Tag Archives: Tussilago farfara

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 ūüôā

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.

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Happy Face

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

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 ūüôā

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
Dandelion
Dandelion

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.

Primrose
Primrose

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 ūüôā

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.”

What!

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 ūüôā

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.

Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot

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.

Me

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 ūüôā

What do you think of it so far?

Load of rubbish!

FizzIt has not been very nice out today so I am going to do a flower instead.

This is going to be one of our early bloomers but I am not sure how early. I only discovered it on March 9th but by then it was in full flower.

We went searching for winter signs of it today but our eyes weren’t big enough.

Fizz

Tussilago farfara, The Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot flower (Tussilago farfara)A member of the Daisy family, Coltsfoot is a composite flower head made up of central disc florets (male) and thin, radial, ray florets (female).

Coltsfoot flower (Tussilago farfara)It is native to the UK, Europe, North Africa and Western and North Asia it is an introduced species in North America.

In many parts of the world it is the first spring flower to appear and in Finland the first Coltsfoot is routinely reported in the media, signalling the end of a long winter and the coming of spring. Something that everybody looks forward to.

Early flowering is achieved because the flower heads form in the previous autumn, lie dormant through the winter and are ready to open at the first sign of spring.

Coltsfoot flower buds (Tussilago farfara)Coltsfoot flowers appear long before the leaves. The leaves only appear after the flowers have gone to seed.

Coltsfoot flower buds (Tussilago farfara)The stem is covered in long scaly bracts.

Coltsfoot stem (Tussilago farfara)The central disc florets are quite large and have five petals and pollen producing anthers. They have no female part and they do not produce a seed.

Coltsfoot flower (Tussilago farfara)

Coltsfoot flower (Tussilago farfara)The ray florets are female, they each have a two lobed stigma to collect pollen which leads down to the ovary, where the seed will be produced.

Coltsfoot flower (Tussilago farfara)

Coltsfoot flower (Tussilago farfara)Flowers of the Daisy family don’t have sepals.¬†Instead many of them¬†have a small ring of hairs, above the ovary, that will develop into the pappus or parachute that will carry the seed on the wind. Not all of them, neither Daisies nor Sunflowers develop parachutes but Coltsfoot does.

Coltsfoot pappus (Tussilago farfara)Very often the newly formed seed head will carry the remains of the flowers amongst it.

Coltsfoot seed head (Tussilago farfara) Coltsfoot seed head (Tussilago farfara)   Coltsfoot seed head (Tussilago farfara)   Coltsfoot seed head (Tussilago farfara)Coltsfoot seed head (Tussilago farfara)

Coltsfoot seed head (Tussilago farfara)

Coltsfoot pappus (Tussilago farfara)When the flowers have gone then the leaves appear, almost like a second plant and this will be one that does not appear to ever flower.

Coltsfoot leaves (Tussilago farfara)This is the shape that gives the plant the name Coltsfoot.

Coltsfoot leaves (Tussilago farfara) Coltsfoot leaves (Tussilago farfara)   Coltsfoot leaves (Tussilago farfara)   Coltsfoot leaves (Tussilago farfara) The Latin name Tussilago comes from the words Tussil (cough) and ago (act on). It was once believed that smoking the leaves would cure a cough and the plant is occasionally referred to as English Tobacco or various other smoking related names. (It should be remembered that Tobacco itself was once hailed as a remedy for respiratory ailments)

The flowers have also been used in herbal medicine and are still available to buy as ready prepared syrups and so on, however we now know that the plant contains compounds that cause severe liver problems over time and are very dangerous to children. There is a variety developed in Germany called¬†Tussilago farfara ‘Wien’ that has had the dangerous compounds removed, it was developed after several severe cases of liver damage and the death of one child whose mother took Coltsfoot during pregnancy. ¬†It should be taken with caution.

Coltsfoot leaves (Tussilago farfara)Wildlife fare better. There is a cup of nectar at the base of each ray floret and the discs are full of pollen. It is a favourite of Honey bees, one study has reported that 51% of all visits to the flower were by Apis mellifera (European Honey Bee). It flowers in early spring and these early nectar sources are very important to all of our insects.

.Comma Butterfly on ColtsfootAlthough insect pollination and seed production is vital to the plants survival most of the seeds produced will fail. Carried by the wind they must settle somewhere they will have a constantly damp environment. Such seeds allow the plant to colonise new areas but most new plants arise from vegetative reproduction (A new plant growing from the roots of an existing one) which is why you will usually find Coltsfoot flowering in quite dense groups.

Coltsfoot flower (Tussilago farfara)Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Asterales

Family: Asteraceae

Genus: Tussilago

Species: Tussilago farfara

Coltsfoot flower (Tussilago farfara)Wildflowers in winter.

I have not been at my best today, I have got a bug.

BugSo I will leave it to Fizz to say…

FizzHappy New Year Everybody ūüėÄ ūüėÄ

Coltsfoot. The bush that never flowers?

Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara (Points for a pretty name) When I first saw it in March, it was nothing but flowers.

Coltsfoot flowerI mean that it didn’t have any leaves.

Coltsfoot flowerColtsfoot is an unusual plant because the flowers appear long before the leaves.

Coltsfoot stem Coltsfoot stem Coltsfoot stemIt is a sun loving flower. No sun, no flowers.

Coltsfoot closed flowersSun comes out…

Coltsfoot flowerThat is Tussilago farfara the flower.

Coltsfoot FlowerNow it is time for the flower to set seed, wither and die.

Coltsfoot seed headGo on then, wither and die.

Coltsfoot seed head Coltsfoot seed head Coltsfoot seed head Coltsfoot seed headNow the leaves appear.

Coltsfoot LeafThese leaves will grow and age and then in turn they will wither and die without apparently ever producing a flower. Of course there was a flower, Coltsfoot just has a funny way of doing things.

Yesterday Fizz and I went out with the aim of photographing the Coltsfoot foliage. I was a bit disappointed, I was hoping the plants would be bigger but this is Coltsfoot today. (Yesterday)

Coltsfoot Leaf Coltsfoot Leaf Coltsfoot Leaf Coltsfoot LeafThat is another one of natures mysteries explained, only a few more to go …..