My Adventure at ‘Marroncello’, Tuscany, Italy. Part 2: October 2023

Marroncello Farm house.

A Work and Culinary Holiday from October 4th to November 1st, 2023

Also see ‘Marroncello’ in February 2023 for some more background info.

This is all about my stay at ‘Marroncello’ with my friend Esther, who I’ve known for nearly 30 years. She and her partner Thomas look after the land surrounding a 300 year old traditional Tuscan farm house. The land on which they live and work amounts to about 5 Hectares and the vegetable crops as well as the herbs for their business are grown on terraces or in the valley. Many different sorts of useful ‘fruit’ trees are also grown. The house is located at 530 m and can be reached by a 700 m long track on foot or by tractor!

Native trees consist mainly of Oak along with Ash, Lime, ‘Sorbo’ and Juniper.

Marroncello means: a small orchard with Sweet Chestnut trees. Apparently there is still a small stand of them much higher above the house.

When Thomas ‘found’ the property it had been derelict for 50 years!

I stayed for 4 weeks helping along with all the jobs to be done at this time of the year and enjoying the much more natural and simple way of life in very beautiful surroundings!

I love all the plants including the ‘weeds’ that grow everywhere. It has been a bit of a puzzle to identify some of them without flower, so I will have to go back at some point in spring or early summer to see those flowering, as it will make identifying a bit easier!

I have used mainly my own pictures, but I have also used several from Wikipedia Commons with much gratitude.

Follow the links in my contents page for easier reading, the different colour backgrounds are ‘blue’ for general interesting information, ‘green’ for different uses and ‘pink’ for medicinal uses.

Introduction

‘Wurdies’ and Hildegard von Bingen

Day 1: Thursday 5th October

Weeding in the potato terrace; burning of plum branches; lunch and peach leaves.

Day 2: Friday 6th October

Violas in the valley; Noticable weeds; Caprese and ‘East’

Day 3: Saturday 7th October

Spelt bread, International Market in Arezzo and Chantarelles.

Day 4: Sunday 8thth October with temperatures to 30C!

‘Chiesa di Sant`Agata alle terrine’; Perennial Pepperweed or Dittander; Fennel tea and Rue

Day 5: Monday 9th October (with temperatures to 25C at 2pm)

Weeding viola; ‘Alsem’ or Wormwood; Spelt coffee; Lesser Galangal; Parasol Mushroom; Grass snake; Perpetual Spinach; Buckwheat.

Day 6: Tuesday 10th October (with temperatures to 28C)

to Arezzo; Orzo; Peach leaves and Drying shed; Dormouse or ‘Zevenslaper’

Day 7, Wednesday 11th October (21 C at 12.35pm)

Semolina; Cornelian cherries; Sweet chestnuts

Day 8, Thursday 12th October (24 C at 14.30)

Florence Fennel;

Day 9, Friday 13th October (20 C at 13.00)

Rocket or Rucola; visit to Arezzo.

Day 10, Saturday 14th October (22 C at 4pm)

Visit from a friend and some weeds around Marroncello

Three wildflowers from the Deadnettle or Mint family:

  • Lesser Calamint
  • Wild Basil
  • Red Hemp-nettle

Day 11, Sunday 15th October (my brother Ber would have been 64 today..)

Ankle problem; Church visit; truffles…

Day 12, Monday 16th October 14C and cloud + sun!

Sila

Day 13, Tuesday 17th October (12C at 9.45)

Homemade pizza; Bermuda grass; Green Bristle-grass; St John’s-wort

Day 14, Wednesday 18th October (15 C and rain today!)

Egg-white treatment; lavender bags.

Day 15, Thursday 19th October (15 C and a bit of sun as well as rain)

Kaki or Persimmon

Day 16, Friday 20th October (22 C and a very stormy night!)

Bay berries picking and cleaning, a Praying Mantis and a Violet Carpenter Bee.

Day 17, Saturday 21st  October (15 C at 9 am and lots of rain in the night!)

Rain is finally here!

Day 18, Sunday 22nd October (only 10 C in valley this morning, 16 C at 2 pm and sun with cloud.

