The Boraginaceae: Green Alkanet, Forget-me-not, Houndstongue, Viper’s-bugloss, Oysterplant, the Gromwells and Lungworts!

Myosotis scorpioides or the Water Forget-me-not

This week I would like to talk about most native genera of the Boraginaceae or Borage Family. This is family number 107 in Stace.

Most species of this family have inflorescences that have a coiling shape, at least when new.  The corolla varies in shape from rotate to bell-shaped to tubular, but it generally has five lobes. It can be green, white, yellow, orange, pink, purple, or blue. 

Most pollination is by hymenopterans, such as bees.

Most members of this family have hairy leaves. The coarse character of the hairs is due to cystoliths of silicon dioxide and calcium carbonate. These hairs can induce an adverse skin reaction, including itching and rash in some individuals, particularly among people who handle the plants regularly, such as gardeners.

In some species, anthocyanins cause the flowers to change color from red to blue with age. This may be a signal to pollinators that a flower is old and depleted of pollen and nectar.

Bright blue flowers which are attractive to us and bees.

 I am starting off with the evergreen Pentaglottis sempervirens  which  flowers during several months from spring into summer with bright blue flowers on long stems.  

It has deep reaching, black, thick roots and it is classified as one of the more difficult weeds on the RHS website although it is not native in the British Isles.

Several of my customers have it in their gardens and mostly don’t mind its invasive habits too much as it is such a valuable flower for bees and other insects.

It was introduced from south west Europe and now widely naturalized at least as far north as Walsall (!) and prefers  moisture retentive soils.

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Bindweeds and Dodders in the Convolvulaceae Family

The whitish rhizomes and growing shoots of Hedge Bindweed.[/caption]

This week I would like to talk about a menace known as Common or Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium) as it is fresh in my mind!

Calystegia sepium is a plant with showy white flowers. However, because of its quick growth, clinging vines and broad leaves, it can overwhelm and pull down cultivated plants including shrubs and small trees. Its aggressive self-seeding (seeds can remain viable as long as 30 years) and the success of its creeping rhizomes (they can be as long as 3 to 4 metre) cause it to be a persistent weed and have led to its classification as a noxious weed. (from Wikipedia)

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Ivy or Hedera helix

A Red Admiral posing on an Ivy flower not yet ready open!

The ivy on our wall has been looking fabulous again this year and providing the bees and wasps, as well as the odd butterfly (Red Admirals mainly), although there were many more butterflies last year, with much needed last minute nectar!

It is a species of flowering plant in the family Araliaceae, which is family number 136 in Stace.  Hedera is the generic term for ivy and got several species growing in the B.I.  which are all garden escapes. Only H. helix is the native or Common Ivy. The specific epithet helix derives from Ancient Greek  meaning “twist, turn’.

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Heemtuin in Nieuwkoop, the Netherlands

 

Entrance to the Heemtuin in Nieuwkoop with some typical Dutch bicycles parked up!

I have been visiting this lovely concept garden, or park, in the Netherlands whilst here on a family visit. As I’ve already written in my Ethhnoblog Introduction of April, 18th this year about what I believe is a typical Dutch type of garden.

Apparently there are about 130 of these gardens in the Netherlands and 7 in Belgium; some are listed on the Dutch Webpage here

I will translate some of the information below as the translation is not accurate, but rather about Wildlife Gardens.

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The Poppy and its family

The Common Poppy in bud, flower and fruit. (picture courtesy Wikipedia)

This week I’d like to talk about the Common Poppy or Papaver rhoeas, which is a symbol in Britain for the millions of casualties in the First World War and since.

It belongs to the  Papaveraceae or Poppy family which is number 30 in Stace.

This weekend we will have Remembrance Sunday here  which is always the nearest Sunday to Armistice * Day (on 11-11). This was signed at 5 am on the 11th November, 1918 to be precise but all the fighting ceased at 11 am, so exactly 100 years ago!

*Armistice means: a Ceasefire or suspension of hostilities or also an agreement made by opposing sites to stop fighting for a certain time or a truce.

Papaver, also ‘pappa’, is the Latin word for food or milk and ‘rhoeas’ means red in Greek.

