Tag Archives: Primrose

Hanky Panky

Ha! I have heard it said that “the Devil makes work for idle hands,” maybe he does, I don’t know about that. Today we are going to talk about Monkey Business, of the botanical kind.

I just want to mention the star of today’s show.

NicholasPretending to be Old Nick himself, this beautiful little innocent is one of our ASBO lambs. Born into the wild, this one has survived. I just met him about an hour ago and I was struck by his inner beauty.

I wish he was mine 🙂

Let’s talk about flowers (and hanky panky)

Primroses are lovely.

PrimroseNo question about that.

The Cowslip is so tall and strong.

CowslipHandsome even, that is just another word for beautiful.



Should we leave them alone together?

I don’t know how much that you know about the birds and the bees but if you leave Primroses and Cowslips alone together then there is a very fair chance that they will get up to Hanky Panky.

False OxlipThis is a flower called the False Oxlip, real Oxlips are very rare and a species in their own right. A False Oxlip is the result of a liaison between a Primrose and a Cowslip. We are not here to judge.

False Oxlip

False Oxlip

False OxlipIt seems to me to be a very beautiful offspring.

His mum was not what I would call a looker.

ASBO mumBut I noticed his sister.

SisterBeautiful animals.

Playing with Butterflies

It is a miserable one today. A cold wind has blown in from somewhere and brought lots of cloud with it.

It is a good day to demonstrate my Butterfly handling technique. They will be at my mercy.

The poor little things can’t do anything about it, they need sunshine, they need to be warm to fly and they will be very lethargic today.

The first butterfly that we found was a female Orange Tip.

Orange tip butterflyThe first trick is the weather. I have been out at two o’clock on a sunny afternoon and can not get anywhere near them. I am already very close to this one and she would have flown away if she could, she is too cold and I can do what I want with her.

Now. You must not touch her in any way,  only she may touch you. She is very easy to break and we are big and clumsy.

Just put your finger right in front of her, minding her antennae and legs and just depress the flower a little bit.

You can talk about politics or the economy but not war, it has to be gentle depression.

As the flower gives way under her feet she will step forward onto your finger and once her front feet are on you can just roll your finger under her and you have her.Orange tip Butterfly I don’t exactly have this one where I wanted. I wanted her on my finger tip for display purposes but she has crawled onto my knuckle and I can’t move her. This will do.

Orange tip ButterflyIt is a butterfly Fizz.

It is a butterfly Fizz.

Orange tip ButterflyI have picked this one up because she was in deep shade, I am going to move her into the sunshine. As soon as she feels the sun she will open her wings and bask and she will fly away. It will only take about two seconds for her to warm up enough to fly so I have to get lucky with my photographs.

Orange tip Butterfly

Orange tip Butterfly

Orange tip ButterflyAnd she has gone.

The pictures aren’t great but never mind we will try again later.

You can only do this with the white ones (any of the whites). This little Speckled Wood was flitting all over the place, a little bit of cloud doesn’t bother him.

Speckled WoodIt is simply because white reflects light and heat and dark colours like brown absorb it and the Speckled Wood warms up much easier than the Orange Tip and flies on much cooler days.

I have never been able to approach or pick up a Speckled Wood, or any of the other dark ones. Sometimes they will land on me by chance and of course if you raise them as your own you can release them but that is as good as it gets.

Now I am just going to leave the butterflies for a moment because I have noticed the seed pods of that flower she was sitting on and I want those photographs. It is Garlic Mustard.

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

Garlic MustardThank you for indulging me, I needed those photographs for my files.

I have just noticed another flower.

Have you ever wondered where Primroses go when they die?

Hmmm… a small lack of floral compassion perhaps?

Anyway I have and I care. I want to know. So I am choosing a nice female plant with pin flowers…

PrimroseI am going to perform a couple of autopsies on her dead sisters.




PrimroseVery interesting, this is how we find things out.

Perhaps if I sewed them back together and passed electricity through them, then I could reanimate them. Now which bit went with which?

Back to the butterflies and we have found another Orange Tip, this one is a male.

Just in case there is anyone in the world who wonders how I can tell the male from the female. Well, it is only the male who actually has orange tips to his wings (On the inside). With a few years of practice and an element of expertise in this field absolutely anyone can tell the difference.

Orange Tip

Orange TipI am not going to try and pick this one up. He is as docile as the female was and I could do what I wanted but….