Visit to ‘Chiesa di Sant`Agata alle terrine’; Olive trees; Tuscan Cypress; wild boar.

Day 19, Monday 23rd October (9 C this morning, 25 C in Arezzo in the afternoon)

Day 20, Tuesday 24th October (17 C in the day and a strong south-westerly wind called Sirocco in Italy)

Day 21, Wednesday 25th October (13 C in morning and 25 C in Arezzo!)

Marrubium terras, ‘Sorbo’, to Arezzo

Day 22, Thursday 26th October (13 C in morning, rain during night)

Day 23, Friday 27th October (rain and hard wind in morning but 19 C in afternoon and sunny/windy)

3 wreaths from Clematis vitalba or Old man’s beard 

Day 24, Saturday 28th October (11 C this morning but sunny day mostly. Beautiful view of Orion and nearly full moon setting in the west!)

Honesty as kindling..

Day 25, Sunday 29th October (sun and cloud today and 16 C)

An evening lift to Rome…

Day 26, Monday 30th October (sun and very warm in Rome!!)

In Rome: Jasmine, bloodletting and a long trip back to Marroncello.

Day 27, Tuesday 31st October (mixed weather: early rain, blue sky at 9am and overcast in the afternoon)

An outing to Monte Dogana.

Day 28, Wednesday 1st November: last day in Italy! (Misty and 9 C at 8 am)

Some more native weeds around Marroncello Conclusion

Continue reading “My Adventure at ‘Marroncello’, Tuscany, Italy. Part 2: October 2023”

My Adventure at ‘Marroncello’, Tuscany, Italy. Part 1: February 2023

This is a report of my time at ‘Marroncello’, a 300 year + farmhouse in Tuscany, Italy:

From Sunday 29th January to Monday 20th February 2023

Marroncello House front view

After spending just a week back in April 2019 with my friend and former classmate, Esther, I decided I would like to spend a bit longer this time.

In 2019 it had just been to get a flavour of what I imagined was a very down to earth and romantic way of living up in the beautiful oak-wood clad hills near Arezzo in Italy.

Before that week I had only been corresponding with Esther since the 1990’s after having both completed a course in Biodynamic Agriculture, back in the Netherlands. I left for Britain and she ended up in Italy!

It all sounded an idealistic way of living to me. Something I’d always envisaged myself doing one day; living in a beautiful place and as much with nature and self-sufficient as possible!

But the Covid virus prevented all the travelling after that first visit in 2019 and only this year I finally managed to get out there again. Late winter was perhaps not the ideal time to travel but with too many responsibilities from spring onwards I decided; it is now or never!

I had been spending 3 weeks with family back in the Netherlands before in January and then took the FlixBus all the way from Amsterdam Sloterdijk to Florence with a bus-change in Verona. It is a trip I am not likely to do ever again as it is extremely long and tiring! I left Amsterdam Sloterdijk at 3pm on Saturday 28th and arrived at Arezzo train station 24 hours later, 3pm, Sunday 29th January.

Esther picked me up opposite the station with her faithful Citroen transport.

Esther’s faithful Citroen van and scooter parked in the valley.

My entire stay can be summoned up in short by saying that this is a good, peaceful way of living but not really for the faint hearted and for people who need lots of entertainment or an easy, lazy way of living! Basically it is a very natural way of living with going to bed early and getting up early as well. The days are busy with jobs/ necessary things to do at that moment, but with plenty of breaks and good, honest food, mostly all fresh vegetables from the garden and bread made by Esther. Other items are bought on the local market in Arezzo or brought over from Germany by Thomas, Esther’s partner, who travels frequently between the 2 countries to run his wholesale business in Herbal produce and mixtures.

The house is a typical 300 year + old Tuscan Farmhouse and was found by Thomas nearly 40 years ago in a much dilapidated state. Trees were growing in it!

For a while, whilst he was doing it up, he lived in a small wooden house a bit higher up the hill; this is still being used for temporary accommodation for casual labour and friends/family alike.

The water comes from the stream which runs passed their house and is piped from about 700 metres above by gravity through a thick plastic pipe.

