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.
There were the first tiny flower buds showing and I thought, “At last, it is happening.”
I started to take some photographs.
Then 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.
The second was a thrum.
If 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?
These 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.
Again, 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.
I was quite pleased with the results but still felt that I could do better and then the hail started.
My 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.
Somebody call the Humane Society!
Shut up, you’ll be famous.
It kinda worked.
Well, that’s enough fun with animals, this is my flower post.
Senecio vulgaris, The Common Groundsel
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 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,”
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,
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.
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 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.
Now the flowers that served to pollinate the fruit have done their job they will fall away from the seeds before the seeds disperse.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Species: Senecio vulgaris
Wildflowers in the Springtime 🙂