Friday the Thirteenth (Part one)

Don’t worry. I did think about putting some Spider pictures here to frighten you but then I thought better of it πŸ™‚

Friday the thirteenth was a bit of a damp squib.

Damp FizzSo I will tell you about yesterday instead.

First I went back to have another look at the flowers of the Dog’s Mercury Β because something in my last photographs was troubling me.

Dog's MercuryWhat I had expected to see was a two lobed stigma (the white bit) sitting on the ovary and nothing else but there is something else. There are two extra organs, the thin green things either side of the white stigma.

Dog's MercurySo I went to the experts to find out what they are and the experts don’t know, at least not so far.

I have done some research of my own and found this

Jefferson, R. G. (2008), Biological Flora of the British Isles: Mercurialis perennis L. Journal of Ecology, 96:Β 386–412. doi:Β 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2007.01348.x

and that just says, “Female flowers stalked, with perianth similar to the male flower. Two subulate, abortive stamens are transformed into glandular filamentous nectaries.”

If that is correct then they are nectaries but it does not appear to be common knowledge or at least Β it is not a common agreement.

Well, it does seem to me that science isn’t an exact science and there is still lots of stuff that we don’t know but here on Tramp we remain committed to pushing forward the botanical boundaries.

It is a pretty flower.

Dog's Mercury

Dog's Mercury

Dog's MercuryThese pictures are pretty special, you will be lucky to find such clear pictures of the pistillate flower of Mercurialis perennis anywhere else on the web, luckier than me anyway because I have searched.

There is something wrong with my search engine.

If I do an image search for “Mercurialis perennis nectaries” I get pictures of Fizz.

Mercurial FizzWhy?

Because Google personalises your search and returns the results that it thinks you want to see.

Search ResultI find that frustrating, I want to see flowers and I have never in my life searched for a picture of Fizz, I own them.

Plus I have just kicked her out of my flat for being a mucky pup.

I took pity on her when we got back from our walk today, she was cold and wet. “Come into my home,” I said, “Be warm and have company.” She ran in circles for about an hour and then peed on my floor.

Let’s talk about Cramp Balls. Fizz likes them.

Fizz and her cakesShe likes to sit on her cakes. That little brown thing by her feet is a fungus.

Fizz and her cakesIt is known as King Alfred’s Cakes or Cramp Balls. (Daldinia concentrica)

Daldinia concentricaKing Alfred’s Cakes because it looks like a burnt cake and Cramp Balls because it was once believed that carrying these around with you would relieve the pain of cramp.

Daldinia concentrica

Daldinia concentrica

Daldinia concentricaThey can usually be found on fallen Ash wood and in truth I think that it is the wood that Fizz likes rather than the cakes, she thinks it’s furniture and so she gets on it.

Chop one in half and you will see where the scientific name Β concentrica comes from, it grows in rings.

Daldinia concentricaSo you can’t eat them, what are they good for?

You can start a fire with them.

Daldinia concentricaThey are an excellent natural tinder and take a spark very easily.

That is important because…. In England it is always wet and cigarette lighters and matches don’t work when you really need them. So you carry a firesteel. A modern firesteel is a rod of metal alloys that will produce sparks when scraped with the back of your knife. It always works, it still works when it is wet but it only produces sparks and not a flame. You need something that will ignite with a spark.

Birch bark is good. You have to scrape it with your knife to get a little pile of tinder.

Birch FirePop it in your brand new titanium burner and have plenty of dry twigs for when you get a flame.

Birch FireGive it a little spark and whoosh, up it goes.

Birch FireThat little burner is one of the best bits of kit I ever bought. I don’t normally do camp fires because dead wood is the most valuable thing in the forest and burning it is stupid but the smaller the wood the less value it has and this burner lives on twigs and leaves. There is always free fuel, the only problem is because the fuel is so small I have to constantly feed it, even to boil a kettle. That burner is carbon black today, it was shiny five years ago.

Cramp balls take a spark well but I always prefer Birch.

Cramp BallsHave you finished burning the cakes now?

FizzWhat do you think?

Tinder FizzNext we have Primroses and we had thrums last time so I am only doing pins today.





PrimroseWell there is no wildflower post today because my time has been taken up trying to find out about the Dog’s Mercury.