The electricity is through the Solar Panels fixed on the outbuilding of the bathroom/conservatory next to the typical Tuscany type roof with clay tiles. Occasionally a small generator is used to facilitate a washing machine and ironing!

The roof from above with the Solar Panels.

The heating in the kitchen, (2) bedrooms and bathroom (this has a boiler to produce hot water), is by ovens fired with the copious oak wood logs in an around their estate.

The kitchen and wood stove with ‘Zwartje’ (= Blackie) the cat!

There are about 3 hectares (6 acres) of land around the house and up the hill which is being used for crops and fruit trees and also has a stable + yard for their 26 year old stallion called ‘East’. There is a large shed for drying various herbs in the season, a work shed, a polytunnel and various other small sheds for storing hay or other materials.  It is a steep hillside so the land has been made more easily accessible by making terraces into it.

The sun does not hit the house and parts of the land until mid-late morning, when it comes round the hill in the east. I was fascinated by the growing ‘sun-line’ on the hills opposite each day in the morning until it was also shining on us at the house!

The Sun-line on the hills opposite at 9.35am.

The hills around are covered in mainly gold-leaved oak, with the occasional evergreen of Italian cypress, Juniper or Pine.

The gold will slowly give way to the vivid green of spring foil I imagine… But that is another time!

The soil is a well-drained, grey/brown, sandy loam with plenty of shale like stone which is the base rock you can see occasionally on the badly worn tracks around. Heavy rain, just before I came, washed a lot of the surface away and made bad gullies, which were more awkward to walk on especially for East!

Introducing East in his cosy stable……

Many different types of (fruit) trees and crops have been grown during the 40 years Thomas has lived here and about the 25 years that Esther has been there. They aren’t all easily established as the soil has to be improved and maintenance such as watering and weeding is not always easy with so many tasks to do each day and not having enough people and time to do this!

I spent several days of my 3 weeks with weeding and pruning of some of the fruits and ornamentals (such as roses). Weeding of brambles and scrub was done with a pickaxe rather than a hoe on the stony slopes! They were often cut off with a sharp sickle first. It was all new to me; having worked my entire life mainly ‘on the flat’.

All the jobs took so much longer to do! Climbing up and down the hill all day long sapped a lot of energy!

This is why Esther made sure we had 3 good meals a day and several tea breaks! We needed it!!

It is also very much living with the weather:

 There were frosts on most nights during my stay and one night it had been severe enough to burst the thick water pipe in the woods so that cut off our water supply! First we had thought that the water had just been frozen in the pipe, but when the water did not come after several days without frosts, we went to investigate and walked about 300 metres into the woods along the pipe. Suddenly Esther saw a water jet through a burst, explaining our lack of water!

The stepladders into the woods where you can follow the 700 metre long water pipe!

It was fixed the following day with another length of pipe and the help of a part-time worker, Rita, who lives in a beautiful mountain village about half an hour away.

The water can also be in short supply during a dry summer. Not just by the fact of no rain but also because the wild boars, which live in the woods, bite trough the pipe, in order to get to the water!

Solar energy is only there when there is enough sunshine!

 Wood to heat the stoves is not ‘free’ as some of the casual labour had pointed out to Esther, but has to be cut first and then into logs and smaller sizes to fit the various stoves. In the cold months especially this can be a major task each day.

Also kindling needs to be gathered. A good kindling is made with the dead stems of Spanish/Rush Broom or Spartium junceum, which grows everywhere around on the dryer slopes. Also pine cones and dried peels of tangerines are used as firelighters!

Some flowering bushes in Salagou, Hérault, France (by Michel Chauvet in Wikipedia)

This interesting Broom is also used in other ways I learnt here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spartium

Spartium junceum, known as Spanish broom, Rush broom, or Weaver’s broom, is a species of flowering plant in the family Fabaceae and the sole species in the genus Spartium. It is closely related to the other brooms (Cytisus and Genista).

The plant is used as an ornamental plant in gardens and in landscape plantings. It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society‘s Award of Garden Merit.

In Bolivia and Peru, the plant is known as retama, (not to be confused with the genus Retama) and has become very well established in some areas. It is one of the most common ornamental plants, often seen growing along sidewalks in La Paz.