Okay he is in the shade but the whole world is in the shade, the sun is behind a cloud and we are in the open this time. Plus I would much prefer to photograph him on a plant than in my hand. This time he is on Cow Parsley.

Cow Parsley is absolutely brilliant and provides a mass spectacle to rival the Bluebells. It really is beautiful but we will do that in a bit.

What I am going to do is stand beside him and wait for the sun to come out again, it will take twenty five minutes and then I will fail 🙂

There is a reason why I like to do this sort of stuff alone. Sometimes if I am waiting for a bird or animal I might wait for hours, I sustain myself by imagining the shot that I might get if everything works.

I like to walk with other people and talk about flowers and nature and stuff but I don’t try and take photographs. I have tried and they always say, “Go on, get what you need, I am happy,” but I can only get guilt, maybe I will do it once for twenty minutes or so but then when I want to do it again, I just can’t.

Nobody just wants to stand and look at me for hours on end… almost nobody.

This is the reason that I work with an Air Head. (I couldn’t have a better companion/assistant)

She understands the importance of botanical research, she understands my interest in  entomology, she understands that big game hunters have to make a living just as butterfly collectors do and she will make any sacrifice. She is priceless.

PricelessOh dear, he is staring at a bush again. I think that he is looking for his marbles and we just have to wait.

(He never finds them)

Best Dog in the world, that one.

Here we go.

Orange Tip

Orange Tip

Orange TipThat’s a fail. I have taken much better pictures than that. Never mind, the Dog got walked.

I will have to wind this up now or my daily post will take two days to write. Take care.

Defamation of Character!

As you probably realised I have been away for a few days, gathering botanical specimens for the benefit of our understanding and not what Fizz said, that is just her impish sense of fun.

Impish sense of funI was not lying in a ditch, I was in the pink.

Starting with pinks, I have got Primroses.
PrimroseNot pins or thrums or even yellow ones, I have got pink Primroses.

Pink Primrose

Pink PrimroseThis is the real thing, not a hybrid or garden escapee, this is the pink form of Primula vulgaris subspecies vulgaris a pink wild Primrose. They are not that rare but I didn’t have pictures and now I do 🙂

Pink Primrose

Pink Primrose

Pink Primrose

Pink PrimroseNow put pink out of your mind or the colours might clash.

This next one was a wonderful find.

I have been walking miles to get photographs of the various stages of Coltsfoot. A couple of days ago I was walking back from just such an expedition when we came to the gate.

This is where Fizz likes to play “The Gate Game.”
The Gate GameThis particular gate is by the side of a track we regularly walk and it is very close to home.

The rules of the game are simple. She runs under the gate with the ball and sits there looking at me, she won’t budge. If I climb over the gate she runs back under, to the other side and we play again. She can play this game for a long time. It is so funny. (Her impish sense of fun, again)

This time when I climbed over, I forgot all about her and didn’t bother coming back.

Coltsfoot on my doorstep.
ColtsfootI have shown you the flower, it is a beautiful flower but that’s not it.

We had been out for about three hours in bright sunshine and we hadn’t seen an insect, not even a Butterfly. The Coltsfoot was swarming with them.

I need these photographs again for Easy Wildflowers. It is okay to say, “Provides a valuable source of nectar and pollen early in the year” but it is much better to have photographs.

Honey Bees.
Honey BeeWhen I photograph insects I really want to get the eyes and it can get very frustrating trying to capture Bees on Thistles or Dandelions because they bury their faces in the flower. Coltsfoot is lovely and flat and it doesn’t give them anywhere to hide.

Honey Bee

Honey Bee

Honey Bee

Moving on…Honey BeeThere were lot’s of Butterflies but all of them Small Tortoiseshells and some of them were quite badly torn so today I will move past them quite quickly. (We will have lots of Butterflies later)

Small Tortoiseshell(Butterfly nectaring on Coltsfoot)

I just want to show you one more insect today. This next one is a Hover Fly, called a Drone Fly it is a Bee mimic.

This is Eristalis tenex.

You can tell it is a Hover Fly and not a Bee because it only has two wings and it has a thick waist.

Common Drone FlyIt has huge eyes that would meet in the middle if it were a male, this one is female and it has stubby little antennae.

Common Drone FlyIt is not quite so easy to get it to species, they can vary in colour a lot.

This is Eristalis tenex because it has a banana shaped back leg (curved rear tibia).

