Wednesday, August 14, 2019

August wood in Swindon

Epilobium montanum

Exciting things that happen when you go looking for willowherbs...

A couple of days ago I was walking along one of West Swindon's many pedestrian paths, heading for Lidl and thinking about willowherbs, as documented in a recent post. There were masses here, but I felt self-conscious, with all the other passers-by, so I decided to duck into the wood I was passing and see if I could find some willowherbs that I could look at closely without feeling like an eccentric. As you can see, I succeeded: Broad-leaved Willowherb, Epilobium montanum. I was just leaving when I realized there were some other plants here that were far less commonplace. Right next to the trading estate, I began to have the feeling I'd blundered into Jurassic Park.

Lithospermum officinale

The first was this one. I was struck by the shiny lilac beads on the plant: at first I supposed they were unopened buds, but then I realized these were the fruits.

Lithospermum officinale, nutlets

I didn't have time to check my books, so I put an image up on the Facebook Wild Flower group, and was told that this is Common Gromwell (Lithospermum officinale); the fruits (nutlets) will later turn white. The plants grow up to a metre tall: there were loads of them here. The leaf-veins are distinctive, being deeply incised on the upperside, and correspondingly raised on the underside.

Lithospermum officinale, upperside of leaf

Lithospermum officinale, underside of leaf

Lithospermum officinale, young plants. Swindon, 26 September 2019.

And I noticed another unfamiliar plant too, with divergent branches bearing strange burr-looking fruits.

Cynoglossum germanicum in fruit

Fruits of Cynoglossum germanicum

Once again I consulted the Facebook group, and it seems to be Green Hound's-tongue (Cynoglossum germanicum), a very rare plant and apparently not previously recorded in Wiltshire. I've submitted the record and it's currently awaiting adjudication.

On a re-visit today, I realized there are lots of them here. I counted 62 fruiting plants,  then 67 on a recount a few days later. And there are hundreds of "first year" plants in the leafing phase. (Cynoglossum germanicum is one of those biennials in which the "first year" is often, I suspect, repeated for several years in a row.)

A tangle of Cynoglossum germanicum

Cynoglossum germanicum, stem and leaves.

Tongue-shaped leaves, fresh green, rather sparsely hairy. Whereas the leaves of common Hound's-tongue (Cynoglossum officinale) are grey-green and densely hairy. These ones felt smooth on the upper surface and softly bristly beneath.

Cynoglossum germanicum, leaf

Cynoglossum germanicum, fruiting plant surrounded by young plants

Cynoglossum germanicum, young plants

A strange place! The trees are not very old, about 50 years maybe. They're a mixture: Field Maple, Ash, Oak, Common Lime, Horse Chestnut, Wild Cherry, Cherry Plum, Crack Willow...

On a later visit I found a dozen Nettle-leaved Bellflower plants and a big clump of Balm. Other ground flora: Garlic Mustard, Woodruff, Stinging-nettle, Herb Bennet, Red Campion...

Cherry Plum: alternate toothed leaves and hairless green twigs.

Woodruff (Galium odoratum). Swindon, 26 September 2019.

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