Retama has made its way into the ethnobotany of the indigenous Aymara and Quechua cultures.

The plant is also used as a flavouring, and for its essential oil, known as genet absolute. Its fibers have been used for cloth and it produces a yellow dye.

Then there is the toilet!

The toilet with the view!

This is a fabulous ‘throne’ situated further away and above the house. Made of wood and looking out towards the neighbouring hills it is a bit of a climb to sit, stare and do your business; but it works and is so simple and clean with just a sprinkle, or two, of some brown oak leaves, waiting patiently next to the toilet. ‘It’ all collects in a large bucket, which needs to be emptied when it is full, further along the terrace, near the woods, to break down into harmless organic matter.

Organic waste from the kitchen is also dumped onto a heap on a lower terrace. This can eventually be used to improve the soil for the crops.

So the above is a little description of the workings in this peaceful home of Esther and Thomas.

I decided to lengthen my stay to 3 weeks in order to be a helping hand for Esther as she is mainly trying to manage everything by herself most of the time! Thomas spends a lot of his time in Germany to keep their business going. There are occasional/seasonal workers in the growing season, when needed.

It was a wonderful experience for me to spend these 3 weeks with Esther in these beautiful surroundings. I had been extremely lucky with the weather. Only a few days were overcast but dry and the rest was sunny or slight cloudy. The sky at night also was a sight to behold: Orion, the Moon, Venus and Jupiter were clearly visible most nights! Temperatures were varying to frost at night and early morning and then to spring and early summer temperatures during the day!

Esther having a well-deserved break with ‘Loekie’ the cat!

Some more pictures ….

Asplenium onopteris or Western Black Spleenwort is one of the several ferns at Marroncello.
Helleborus foetidus or Stinking Hellebore
Sarcococca confusa or Winter Box is a lovelely sight and smell on a winter day!
Xylocopa violacea, the violet carpenter bee loved the Sarcococca.

Gardening with native plants!

A mixture of flowering grasses + native flowers will look attractive and is good for wildlife. (by M. Poulton)
  • Dare we include native plants, or weeds in our gardens and ornamental borders?
  • How can we safe time and money?
  • Native plants can be pretty and are certainly good for attracting wildlife.
  • They can live beside our more ornamental and cultivated plants: they don’t necessarily interfere or harm each other as many gardeners seem to think!

This is a start of a series of posts for busy people and for people who would like to create a more exciting, fun and nature friendly garden.

Gardening with our native plants is certainly that!

Continue reading “Gardening with native plants!”

Weeds encountered in Tropical countries

This is a one off blog about some weeds found in tropical countries. Most of those are actually exotics from other tropical climates which originally may have been introduced as an ornamental, just as in our own temperate world!

But you will be surprised that their are also temperate plants which can become weeds in the tropics!

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’™

Continue reading “Weeds encountered in Tropical countries”

The Fabaceae or Pea family in the British Isles

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. The link on the scientific names are mostly from the Plant Atlas 2020 Online and the information from the habitats is also copied from this Online Atlas. The link on the Common Name is from a website with usually some more info and pictures of the plant. I try and use UK sites as much as possible!

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

NN behind the names in the Contents means Non-Native (is similar to neophyte) and has been introduced and often naturalised into the wild. FBBC in the Contents behind the names means that it also occurs in the Flora of Birmingham and the Black Country!

Contents

General information on this important family

Subfamily 1: The Faboideae

Tribe 1: Robineae

Robinia pseudoacacia or False-acacia (NN) FBBC

Tribe 2: Phaseoleae or ‘Beans’
  • Phaseolus vulgaris or French Bean (NN)
  • P. coccineus or Runner Bean (NN) FBBC
  • Vigna radiata or Mung Bean (NN)
  • Glycine max or Soyabean (NN)
Tribe 3: Psoraleeae

Cullen americanum or Scurfy Pea (NN)