Eristalis tenexThe hairs on it’s back legs are longer in the centre of each section and that is indicative of species.

Eristalis tenexIf you look closely there are two lines of fine hair running down it’s eyes. That is probably not very clear unless you are looking for it.

Eristalis tenexOh dear. Am I boring you?

Bored FizzJust one more little flower today.

I have been fretting over this one. It is already in flower and I haven’t put it on EW yet. There are two subspecies and I wanted the pictures to show the difference. This is the flower in question.

The Ivy-leaved Speedwell.

Ivy-leaved Speedwell

You have to look closelyIvy-leaved Speedwell

Really closely.Ivy-leaved Speedwell

There it is.Ivy-leaved Speedwell

A British pond coin is about the same size as a wedding ring and an Ivy-leaved Speedwell is the same size as the “G” in “REG.”Ivy-leaved SpeedwellInside the flower there are even tinier bits (smaller than Fizz) and what I have been looking for is a picture of the anthers just before they open to produce pollen. There is a fairly small window of opportunity.

If the anthers are bright blue, before they get covered with white pollen and all the other bits add up then it is Veronica hederifolia subspecies hederifolia and that is what I think that I have got here.

Ivy leaved speedwellDoes it really matter? Will anybody ever look?

What do you think Fizz?

FizzFizz thinks that we should play ball.

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 🙂

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  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: 386–412. doi: 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  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  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  is not real, she is a Toy Dog (I read that on Wikipedia)

Happy Face

It is like a Spring day out there today. It is like it is March and the sun is shining 🙂

Spring dayIn March the Butterflies come back and so today we are going out to look for them.

Fizz has got her happy face on.

Happy faceI haven’t seen that face for a long time. She is not really happy (well, she is always happy) she is hot and she is panting and it hasn’t been hot for a very long time.

Happy face 2It didn’t take us long to find a Butterfly. This is a Red Admiral.

Red AdmiralThe Red Admiral is a migrant species that arrives here in the UK in May and June flying in from Europe and North Africa.

It is only fairly recently that it has been considered a resident species, they don’t like our cold winters.

Butterfly Conservation says on it’s website, “There is an indication that numbers have increased in recent years and that overwintering has occurred in the far south of England.” That needs updating.

This animal has survived the winter in Gloucestershire and hopefully I will soon see a lot more. Hurrah for global warming 🙂

Red AdmiralIt does look a bit tatty but so would you if you had been outside all winter.

We better find it some nectar plants. You can try some of these.

Lesser Celandine.
Lesser Celandine

Lesser Celandine

Common Field-speedwellCommon Field-speedwell

Common Field-speedwellThere is another one, a Small Tortoiseshell.

Small TortoiseshellOh Joy. The flowers are flowering, the Butterflies are coming back and Fizz has got her happy face on.


ColtsfootColtsfootNow Fizz and I are tired of all this sunshine and Butterflies and flowers.

Tired FizzWe are going up on the bank to get our photographs taken with the sheep.

Interested FizzOn the way we find another little flower that we haven’t seen yet this year.

This is Hairy Biittercress.

Hairy Bittercress

Hairy Bittercress

Hairy Bittercress

Hairy BittercressIt’s good for Butterflies.

Okay, let’s make some selfies.

Selfie 1

Selfie 2

Everybody crowd in.Selfie 3Our shadows are getting very short, mine used to be about ten sheep long.

I have written about Stellaria media today but I have had to leave quite a lot of important stuff out because I just didn’t have the photographs. I haven’t seen it in flower yet but it won’t be long and then I shall get the pictures and update the post.

Common Chickweed (Stellaria media)Stellaria media, The Common Chickweed

Common Chickweed is a member of the Stellaria genus of flowers. It is a very small flower, about a quarter of an inch in diameter (6-9 mm) and in common with other Stellaria species it has five white petals.

The  five petals of Stellaria media are divided right down to the base, giving the flower the  appearance of ten petals and note that the petals of Common Chickweed are shorter or no longer than the sepals and that the sepals are hairy.

(Common Chickweed, Stellaria media 6-9 mm)
Common Chickweed (Stellaria media)Compare Common Chickweed to two other Stellaria species that are commonly found here.

(Lesser Stitchwort, Stellaria graminea 7-12 mm)
Lesser Stitchwort (Stellaria geminea)

(Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea 15-25 mm)
Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea)Common Chickweed has three styles that sit on a green ovary. The number of stamens can vary from three to eight.

