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!”

The Rush Family (or Juncaceae) and their uses

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.

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

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 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 as this is my local or area and why didn’t I think of this before?

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.

Please use Jump-links in the Contents in order to get easier to the plant description on next page!


Juncus or Rush

Juncus subnodulosus or Blunt-flowered Rush
J. x surrejanus (J. articulatus x acutiflorus)
J. tenuis or Slender Rush)
J. inflexus or Hard Rush
  J. effusus or Common Rush
J. conglomeratus or Compact Rush
  J. bufonius or Toad Rush
  J. bulbosus or Bulbous Rush
  J. squarrosus or Heath Rush
J. acutiflorus or Sharp-flowered Rush
  J. articulatus or Jointed Rush

Luzula or Wood-rushes

  Luzula campestris or Field Wood-rush
  L. multiflora or Heath Wood-rush
  L. sylvatica or Great Wood Rush
  L. pilosa or Hairy Wood Rush
  L. forsteri or Southern Wood-rush
Luzula luzuloides or White Wood-rush and  last:
Luzula nivea or Snow Rush
Continue reading “The Rush Family (or Juncaceae) and their uses”

The Common Club-rush in the Sedge family and all their uses!

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.

Please use Jump-links in the Contents to easily find the different members of this large family!

Contents of Cyperaceae

Eriophorum or Cottongrasses
Trichophorum or Deergrasses
Bolboschoenus maritimus or Sea Club-rush
Scirpus sylvaticus or Wood Club-rush

Schoenoplectus or Club-rushes

Schoenoplectus lacustris or Common Club-rush
S. tabernaemontani or Grey Club-rush
S. triqueter or Triangular Club-rush
S. pungens or Sharp Club-Rush

Eleocharis or Spike-rushes

Scirpoides holoschoenus or Round-headed Club-rush

Isolepis or Club-rushes

Eleogiton fluitans or Floating Club-rush

Cyperus or Galingales

C. longus or Galingale
C. fuscus or Brown Galingale
C. eragrostis or Pale Galingale
C. esculentus or Tiger Nut

Blysmus or Flat-sedges

Schoenus or Bog-rushes

Cladium mariscus or Great Fen-sedge

Rhynchospora or Beak-sedges

R. alba or White Beak-sedge
R. fusca or Brown Beak-sedge

Carex or Sedges

C. paniculata or Greater Tussock-sedge
C. arenaria or Sand Sedge
C. riparia or Great Pond Sedge
C. canescens or White Sedge
C. disticha or Brown Sedge
C. ovalis or Oval Sedge
C. remota or Remote Sedge
C. echinata or Star Sedge
C. hirta or Hairy Sedge
C. sylvatica or Wood Sedge
C. flacca or Glaucous Sedge
C. caryophllea or Spring Sedge
C. pilulifera or Pill Sedge
C. nigra or Common Sedge
C. pendula or Pendulous Sedge
Continue reading “The Common Club-rush in the Sedge family and all their uses!”

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.


Glaucium flavum or Yellow horned poppy
Chelidonium majus or Greater Celandine      
Pseudofumaria lutea or Yellow Corydalis
Pseudofumaria alba or White Corydalis
Ceratocapnos claviculata or Climbing Corydalis
Fumaria spp. or Fumitories
Continue reading “Papaveraceae and the other genera besides Poppy (Papaver)”

Dandelion; a useful weed!

Today, a plant who most of us know very well:

A Bumblebee feeding happily on a dandelion!

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)
Continue reading “Dandelion; a useful weed!”

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!


Campanula spp. or Bellflowers

There are 5 native species (number 1-5) and 4 introduced/garden escapes which are often much more abundant than the native species.

1) C. patula or Spreading Bellflower
C. rapunculus or Rampion Bellflower
C. persicifolia or Peach-leaved Bellflower
2) C. glomerata or Clustered Bellflower
C.portenschlagiana or Adria Bellflower
C.poscharskyana or Trailing Bellflower
3) C. latifolia or Giant Bellflower
4) C. trachelium or Nettle-leaved Bellflower
5) C. rotundifolia or Harebell

Other genera and species:

Legousia hybrida or Venus’s-looking-glass
Hesperocodon hederaceus or Ivy-leaved Bellflower
Phyteuma spicatum or Spiked Rampion
Phyteuma orbiculare or Round-headed Rampion
Jasione montana or Sheep’s-bit
Lobelia urens or Heath Lobelia
Lobelia dortmanna or Water Lobelia
Pratia angulata or Lawn Lobelia
Pratia pedunculata or Blue Star Creeper
Continue reading “Campanulaceae family”

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 the contents of all the species described on the next page and which are native according to Stace.



from Subgenus Geranium:

G. rotundifolium or Round-leaved Crane’s-bill
G. sylvaticum or Wood Crane’s-bill
G. pratense or Meadow Crane’s-bill
G. sanguineum or Bloody Crane’s-bill
G. columbinum or Long-Stalk Geranium
G. dissectum or Cut-leaved Crane’s-bill

from Subgenus Robertium: · 

G. pyrenaicum or Hedgerow Crane’s-bill
  G. pusillum or Small-flowered Crane’s-bill
  G. molle or Dove’s-foot Crane’s-bill·
  G. lucidum or Shining Crane’s-bill
  G. purpureum or Little Robin·
  G. robertianum or Herb-Robert

Erodium spp.

Erodium maritimum or Sea Stork’s-bill
E. moschatum or Musk Stork’s-bill
E. cicutarium or Common Stork’s-bill
E. lebelii or Sticky Stork’s-bill
  E. x anaristatum (is a cross of E. cicutarium x E. lebelii)
Continue reading “Geraniaceae or the Crane’s-bills and Stork’s-bills family”

Uses of our Native Grasses or the Poaceae

Marram grass or Ammophila arenaria or is an important deep rooted grass, stabilising sand dunes!

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!


Continue reading “Uses of our Native Grasses or the Poaceae”

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!

Continue reading “Lythrum hyssopifolia or grass-poly and other members of the Lythraceae (or Loosestrife family)”

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.

Continue reading “Conifers in the British Isles”