Tribe 4: Galegeae
  • Galega officinalis or Goat’s-rue (NN) FBBC
  • Colutea arborescens or Bladder-senna (NN) FBBC
  • C. x media or Orange Bladder-senna (NN)
  • Astragalus cicer or Chick-pea Milk-vetch (NN)
  • A. danicus or Purple Milk-vetch
  • A. alpinus or Alpine Milk-vetch
  • A. glycyphyllos or Wild Liquorice
  • A. odoratus or Lesser Milk-vetch (NN)
  • Oxytropis campestris or Yellow Oxytropis
  • O. halleri or Purple Oxytropis
Tribe 5: Hedysareae

Onobrychis viciifoli or Sainfoin (NN) FBBC

Tribe 6: Loteae
  • Anthyllis vulneraria or Kidney Vetch FBBC
  • Lotus hirsutus (Dorycnium hirsutum) or Hairy Canary clover (NN) FBBC
  • Lotus tenuis or Narrow-leaved Bird’s-foot-trefoil FBBC
  • L. corniculatus or Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil FBBC
    • L. corniculatus var. sativus FBBC
  • L. pedunculatus or Greater Bird’s-foot-trefoil FBBC
  • L. subbiflorus or Hairy Bird’s-foot-trefoil
  • L. angustissimus or Slender Bird’s-foot-trefoil
  • Tetragonolobus maritimus or Dragon’s-teeth
Tribe 7: Coronilleae
  • Ornithopus compressus or Yellow Serradella (NN) FBBC
  • O. sativus or Serradella (NN)
  • O. perpusillus or Bird’s foot FBBC
  • O. pinnatus or Orange Bird’s- foot
  • Coronilla valentina or Shrubby Scorpion-vetch (NN)
  • C. scorpioides or Annual Scorpion-vetch (NN)
  • Hippocrepis comosa or Horseshoe Vetch
  • H. emerus or Scorpion Senna (NN)
  • Securigera varia or Crown Vetch (NN) FBBC
  • Scorpiurus muricatus or Caterpillar plant (NN) FBBC
Tribe 8: Fabeae
Vicia spp.
  • Vicia benghalensis or Purple Vetch (NN)
  • V. bithynica or Bithynian Vetch FBBC
  • V. cracca or Tufted Vetch FBBC
  • V. faba or Broad Bean (NN) FBBC
  • V. hybrida or Hairy Yellow-vetch FBBC
  • V. lathyroides or Spring Vetch
  • V. lens or Lentil (NN) FBBC (or Lens culinaris?)
  • V. lutea or Yellow-vetch
  • V. narbonensis or Narbonne Vetch (NN)
  • V. orobus or Wood Bitter-vetch
  • V. pannonica or Hungarian Vetch (NN) FBBC
  • V. sativa or Common Vetch FBBC
    • V. sativa subsp. sativa (Archaeophyte) FBBC
    • V. sativa subsp. nigra or Narrow-leaved Vetch FBBC
    • V. sativa subsp. segetalis (Archaeophyte) FBBC
  • V. sepium or Bush Vetch FBBC
  • Vicia tenuifolia or Fine-leaved Vetch (NN) FBBC
  • Vicia villosa or Fodder Vetch (NN) FBBC
  • Ervilia hirsuta or Hairy Tare FBBC
  • E. sylvatica or Wood Vetch
  • Ervum tetraspermum or Smooth Tare FBBC
Lathyrus spp.
  • Lathyrus annuus or Fodder Pea
  • L. aphaca or Yellow Vetchling FBBC
  • L. grandiflorus or Two-flowered Everlasting-pea FBBC
  • L. heterophyllus or Norfolk Everlasting-pea
  • L. hirsutus or Hairy Vetchling
  • L. japonicus or Sea Pea
  • L. latifolius or Broad-leaved Everlasting-pea (NN) FBBC
  • L. linifolius or Bitter-vetch FBBC
  • L. niger or Black Pea (NN)
  • L. nissolia or Grass Vetchling FBBC
  • L. odoratus or Sweet Pea (NN) FBBC
  • L. oleraceus (Pisum sativum?) or Garden Pea FBBC
  • L. palustris or Marsh Pea
  • L. pratensis or Meadow Vetchling FBBC
  • L. sativus or Indian Pea (NN) FBBC
  • L. sylvestris or Narrow-leaved Everlasting-pea FBBC
  • L. tuberosus or Tuberous Pea (NN)
  • L. vernus or Spring Pea (NN)
Tribe 9: Cicereae