Instead of wildflowers you can have an absurdly cute cartoon dog.

Cartoon Dog

Cartoon Dog

Cartoon DogShe Β is not real, she is a Toy Dog (I read that on Wikipedia)


55 thoughts on “Friday the Thirteenth (Part one)”

    1. Thank you Elen πŸ™‚ I can assure you that it is not a “condition” but merely small ball shaped fungi with the power to cure regular cramps but either way I have got a couple in my pocket, better safe than sorry πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  1. interested in your little burner – we have an old old thermette that you put water into the outside shell and just burn any old twigs or whatever down the middle chimney. It’s brilliant and very fast. I’ll post a picture on my blog later…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Maureen πŸ™‚ That sounds like a Kelly Kettle. I haven’t ever owned one, two disadvantages, it only boils water and it is quite bulky. My little titanium burner folds flat and takes up as much space as a couple of postcards. I have a Trangia meths burner that I carry as well and it is more convenient but then I am always running out of meths. My little burner cost me about Β£50 and I think that if you punched some holes in the bottom of a tin can then you would have more or less the same thing but now that I have got it , it is a handy bit of kit to have around.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think these experts are resting on their laurels (or whatever it is experts rest on) (crampballs probably). I can just see them sitting around at their club, smoking their pipes and then you come along asking awkward questions. Keep on at it Colin and get those answers for us!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Clare πŸ™‚ It is very hard sometimes to get “experts” to commit and stake their reputation with a positive statement, if there is any uncertainty I get met with silence. That is different to being told that I am wrong it just means that I do not have enough evidence and that is always frustrating. I would love to post my pictures of the nectaries on Easy Wildflowers and tell the world about them but what I post there has to be 100%, I can’t make things up. Maybe I will get a positive response over the weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Maggie πŸ™‚ I have heard that you can ask Google not to remember your search history but this is only partly effective. I thought that I had the answer by simply signing out of Google. My first search for “Dog’s Mercury” looked good, a few of my own pictures but at least no pictures of Fizz. Then I searched for “Mercurialis perennis nectaries” and there she was, wagging her little tail at me. Google are very intrusive.


    1. Thank you Andrew πŸ™‚ Bonkers indeed. I have just tried a search with one of my Dog’s Mercury pictures and that just returned other green plants so I tried again with a picture of Fizz and that returned a whole bunch of “Cute Dog Free Stock Photo” pictures. They were at least black and white animals but they were not cute like Fizz.


  3. Your photos ALWAYS top anything one can find on the web. Lovely and detailed, are you considering publishing a guidebook? It would be one of the best! Hugs to that cutie Fizz. (She really didn’t mean to wee on your floor – it was just so thrilling to be invited in!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Eliza πŸ™‚ Yes all of my flower posts are written for and appear in Easy Wildflowers first, that is intended as my guidebook but it will not work properly until I write a lot more posts. For now I am not promoting it, I am just trying to fill it up a bit πŸ™‚ EW is on the side bar.


      1. With handheld electronics today, I suppose who needs a hardcover guidebook, when you can just use your phone app. πŸ˜‰ But it would be good if you got some monetary compensation for it.


  4. This is a beautiful and wry post, Colin. I love it when I learn new things about the natural outdoor world….a special treat since age and limited mobility no longer let me go exploring myself…..and of course Fizz is adorable. A large mongrel dog and two old cats share my home but they are pretty much indoor fur persons. I’m glad to have found you and look forward to future posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Cynthia πŸ™‚ I loved Delusion of Camels because it just echoes what so many people have said in the comments here. Everybody is waiting for Spring now and ours has come earlier than most. Fizz would like to be an indoor fur person when she retires from being a nature detective dog for now she is an outdoor animal, a farm dog who is not allowed in the house but she has her own boot room.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love Fizz also, but I do read your explanations/demonstrative photo’s of the Cramp Balls and all the plants, I learn something new every day!
    I think my Buggz would be a good friend for Fizz, you can sure see the breed similarities. Buggz is a bit shy but his best friend is a big female yellow Lab! Got to love them!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m sad to hear she’s going back to her boot room, I have a feeling your going to miss her a lot? my guy is old, going blind and he has a reserved spot on my chair and in our bed! He deserves it for being a really good friend and great company!


