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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Part Two of the Malvaceae: The Limes

The Lime trees are recognisable large trees often planted along roads and in parks. They often get pruned very hard, a process called: pollarding, which may happen in restricted areas such as shown in the picture above. Fortunately the trees in Walsall are not pruned so are extremely scented when in flower and very useful for honeybees!

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!

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Mallows 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.

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 unless stated.

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 Part 2

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 in the earlier blogs.

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 or 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.