Cicer arietinum or Chick Pea (NN) FBBC

Tribe 10: Trifolieae
Ononis spp. or Restharrows
  • Ononis reclinata or Small Restharrow
  • O. repens or Common Restharrow FBBC
  • O. spinosa or Spiny Restharrow FBBC
Melilotus spp. or Melilots
  • Melilotus albus or White Melilot (NN) FBBC
  • M. altissimus or Tall Melilot (archaeophyte) FBBC
  • M. indicus or Small Melilot (NN) FBBC
  • M. officinalis or Ribbed Melilot (NN) FBBC
  • M. sulcatus or Furrowed Melilot (NN)

  • Trigonella foenum-graecum or Fenugreek (NN) FBBC
Medicago spp. or Medicks
  • Medicago arabica or Spotted Medick FBBC
  • M. laciniata or Tattered Medick (NN)
  • M. littoralis or Shore Medick (NN)
  • M. lupulina or Black Medick FBBC
  • M. minima or Bur Medick
  • M. polymorpha or Toothed Medick
  • M. praecox or Early Medick (NN)
  • M. truncatula or Strong-spined Medick (NN)
  • M. sativa subsp. falcata or Sickle Medick FBBC
    • M. sativa subsp. sativa or Lucerne (NN) FBBC
  •  M. sativa nothosubsp. varia (M. sativa subsp. falcata × subsp. sativa) or Sand Lucerne FBBC
Trifolium or Clover
  • Trifolium alexandrinum or Egyptian Clover (NN)
  • T. angustifolium or Narrow-leaved Clover (NN)
  • T. arvense or Hare’s-foot Clover FBBC
  • T. aureum or Large Trefoil (NN)
  • T. bocconei or Twin-headed Clover
  • T. campestre or Hop Trefoil FBBC
  • T. dubium or Lesser Trefoil FBBC
  • T. echinatum or Hedgehog Clover (NN)
  • T. fragiferum or Strawberry Clover
  • T. glomeratum or Clustered Clover
  • T. hybridum or Alsike Clover (NN) FBBC
  • T. incarnatum subsp. incarnatum or Crimson Clover (NN) FBBC
  • T. incarnatum subsp. molinerii or Long-headed Clover
  • T. medium or Zigzag Clover FBBC
  • T. micranthum or Slender Trefoil FBBC
  • T. occidentale or Western Clover
  • T. ochroleucon or Sulphur Clover
  • T. ornithopodioides or Bird’s-foot Clover
  • T. pannonicum or Hungarian Clover (NN)
  • T. pratense or Red Clover FBBC
  • T. repens or White Clover FBBC
  • T. resupinatum or Reversed Clover FBBC
  • T striatum or Knotted Clover FBBC
Tribe 11: Thermopsideae or False Lupin

Thermopsis montana or False Lupin (NN)

Tribe 12: Genisteae
Lupinus spp. (all NN)
  • Lupinus arboreus or Tree Lupin FBBC
  • L. x regalis or Russell Lupin FBBC
  • L. albus or White Lupin
  • L. angustifolius or Narrow-leaved Lupin
  • L. nootkatensis or Nootka Lupin
  • L. polyphyllus or Garden Lupin
Laburnum spp. (all NN)
  • Laburnum anagyroides or Laburnum FBBC
  • L. x wateri or Hybrid Laburnum FBBC
  • L. alpinum or Scottish Laburnum FBBC
Cytisus spp.
  • Cytisus multiflorus or White Broom (NN) FBBC
  • C. nigricans or Black Broom (NN)
  • Cytisus scoparius or Broom FBBC
  • Cytisus scoparius subsp. maritimus or Prostrate Broom
  • C. striatus or Hairy-fruited Broom FBBC
  • Spartium junceum or Spanish Broom FBBC
Genista spp.
  • Genista aetnensis or Mount Etna Broom (NN)
  • G. anglica or Petty Whin FBBC
  • G. hispanica or Spanish Gorse (NN) FBBC
  • G. monspessulana or Montpellier Broom (NN)
  • G. pilosa or Hairy Greenweed
  • G. tinctoria or Dyer’s Greenweed FBBC
Ulex spp. or Gorse
  • Ulex europaeus or Gorse FBBC
  • U. gallii or Western Gorse FBBC
  • U. minor or Dwarf Gorse
Continue reading “The Fabaceae or Pea family in the British Isles”

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 native, short, flowering plants, this time a blog on the native, 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 59 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!