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the Lamiaceae or Dead nettle family: part 3

Mentha aquatica or Water Mint

This week we continue with the last genera of the Lamiaceae:

SUBFAMILY 4: NEPETOIDEAE (genus 23-27)

23) Lycopus europaeus or Gypsywort, 24) Mentha or Mints. This is a difficult taxa for classification due to widespread hybridisation (p. 629). But according to Stace; ‘with practice the scent of fresh plants is very helpful, but difficult to describe!’ Many are native but many will be introduced as escaped garden plants of course. 27) From this large genus, Salvia or Sage, only 2 are native: S. pratensis or Meadow Clary and S. verbenaca or Wild Clary.

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The Lamiaceae or Dead-nettle family: part 2

Pretty Ground Ivy in Subfamily Nepetoideae

SUBFAMILY 3: AJUGOIDEAE (12-13)

12) Teucrium or Germanders with 4 species, 13) Ajuga or Bugles with 3 species.

SUBFAMILY 4: NEPETOIDEAE (14-27) (Some genera are missing as these are non natives)

14) Nepeta cataria or Catmint (arch.), 15) Glechoma hederacea or Ground-ivy, 16) Prunella or Selfheals with 1 possibly 2 native., 19) Clinopodium or Calamints, 21) Origanum vulgare or Wild Marjoram, 22) Thymus or Thymes, 23) Lycopus europaeus or Gypsywort, 24) Mentha or Mints. This is a difficult taxa for classification due to widespread hybridisation (p. 629). But according to Stace; ‘with practice the scent of fresh plants is very helpful, but difficult to describe!’ Many are native but many will be introduced as escaped garden plants of course. 27) From this large genus, Salvia or Sage, only 2 are native: S. pratensis or Meadow Clary and S. verbenaca or Wild Clary.

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Some members of the Lamiaceae part 1

Betony with Hummingbird Moth

This family of the Lamiacea or the Dead-nettle family (family 118, p. 611 in St.) is one of my favourites for the flowers and herbs it gives us. The insects and in particular the bees also love it for the nectar the flower provides.

It is a large family in the B.I. with 27 genera. To identify to genus level, Stace has split them into 8 groups. Not all genera are native but may be garden escapes.  As it too large for one week I will spread this family into 3 separate blogs and weeks.

To make life even easier for identifying the plants the taxonomists also have sub divided this large family world-wide into 4 Subfamilies, where again the genera in those groups have similar characters. This is the whole idea about classification to make sense to all that variety out there!

To summarize, I will place only the native as well as Archyophytes into those, so numbers missing below are not native:

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The Salicaceae or Willow family

Pollarded willows in a very Dutch landscape!

The Willow family (number 62 in Stace)  has two of our main tree genera, namely the Poplar and the Willow. Although the flowers (as always in traditional classification) determine the ultimate genus and whether it is a Willow or Poplar, most of us can easily tell the difference from the leaves. All the Poplars have a triangular outline and a long leaf stem (petiole) whilst most of the Willows have long, narrow leaves.

When there are no leaves in winter the tree could be identified by the winter buds, where Willows just have one outer scale and the Poplar has several. However as there is much to say about the Willow, I will leave the Poplar for another blog in the future.

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Urticaceae or Nettle family

The Common Stinging Nettle early in the year!

This is family number 50 in Stace and besides the genus Urtica, which has 2 native species, it also has 2 other genera + species occurring in the B.I. namely Parietaria judaica (Pellitory-of-the-wall) and an ornamental, low creeping with very small leaves, sometimes seen as a houseplant, called Soleirolia soleirolii with the very funny common name: ‘Mind-your-own-business’. I have seen this plant more frequently in the last few years in gardens as well.

“ The 3 genera appear very different vegetatively, but are characterised by their inconspicuous, unisexual flowers with 4 perianth segments, 4 stamens, 1-celled superior ovary with 1 ovule, 1 style and densely branched stigma”. The Common Nettle (Urtica dioica) is very variable, especially in leaf shape and hairiness, stingless, subglabrus and monoecious variants are known.” From Stace, p. 285

The other native nettle is not as well-known and is the annual Small Nettle (Urtica urens). Apparently (St. 286) this is an archaeophyte and often occurs in cultivated and waste ground. As with many leafy plants, they are often an indicator of good soil.

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