(Stellaria media, 3 stamens)
Common Chickweed (Stellaria media)

(Stellaria media, 8 stamens)
Common Chickweed (Stellaria media)Common Chickweed has a weak stem, it will often trail along the ground but it seldom rises more that about eight inches. It is a small plant but if you find it growing in any quantity it is worth remembering that it is a tasty edible. The leaves can be eaten raw in salads.

Common Chickweed (Stellaria media)The leaves are oval and smooth edged with a point at the tip, they grow in opposite pairs along the stem. Leaves at the base of the plant have quite long stalks and toward the top they are stalkless.

Common Chickweed (Stellaria media)Common Chickweed has a tradition of use in herbal medicine and is most commonly used to treat skin conditions, cuts, bruises and burns

It is a valuable wildlife plant, a food plant to several moth species it is probably best known as being favoured by birds. Chickens eat both the plant and the seeds and that is how it gets it’s name, many small birds like finches eat the seeds and you can also feed it to cage birds.

Common Chickweed (Stellaria media) Common Chickweed (Stellaria media)   Common Chickweed (Stellaria media)   Common Chickweed (Stellaria media) Taxonomy

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Caryophyllales

Family: Caryophyllaceae

Genus: Stellaria

Species: Stellaria media

Common Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Common Chickweed (Stellaria media)Wildflowers in the Springtime 🙂

England in the Springtime

Today I have just a couple of wild flowers and a couple of rather good selfies to show you but before we get to that…

My story starts yesterday on Sunday the first of March, Spring Eve.

There was a cold north westerly blowing and I could have stayed at home but, you know, the Dog needs a walk. We headed out along a woodland track and the trees gave us some relief from the bitter wind.

I wasn’t expecting to see much but this is where I have been coming to look for Primroses and this time there were signs of life.

PrimrosesThere were the first tiny flower buds showing and I thought, “At last, it is happening.”

Primrose BudI started to take some photographs.

Primrose BudThen a little message appeared on my screen, “Built in memory full.”


Fizz! You stupid, stupid dog, you have forgotten to remind me to put an SD card in the camera. What were you thinking of?

It had taken us thirty minutes to walk out there, what I had seen was captivating, there was no choice but to walk back to the farm, pick up a card and come back out.

By the time we got back the English weather had kicked in.

I should warn you that I use bad language in this next video (quite mildly) but you shouldn’t watch it if you are under twenty one.

That was yesterday and I missed the Eve of Spring. If, as a team we had a bit more fortitude then I still think that we could have got the pictures but I was outvoted.

So today I can show you what I failed to capture yesterday.

Yesterday there were no Primroses in flower and today I found two.

The first that I found was a pin.

Pin PrimroseThe second was a thrum.

Thrum PrimroseIf you don’t know about Pins and thrums then I wrote it all down on Easy Wildflowers and you can read it here The Primrose it is a sexy story.

But that is not the thing. I have photographed thousands of Primroses, they are lovely and I am very pleased to see them.

I don’t believe that I had ever noticed before how very beautiful and unique the buds were. They have taken my breath away and also made my day, year, life complete. How could I have missed this?

Primrose buds

Primrose buds

Primrose buds

Primrose buds

Primrose budsThese are very much not the best shots that I will get. I am taking these pictures under very difficult conditions. I hope that they will give you an idea of what I am looking at 🙂

The pup and I moved on, that happens when you throw the ball.

Further along this track I have been watching for Tussilago farfara, the Coltsfoot. I found it today.




ColtsfootAgain, if you don’t know the story of this extraordinary little flower without leaves then you can find it on Easy Wildflowers here The Coltsfoot.

Some of you may be aware of my obsession with self portraiture and earlier in the day I had a go in the mud.


meI was quite pleased with the results but still felt that I could do better and then the hail started.

FizzMy idea was to stand my dog in the hailstorm and take a picture of myself reflected in her eyes.

She wasn’t overly supportive at first.

FizzSomebody call the Humane Society!

Shut up, you’ll be famous.

It kinda worked.

Self PortraitWell, that’s enough fun with animals, this is my flower post.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)Senecio vulgaris, The Common Groundsel

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)Groundsel might be a bit of a hard sell. It is not everybody’s first thought when choosing a favourite wild flower.

Regarded as a weed by many it is a wild flower native to the UK, I will show you how to identify it.