Pictures by Matt Summers unless stated.

Contents

Betula pendula or Silver Birch

B. pubescens or Downy Birch

B. × ⁠aurata (Betula pendula × pubescens) or Hybrid Birch

B. nana or Dwarf Birch

Continue reading “The Useful Betulaceae!”

The more common natives of the Daisy family and their medicinal and some other uses! (part 3)

The humble daisy! (Picture by AnRo0002 – Own work; Wikipedia)

In my last blog I introduced you to the Asteraceae or the Daisy family. The first post was all about the classification of this large family.

Today I will list some of the commonly known, medicinal ones in our temperate climate, mentioned in the Medicinal Flora by Julian Barker.

As I’ve already included some 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. You can find pictures on Wikipedia> tools >Wikipedia Commons as well as in the Gallery of Plant Atlas 2020 Online.

I will also colour code the blocks on the colour of the flower. Hope you will find that useful as well as pretty! Most uses are medicinal. Plants used as an ornamental or other uses are backed by a green colour! The link on the Scientific name as well as the information about habitat is from Plant Atlas 2020 Online (backed by blue).

Cautions: This is a ‘ethno’ blog on the known medical uses of the Composites or Daisy family. There are many cautions mentioned and self-medication is therefore not advised: seek help through a qualified herbalist!

Contents:

Eupatorium cannabinum or Hemp Agrimony Solidago virgaurea or Golden Rod Bellis perennis or Daisy Conyza canadensis or Canadian Fleabane Gnaphalium uliginosum or Marsh Cudweed Antennaria dioica or Cat’s foot, Life Everlasting and Mountain Everlasting Inula helenium or Elecampane Pulicaria dysenterica or Common Fleabane Bidens tripartita or Bur-marigold, Trifid Bur-marigold Xanthium strumarium or Common Cocklebur Gallinsoga parviflora or Gallant Soldier, Kew Weed Achillea ptarmica or Sneezewort Achillea millefolium or Yarrow

The Chamomiles and Related plants

1) Anthemis cotula or Stinking Mayweed, Stinking Chamomile 2) Chamaemelum nobile or Roman Chamomile 3) Matricaria chamomilla or German Chamomile 4) Matricaria discoidea or Pineapple Weed or Rayless Mayweed

Tanacetum vulgare or Tansy Tanacetum parthenium or Feverfew Leucanthemum vulgare or Ox-eye daisy

Continue reading “The more common natives of the Daisy family and their medicinal and some other uses! (part 3)”

Asteraceae and some more scientific background (part 2)

The post on Asteraceae 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 or Asteraceae.

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 start with the uses of this family.

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.  Please get a copy for yourself as you won’t regret it!

Here are links to all the different posts on Asteraceae:

Contents:

General Information and

Introduction to the Composites by Julian Barker

  • their anatomy

Some main crops and their uses:

  • as food and fodder
  • as dye
  • as ornamental

Medicinal Uses

Xanthium strumarium or Common Cocklebur

Continue reading “Asteraceae and some more scientific background (part 2)”

Bagnall’s Herbarium at Birmingham Botanical Collections

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

Hello dear Readers!

The Tuesdays of the last few months 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 Bagnall himself collected as well as the many plants from Sutton Park. This is a national important nature reserve and SSSI. More about this later!

Continue reading “Bagnall’s Herbarium at Birmingham Botanical Collections”

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.

Well, this is quite an art in itself as I found out on this nice website: How to Create a Spectacularly Striped Lawn or Grass Pattern by Tim Stephens

A stripey lawn at Hodnet Hall Gardens (Picture by Matt Summers)

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!

Continue reading “Wonderful Weeds Weekly about: Weeds and Lawns”