A Game of Two Halves

Well it was a weekend of two days. Nothing very unusual in that but what a contrast.

Saturday was beautiful, it would have been beautiful in April, it was almost unbelievable in December. There was no wind at all, a clear blue sky and a very warm sun. It was shirtsleeves weather.

Saturday.That feels very strange in December because although it is warm and the sun is shining it is still winter. Everything is dead and it feels like it should be spring with flowers and insects everywhere.

No it is winter. The hedgerows are bare and nothing is growing or buzzing around in the sun.

It was really nice but at the same time odd to be out there enjoying it when it is empty.

December

DecemberNever mind we did enjoy it and played good ball ๐Ÿ™‚

FizzSunday was very different but I shall write about that in the next post.

Here is a little flower that we didn’t see yesterday.

Prunella vulgaris, The Self Heal.

Self Heal flower head (Prunella vulgaris)A brightly coloured and common little plant, Self Heal grows almost anywhere that it isn’t overshadowed by taller plants. It is common in woodland rides and meadows and is also quite fond of lawns. There is a good chance that you will find it in your garden.

It is native to the UK and Europe. In North America it is sometimes described as a separate species Prunella lanceolata but it looks just the same as Prunella vulgaris.

The petals of each flower are fused into a tube at the base and then separate into two distinct lobed petals comprising a hood and a lower lip. The flowers grow in rings at the top of the square stem forming a flower head or inflorescence.

Self Heal flower head (Prunella vulgaris)The violet flowers form inside little red or green envelopes that grow in rings around the flower head. These little red envelopes are the sepals of the flower. The rings of flowers are separated by small green leaflets fringed with red. It all adds up to a colourful little wildflower.

Self Heal flower head (Prunella vulgaris)

Self Heal flower head (Prunella vulgaris)

Self Heal flower head (Prunella vulgaris)The leaves grow in opposite pairs around the square stem. They areย usually described as lanceolate (Lance-shaped), they are about an inch long, covered with fine hairs and often edged with red. The whole plant is seldom more than about twelve inches tall.

Self Heal leaf (Prunella vulgaris)ย Self Heal leaf (Prunella vulgaris)ย  ย Self Heal plant (Prunella vulgaris)ย  ย Self Heal plant (Prunella vulgaris)After they have bloomed the flowers fall out of their sepal envelopes leaving apparently empty shells where the seeds will now develop.

Self Heal flower head (Prunella vulgaris)

Self Heal flower head (Prunella vulgaris)Self heal usually spreads by underground stems and is very vigorous in this respect but it is also pollinated by bees and many other insects, it is a valuable wildlife flower.

Six Spot Burnet on Self Heal

Small Skipper on Self HealSelf Heal is a member of the Mint family and the leaves are edible but not especially nice. They have a slightly bitter taste and it doesn’t really feature much in the kitchen, it is one for the medicine cupboard.

As the name suggests it was once prized by herbalists. It is supposed to be able to cure almost anything including open wounds and was commonly used for any complaint relating to the mouth. I think that this was because the little envelopes that the sepals form look a bit like the mouth. It seems to be the way in herbal medicine that if a part of a flower looks a bit like a part of the body then that is the part that it will cure.

Self Heal flower head (Prunella vulgaris)

Self Heal flower head (Prunella vulgaris)

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Plantae

Order:ย Lamiales

Family:ย Lamiaceae

Genus:ย Prunella

Species:ย Prunellaย vulgaris

Self Heal flower head (Prunella vulgaris)

Self Heal flower head (Prunella vulgaris)Wildflowers in winter.

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38 thoughts on “A Game of Two Halves”

  1. Beautiful photos of the plant. Now I’m wondering if Fizz wanted to ‘sample’ the healing properties or sniffed at it curiously. Fascinating story about the flower. Do herbalists or such still use/include this flower in their medicine chest?

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    1. Thanks Steven ๐Ÿ™‚ You can buy Self Heal on line from just ยฃ2.45 for 25 grams (if your picking fingers are stiff) so I guess that yes, people still believe in it’s curative powers.

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    1. Thank you Sandi ๐Ÿ™‚ It is still Sunday here and it is still cold out. I just thought that I had too much flower stuff for one post so I will tell the story of Sunday in a bit. Fizz got a bit muddy ๐Ÿ™‚

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      1. It’s still Sunday here too, but not so cold. Were the caricatures I did of you and Fizz okay? My favorite is you as a Cowboy. Fizz is doing very well on Facebook. She’s a natural born social butterfly. Happy Trails!

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      2. I am so sorry for spelling your name wrong. I guess I distorted it too. At least I was consistent. I misspelled it throughout the entire post! I know your name only has one L in it. But that other L just kept jumping in there! Happy Trails, Collin . . . I mean Colin.

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    1. Thanks Clare ๐Ÿ™‚ That is bad news. It is not even scented. It is a good nectar plant but it is not a food plant for any of the attractive species. I suggest sowing what is left of your lawn with Lotus corniculatus. That will give you plenty of butterflies to nectar on the Self Heal and Six-spot Burnet moths too ๐Ÿ™‚

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      1. That’s a good idea, thank-you. I may not have to sow it as the strip of fallow land around the field next to our garden is full of Bird’s-foot Trefoil. It may move in of its own accord.

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  2. Self heal has gone wild here in the US, as you mentioned, probably brought over by the colonists. It is ubiquitous. I was astonished to see it for sale at a local nursery! When I asked why sell a common weed, the nurseryman just shrugged. It seemed scandalous and beyond good business conduct to me!

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  3. Nice post. Thanks, Colin. I’ve always loved this little flower and keep a pressed one in my notebook at a reminder –self heal.

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    1. Thanks Andrew ๐Ÿ™‚ Well, I was going to put Lotus corniculatus on EW next. I could probably squeeze a Burnet Companion into that one ๐Ÿ™‚ I keep meaning to have a go at running a moth trap. I haven’t ever done that before. I think that I am in a good position here at the farm or behind in the orchard but I guess that mid winter isn’t the best time. It is something that I am looking at.

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      1. You might get something in Winter Colin but very little. I ran a Robinson trap : 125w mercury vapour lamp and a Heath Trap, biscuit tin with low wattage cold tube. The catches varied. Wind is bad. Pardon me vicar. Light rain is ok but not on a hot lamp – need a rain cover. Heavy rain is bad. Best source is Anglian Lepidopterist Supplies. Jon Clifton. Its a lot of fun.

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  4. Well those are lovely. Where I am from, Iowa, we haven’t any winter wild flowers, but I have been amazed at how many lovely things bloom in Mexico in the dry season. Love Fizz in the mud, looks like (sorry, he or she?) is drinking Chocolate.

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  5. I have a photo of one of these – probably the North American version, lancelota. I looked and looked online for a name for the thing and could never find one. Thanks!

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  6. Your pictures always fascinate me as I find most insects to be so beautiful and the flowers of course, speak for themselves. Thank-you very much for another wonderful post, like always.

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