(It’s native range extends throughout Eurasia and North Africa and it is naturalised in many other places including North America)

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)Common Groundsel is a member of the Asteraceae or Daisy family,

The flower head is made up of dozens of small disc florets (flowers) like the centre of a daisy, without the white “petals,”

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)The lack of ray florets (“petals”) helps to distinguish this species from it’s close relatives Heath Groundsel (S. syllvaticus) and Sticky Groundsel (S, viscous)  which do have ray florets with the appearance of petals.

The flower head is contained within a cylinder of green bracts called an involucre. These are not sepals each individual flower inside the flower head has it’s own sepals.

There is a second outer ring of black tipped bracts at the base of the involucre,

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)Inside the cylinder of bracts there is a dense cluster of small flowers. Each flower sits on top of an ovary which will become the seed. At the top of the ovary there are a series of fine white hairs these are the sepals and they will become the parachute that will carry the seed away. Through the centre of the sepals runs the long white tube that is the corolla of the flower (Coralla is a word that is used when the petals of a flower are fused together)The corolla opens out into a small flower with five yellow lobes.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)As each flower opens the  style emerges. The style has two yellow lobes, this is the pollen receptive female part of the flower and it is connected through the corolla to the ovary. The flower also has five stamens, the male pollen producing part, these form a tube around the lower part of the style and as the style grows through them it collects pollen.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)Common Grounsel is extremely self fertile. It can flower throughout a mild winter, when there are no pollinators about and still produce seed. The plant is very short lived (about five weeks) but in that time it can produce thousands of fertile seeds.

When the seeds are ripe the green bracts open to reveal the seed head.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)Now the flowers that served to pollinate the fruit have done their job they will fall away from the seeds before the seeds disperse.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)As the corolla tubes fall away all that is left is the seed with the white sepals that now become the pappus or parachute to carry the seed away on the wind.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)The plants ability to produce thousands of seeds at any time of year coupled with it’s preference for disturbed ground make Groundsel a particular pest to gardeners.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)(Common Groundsel seedling)

However, whilst prolific the plant has a very shallow root system and is easily removed through weeding.

The shape of the leaves is best described with a photograph.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)   Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)   Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) The leaves can be quite smooth but they are often covered in long white hairs.

These hairs also often cover the stems beneath the flowers and they are often described as cobwebby, they do sometimes give the plant the appearance of being covered in cobwebs.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)   Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)   Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) The Latin Name Senecio is derived from the word “Sinex” which means “Old man,” It is a reference to the wispy white hairs of the pappus.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)The common name Groundsel comes from the Old English “Grundeswylige” and means “To swallow the ground,” a reference to the plants ability to cover large areas, quickly.

Other common names include Common Butterweed and Ragwort.

In the UK at least Ragwort is a misnomer because that name belongs to another plant, Jacobaea vulgaris.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)(Common Ragwort)

Ragwort used to be known as Senecio jacobaea and the two plants are closely related. Common Groundsel contains some of the same alkaloids that make Ragwort poisonous to livestock.

Small quantities of Groundsel ingested over a period of time can cause irreversible liver damage.

However there are few reported cases of Groundsel poisoning in livestock, it is only really a threat when feed such as hay bales become contaminated.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)As a plant for wildlife Groundsel has some value. There are a few moth species that utilise it as a food plant including the Flame Shoulder (Ochropleura plecta) and the Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae). There are also several species of beetles and flies that eat it.

I suspect that these interactions are under reported given the known value of Common Ragwort and the very similar qualities of the two plants.

Small birds also eat the seeds which are very often available mid winter.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Asterales

Family: Asteraceae

Genus: Senecio

Species: Senecio vulgaris

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)Wildflowers in the Springtime 🙂

News from the Farm

There isn’t a lot of news. It has been quite dry the last few days but bitterly cold.

Yesterday we had a clear blue sky so Fizz and I went off to count the sheep. They were in the top field and the wind was whipping across that field. I had to retreat, I was almost crying it was so cold.

It’s been cold, that’s what I am trying to tell you 🙂

So.. Fizz and I went down Badger Alley to look for plant life, it is quite sheltered there.

Badger AlleyPrimroses would have been nice.

PrimrosesPrimroses will be nice but just not yet.

PrimrosesThis is just the way that it is this year, it is cold. The Primroses were in flower here and I was photographing them on the third of February last year and the Red Dead-nettle. We are running a little late this year because of the crisp winter days but I probably prefer this to the rain.

