Juncaceae or Rush Family

Juncus effusus or Common Rush as seen in Sutton Park (by Mike Poulton)

In my previous post I’ve written all about the useful Sedge family or Cyperaceae. This is a much shorter post about the closely related Rush Family or the Juncaceae.

In particular the genus Juncus looks very similar to Scirpus and other bulrushes in the Sedge family.

Well; ‘all the proof is in the flower’ of course but you have to look close-up in order to see that as from a distance they will look similar!

Two beautiful illustrated websites are by Lizzie Harper and also see Wayne’s Word about Flower Terminology. A good flora is always helpful of course and you can find a recommended book list and links in my previous post on Cyperaceae. A website I often use, if you are regularly following my blog, is the Leicestershire and Rutland based Naturespot. This is a most useful, descriptive and active site showing many good photographs!

This family only has 2 genera: Juncus or Rushes and Luzula or Wood-rushes.

As I did in previous post I will just list the most common species in the B.I. on the next page. This can be found through the distribution maps in the back of Collins pocket guide in Grasses, Sedges, Rushes & Ferns of Britain and Northern Europe .

These maps are a useful feature as most plants used by us in one form or the other would mostly be the common species anyway!

Rare species are not going to be used as food, medicine or building materials. Although saying this: they would have probably been collected and used as an ornamental plant by the Victorians, who loved unusual varieties such as can be found in the ferns for example.

But in the present day collecting of wild plants is a taboo! And of course which were common wild flowers then could now be very rare!

I will also be using my own Flora of Birmingham and the Black Country from now on for all my future posts and why didn’t I think of this before? This is a most beautiful piece of work and I recommend if you live in this area to get your own copy!

I use colour coding for easy reading! Blue background is general interesting info (although I hope you find it all interesting!!). Green is about all the uses except for medicinal uses or if there is a warning in which case I use a pink background. Pictures with gratitude by Mike Poulton unless stated.

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The Common Club-rush and the Sedge family

The Common Club-rush where we harvested a few days before!

Today I am inspired to write about the members of the large Sedge and Rush family or Cyperaceae. I recently helped my friend Sally harvesting many stems of the Common Club-rush or Schoenoplectus lacustris in order for her to make many beautiful items after they have dried in about 6 weeks time!

This is an important native plant which can be used to weave mats, baskets or any other implements as you can find out more on the next page and it even got edible and medicinal uses!

It is one of those plants which could feature in a real Ethnobotanical Garden instead of this virtual one to demonstrate all its uses it had in the past but could certainly be again in the future! Below some of the pictures taken by my friend on our recent adventure harvesting the Common Club-rush.

Most information is from specialist websites for which I provide the links for you to find more information and pictures of the plants. I use colour coding for easy reading! Blue background is general interesting info (although I hope you find it all interesting!!). Green is about all the uses except for medicinal uses or if there is a warning in which case I use a pink background. Pictures by Matt Summers or Mike Poulton unless stated.

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Papaveraceae and the other genera besides Poppy (Papaver)

Pseudofumaria lutea or Yellow Corydalis grown inside a wall (Picture by Mike Poulton)

The post in November 2018 explained all about the uses and stories behind the genus Papaver which includes the Common Poppy, Welsh Poppy and Opium Poppy.

To remind ourselves:

The Poppy family or Papaveraceae has 12 genera and is split into 2 Sub-families;

  • the Papaveroideae with 7 genera which includes Papaver.
  • and the Fumarioideae with 5 genera.

The Papaveroideae has 2 sepals, 4(-6) showy petals, and white or yellow latex.

The distinctive flowers of subfamily Fumarioideae are unique, but the two subfamilies are linked by intermediates (Stace).

Colour coding for easy reading is blue for general interest. Green for various uses of the plant and pink background for medicinal use or toxic warning!

This is just an educational blog on Ethnobotanical uses of plants and we can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects! Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

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A Bumblebee feeding happily on a dandelion!

To start off, a plant who most of us know very well:

The Dandelion

Most of us love and/or hate the dandelion. Their en mass-flowering period is relatively short although it will carry on sending new flowers throughout the year. This post was my first plant about a member of the Asteraceae family back in July 2018!

It is probably the most useful native member so this is why it needs an entire post!

The following posts are all about the Asteraceae or Compositae as they used to be called:

  1. Asteraceae (part 1)
  2. About the Common Ragwort or Jacobaea vulgaris
  3. More science behind the Asteraceae! (part 2)
  4. the more common Asteraceae and their uses (part 3)
  5. the less common members (part 4)
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Campanulaceae family

The Harebell or Campanula rotundifolia is a delicate wildflower here seen on our coast (by Matt Summers)

The Campanulaceae or Bellflower family is another family with many useful ornamental garden varieties but also has several native species in the main genus Campanula as well as in the genera: Legousia, Hesperocodon (Wahlenbergia), Phyteuma, Jasione and Lobelia.

The Campanulaceae are now in Family 133 according to Stace in between the interesting Lentibulariaceae or Bladderwort family and the Aquifoliaceae or Holly family.

See on the next page for all the main species in this family and about their ethnobotanical uses. This blog cannot provide all the info, such as where you can find them, what soil conditions, etc. But this is why I provide the links of some other marvelous websites out there! Green background is for the usual Edible or Wildlife uses and pink background for Medicinal uses. Blue background for ‘Interesting facts’ , although I hope you find all my information interesting!

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Geraniaceae or the Crane’s-bills and Stork’s-bills family

Probably the most common Crane’s-bill is Herb Robert or Geranium robertianum!

This week another pretty and mostly common native ‘weed’ which can even be useful! It easily could have been called the ‘Geranium’ family instead of Crane’s-bill family as the genus Geranium is its largest member here!

But the genus Erodium, has also several native species on the B.I. and has a fruit similar to a stork’s bill.

So what is the difference in those bird bills to give these plants their common name?

Found this information online from Bird expert Quentin Kalis. “The easiest way is to look at the bill; storks have large heavy bills and cranes have short bills.” Herons have intermediate bills between the two, and you can see pictures of those birds in the link here.

A few native Geranium and Erodium species are ‘useful’ for us people. Various insects find the plants a good food source. Below is a list of all the species which are native according to Stace, with links for you to find out more if you wish!

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Uses of our Native Grasses or the Poaceae

A typical weedy grass called Hordeum murinum or Wall Barley

Grasses have many uses as well as that they are 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 and other members of the Lythraceae (or Loosestrife family)

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 introduce the uses about the Mignonette (or Resedaceae) family here on the British Isles with only 5 species mentioned in Stace, whereby just 2 are native and 3 are introduced species. I like to introduce their uses

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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