  6. Well, like many of the other commentators, I found the information about cramp balls and lighting fires in the UK very interesting. I often wondered how people successfully started a fire when everything was so damp. I find it rather odd the strange images/sites that come up when I search as well. It can be extremely frustrating! With regards to the dog’s mercury and your discovery, there must be so much out there we have still to discover. Sadly, a great deal has already been lost and continues to be lost forever before we even get a chance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jane πŸ™‚ There is nothing like a hot drink for raising the spirits when you are outside in the cold and wet. Fire is essential but it can be a very small fire so that we don’t lose even more species. Sadly there is hardly any dead wood in managed English forest, people don’t realise because it still looks like woodland, there are trees and leaves and birds still sing but there is nowhere for the insects to live and they are quite important.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In national parks here we are not allowed to remove anything from the forest, including wood for campfires, so my wanders are very exciting. Fallen logs and rotting branches are a great home and food supply for so many creatures as well as places for fungi to grow. Unfortunately on farms the fallen logs and branches are often used though so these areas do not have as much diversity. The mammals, birds and reptiles often use these for food and homes, so it is a sad state of affairs indeed!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Good stuff Collin. More Fungi please. Love that stuff. Great photos too as always. Really impressed with the close-ups. Back in the old days of film SLRs (I had a Minolta with a bellows lens) this kind of work was nigh impossible in the field.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Dennis πŸ™‚ I agree digital photography has changed everything. Today I can get my pictures because I can just keep shooting until I do get what I want, there is no 24 exposure limit to a roll of film. On a ten hour hike I might come back with a thousand pictures and that is free. Plus my camera can see light that isn’t there, when it looks dark to me the camera can still take a bright picture and it can see much finer detail than I can see with my own eyes. It opens up the world.


  8. Your posts are like salad. A bit of green stuff like lettuce , a bit of mushroomy sort of stuff like some fun guy and then the dressing- Fizz. And all that on the side of a serious botanical discourse. Like meat and three veg.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I also really enjoyed the bit about the Cramp Balls — good stuff. And you’re right about the dead wood being the most valuable thing in the forest. Now I feel stupid for all the fires I’ve made whilst camping. But I should know better…just hard not to I suppose.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Bill πŸ™‚ Well sometimes a camp fire is the best thing about camping. You have just got to bring your own wood πŸ™‚

      Burning dead wood on a camp fire isn’t great but it is nothing compared to the consequences of commercial forestry.

      I can walk through the Forest of Dean (Managed for timber production) and it looks beautiful and everybody loves it.

      It is so hard to see something that isn’t there.


      The trees are all the same age, there are no dead ones and there is nothing on the floor.

      In the middle of the forest is a reserve managed for wild life.



      It is a different kind of forest.

      But really who would ever know that there was anything wrong with the first picture?


  10. I was so impressed with the little outdoor stove, if you will. And the cramp fungus. There is so much to learn and so much already destroyed. I look forward to your post each time I log on to the ‘net.’ And Fizz is the icing on the day’s read. After we try to store as much of the information that you offer as we can we ease out with photos of the muddy little darling. Thank you, Colin.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Ettel πŸ™‚ I have just been down to wake up, feed and play with the “Icing.” She is going to be a happy bunny today, her owners are coming back. She does miss them. Last time they went away, on the day that they came back I took her out for a walk and she was so full of herself, bouncing and dancing along the track. Today will be a good day for Fizz πŸ™‚


      1. Fizz will be with you each day you go out, I hope. I’m certain she misses her owners, but the two of you have a connection like none I’ve ever seen. : -)


  11. What a delightful blog you have, Colin. I am fascinated with your detail and photos-all while making this unexpected learning opportunity so enjoyable. I had to look at your about page again to see if you were a botanist or scientist of some sort in your previous life😊!! Thank you for efforts. Appreciated.


  12. Friday the learnteenth! Lots to ponder in this post. It would be cool to see a spore print of the cramp balls. Bees will be buzzing for those lovely nectaries. (Get thee to a nectary – Go!) Getting all fired up for spring. I always wondered about those managed forests, they just can’t seem to let sleeping logs lie. *sigh*


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