No I don’t, I am just not big on winter, whatever it is like 🙂

One reason for going up there was to find Wood Spurge. When I wrote about it the other day I didn’t have pictures of the milky irritant sap and they should be quite easy to get.

Wood SpurgeI found the Spurge easily enough but I couldn’t get much sap out of it, I maybe need to try this on a warmer day. This will have to do for now.

Wood SpurgeOh yes, and we looked at the catkins again.

Just for the record here is a photograph taken yesterday on the farm. This is what a Hazel tree’s man bits look like when it is bitterly cold. (Poor thing)

Hazel CatkinsIt is much more sheltered down here and they are beginning to open.

Hazel Catkins

Hazel CatkinsThe most interesting thing that we found was signs that the Badgers were getting active.

Nature Detective DogNature Detective Dog at work.

Nature Detective DogBadgers don’t hibernate but they usually spend December and January underground, living off their fat, all cuddled up together, warm and cosy.

We saw quite a lot of fresh snuffle holes and evidence of straw gathering and some fresh digging.

Badger SettSo if these babies are active then maybe it is time to go and look for our own Badgers.

This is the main sett. It isn’t the best place to try and film Badgers, it is on public land and it is quite confined. I would prefer to film the Badgers on the farm.

Patch was beaten up and kicked out of this sett last year because he wanted to have a go at making baby Badgers. He was joined by two other Badgers and I am hoping that at least one of those was female and that we will have cubs on the farm.

But I don’t know where they are!

Come on Puppy, let’s go Badger hunting.

FizzHave I mentioned that it is cold on the farm? At least the mud is clean 🙂

Cold FizzThe hedges have all been trimmed. It is a job done by machine and it looks pretty brutal but the wounds will heal quickly in the spring.

Hedge trimmingThis hedgerow is a good mix of Hazel, Willow, Holly, Blackthorn and Hawthorn. It is not particularly unique but I am concerned for the Elm trees as I survey the wreckage.

It is necessary work to protect the sheep who were getting caught up in the brambles.

SheepStop following me!


Fizz and I searched all around the hedgerow looking for signs of Badger activity. There are three setts on the farm that they used last year, the first two were obviously empty.

The third one is a possibility, can you see what I see.

Badger SettWhy is this broken grass outside of the entrance? Because Badgers collect straw for bedding? It is a possibility.

It’s okay, I am a Big Game Hunter, I’m supposed to see these things.

Broken GrassCome on Puppy.

strawSo we went off and found a nice patch of dried grass, gathered some up and put it outside of the sett.

strawI am  not nuts, I have done this before 🙂

I have left the camera watching the sett. I would be so pleased to find them here. Badger cubs are born in February (they won’t come out of the sett until May) wherever the Badgers are now, that is probably where any cubs will be born. Be here.

Now I suppose that you would like to play ball?


FizzGood Girl!

FizzMight as well look for fleas while I’m here.



Fizz would like everyone to know that she hasn’t got fleas.FizzToday’s flower is Elder because there is an association with Badger Setts and Elder, The Badgers like the berries and you will often find it growing around old setts.

OH! I nearly forgot to tell you that the Elm trees were all right, the maniac hedge trimmer didn’t go up that far 🙂

Elm Trees

Sambucus nigra, The Elder Tree

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra)Sambucus nigra, the European Elder also known as the Black Elder or Elderberry. This small tree is as well known for it’s purple/black fruit as for it’s froth of white flowers.

Elder fruit (Sambucus nigra)It is one of the first trees to come into leaf with new leaves appearing in early March.

Elder leaf (Sambucus nigra)The leaves are made up of five and sometimes seven leaflets on a central stem, with opposite pairs and one at the tip of the stem. The leaflets are longer than they are wide and have a toothed edge.

Elder leaf (Sambucus nigra)

Elder leaf (Sambucus nigra)This next picture is of one leaf, comprising and showing the arrangement of five leaflets. That is important to understand because a single leaflet or leaf, that is this shape would not indicate an Elder, each leaf is composed of five leaflets, sometimes seven and rarely nine.

Elder leaf (Sambucus nigra)

Elder leaf (Sambucus nigra)The woody stem of Elder is also quite distinctive.

A fresh stem is usually covered in small pale warts, these are called lenticels. They are sometimes described as breathing pores and allow the tree to exchange gasses.

Elder stem (Sambucus nigra)You will pretty much always see some branches marked with these distinctive lenticels on a live Elder.

