also colour code the blocks on the colour of the flower. Hope you will find that useful as well as pretty!

Most of the below information is again from the Medicinal Flora by Julian Barker.

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Asteraceae part 2 and the usefulness to us!

The post on Asteraceae of 8th June this year went through the entire classification and might have been a little tedious for you?

However, I do hope you find it fascinating like myself how classification does make sense, especially in large families such as the Composites. It neatly groups similar looking plants together and when these plants ‘look similar’ they most likely also have the same properties and uses. This week we come to the part important for us as people. Of course weeds or native plants as I like to call them, are ALWAYS useful in any habitat situation, soil and indeed for other living creatures apart from ourselves.

When we pull out the dandelion or ragwort we are taking away a valuable food source for multiples of creatures. Is it really worth that?

In the following few blogs about this family I once again will copy a lot of interesting information from‘The Medicinal Flora of Britain and Northwestern Europe’ by J. Barker. It is just too good for information not to note down. Please get a copy for yourself as you won’t regret it! As Medicine is a science like Botany or Horticulture it also has a lot of specialist scientific wording which is difficult to understand, even for myself! I will therefore include many links for the Actions and Uses of the plants mentioned this time for you to research this further. Many interesting facts of these plants can also be found following the links within the plant names.

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Bagnall’s Herbarium at Birmingham Botanical Collections

An example of Herbarium book with Japanese plants, Siebold collection Leiden, 1825
By P. F. Siebold – Sieboldcollectie Naturalis, Public Domain and thanks to Wikipedia

Hello dear Readers!

The Tuesdays of last few month I’ve been busy with research in Birmingham’s Museum Warehouses. I’ve been looking at the vast amount of dried specimen plants of one of the 6 or so Herbariums they have stored in there.

Why I wanted to research Bagnall’s Herbarium in particular was because of the many local native plants he collected as well as the many plants from Sutton Park. This is a national important nature reserve and SSSI. More about this later!

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Wonderful Weeds Weekly about: Weeds and Lawns

I found the information below interesting as many of my customers find weeds in their lawn unbearable.

They like a weed and moss-free, stripy cut lawn.

But to create this is a very high input and costly affair as it will need lots of maintenance with feed + weed-killers and watering in dry years!

Is this all worth it?

Maybe there is a market for a stripy astro turf!

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