Elder stem (Sambucus nigra)

Elder stem (Sambucus nigra)Older bark becomes furrowed and the breathing pores are not noticeable then.

Elder stem (Sambucus nigra)

Elder (Sambucus nigra)The Elder is a short lived tree, not more than about 60 years. It is also quite small and shrub like. I have read that it can attain a height of twenty feet or more but it is usually smaller than that.

Legend has it that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from an Elder tree. I think that this is unlikely, for hanging you really need a tree that is taller than you with sturdy horizontal branches, like an Oak or a Chestnut. It is more likely that this defamation by association is the work of the Christian Church in the battle against Paganism because the Elder once held great spiritual importance.

You wouldn’t have much luck, hanging yourself in one of these.

Elder (Sambucus nigra)However the association stuck and the small jelly fungus that grows on the Elder became known as Judas’s Ear and later just Jew’s Ear.

Jelly Ear Fungus Jelly Ear Fungus   Jelly Ear Fungus   Jelly Ear Fungus It is now more often referred to as Jelly Ear or Wood Ear, Auricularia auricula-judae.

Jelly Ear FungusThe flowers arrive in May.

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra)

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra)

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra)A flower head may consist of several hundred small flowers. The flowers are hermaphrodite. Each flower has five white petals, five stamens tipped with yellow anthers and a style with three stigmas.

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra)

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra)The flowers produce nectar and pollen and are much loved by Bumble Bees.

White-tailed Bumblebee White-tailed Bumblebee   White-tailed Bumblebee   White-tailed Bumblebee  Too much sometimes….. (It is not dead, just too drunk to stand up)

White-tailed BumblebeeThe fruit ripens in August.

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)When it is ripe the birds eat it.

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)The Elder is a valuable wildlife plant. It provides shelter for birds and forage for deer. Many small mammals (including Dormice) eat both the flowers and the fruit. It is a larval food plant for several British moths including the White Spotted Pug, Swallowtail, Dot Moth and Buff Ermine. The flowers provide nectar and pollen for many insects and birds also eat the fruit.

Despite it’s reputation for Elderflower tea and fritters and Elderberry wine all of the green parts and the fruit are mildly poisonous to us. The fruit needs to be cooked before eating.

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)This tree is a member of the same family as the diminutive, green wildflower, Town Hall Clock (The Adoxaceae)

Town Hall Clock

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)Taxonomy

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Dipsacales

Family: Adoxaceae

Genus: Sambucus

Species: Sambucus Nigra

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)Wildflowers in winter.

The Pin and the Thrum of it.

This is going to be a post about Primroses. I am writing about them because they are in flower, they are beautiful and useful and they are interesting.

1Primula vulgaris is unmistakeable. Each flower grows on a single stalk, it has five pastel yellow petals and some interesting things going on in the centre that we will talk about in a minute.

2They flower in February and go on into May. That makes them one of our first wild flowers to appear and a very welcome sight.

I don’t think that we have to spend too long on identification because everyone knows Primroses.

3So Primroses are edible and useful for the forager. The leaves are quite mild like lettuce and I usually pick a few just to balance the stronger herby flavours of wild food. The flowers are edible too.

A word of caution here. My children are grown up but I would be very cautious of teaching children that it is all right to eat flowers. It isn’t! Some of them are very poisonous.

4Anyway we have done this in another post. If you forage for primroses be sensible and only take a little, try and leave the area so that nobody would ever notice the difference.

Whatever you do DON’T TELL THE MICE!


Mice don’t have any respect for anything and they are very fond of Primroses. They don’t seem to bother with any of the other flowers but in the lane where I pick my primroses they have been devastated. They only eat the pastel part of the petal, they don’t seem to like the centres.

Let’s talk about the interesting centres now.

6Primrose flowers are hermaphrodite. That means that each flower has both male (Stamens) and female (Pistil) parts but each plant has a sexual bias and that is where the “Pin and the Thrum” come in.

In a Pin flower the pistil is prominent and the stamens are held back within the flower. From the outside it looks like this.

7If you look inside you can see that the stamens are there but they are just not showing.

7.1A Thrum flower is just the opposite.

8This time you can see that the pistil is retained inside the flower and the stamens are prominent.

8aEach plant has it’s own identity and all of the flowers on that plant will be the same. Fertilisation only occurs between a pin and a thrum even though all plants have both parts.

So that is Primroses, beautiful, useful and interesting.