Wildflower Wednesday. August 2014.

The fourth Wednesday of the month is Wildflower Wednesday, so why don’t you join in with Gail’s meme over at Clayandlimestone and see some wild flowers from around the world.

For this month’ s post I was short of time so I decided to take my bike to see what wild flowers I could find within two or three miles of my home. First of all I headed down to the river. There I found great banks of the tall Impatiens  glandulifera. It grows up to 2 metre high.  This one was growing on the bridge.

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It is not native here; it comes from the Himalayas. It was introduced into this country in 1839 at the same time as those other two pests, Giant hogweed and Japanese knotweed. It was actually introduced into the glasshouse at Kew Gardens. Within 10 years of its introduction, this Himalayan balsam had escaped from gardens and had started to clog up our rivers. It is an aggressive self sower; a single plant can produce 2,500 seeds. The seeds pop out with such a force that they are carried up to 7 metres in distance.  It is also thought that it excretes substances that are toxic to other plants so nothing can compete with it. This is called allelopathy. It is nectar rich which you might think is a good thing, but it means that other flowers cannot compete for the attention of the bees and other pollinators.
The flowers are pretty; they are thought to resemble helmets and that is how it got its name of ‘Policeman’s Helmet’ or ‘Bobby Tops’. They have an orchid look to them. I like the description of the poet Anne Stevenson;

‘Orchid-lipped, loose-jointed, purplish indolent flowers
With a ripe smell of peaches, like a girl’s breath through lipstick.
Delicate and coarse in the weedlap of late summer rivers.

Because it is so attractive people planted this plant in the wild and that added to its range. In 1948 a Miss Welch collected seeds in Sheffield and introduced them into the river near Newport on the Isle of Wight. People took seeds on holiday to Ireland, France and Spain. It is now an offence to introduce it into the wild. But it continues to be a real threat to the biodiversity of our riverbanks. Scientists have discovered a rust fungus which seems to attack just  Himalayan Balsam. If it passes safety tests I suppose it will be released into the UK. This is a rather a worrying thought as we have quite  enough plant pathogens destroying our flora without introducing new ones.

Himalayan Balsam is just one example of an alien plant that threatens our native flora. Rhodendron ponticum is destroying the flora of many of our woodlands. It is a reminder that as gardeners we have a responsibility to maintain vigilance when we plant exotics. We don’ t always know which plants will be a threat until it is too late.

A less invasive moisture loving plant is the native Purple Loosestrife: Lythrum salicaria.

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This is a plant of marshes and riverbanks. It is tall with long flower spikes which are nectar rich for long tongued insects such as bumble bees.
There are some lovely cultivated forms of this Loosestrife such as Lythrum salicaria ‘Robert’ which is pink and ‘The Beacon’ and ‘Firecandle’ which are red. These cultivated forms do not grow as tall as the wild one. I like the wild form and grow it round my big pond amongst Eupatorium, bamboos and Hostas. It does seed rather enthusiastically so it is best to cut it down when the flowers go over.

I carried on my way towards the little village of Edwardstone. I was delighted to find a large clump of this lovely Toadflax on the verge.
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Linaria vulgaris is sometimes called Butter-and-Eggs because of its yellow and orange colour. I love its cheery snapdragon type flowers. It has narrow glaucous leaves. It is supposed to be quite invasive but I have only ever seen it grow in quite small clumps. It is so pretty I would like it in the garden. It used to be used medicinally as a diuretic or a cure for jaundice. The flowers soaked in milk were supposed to be an insecticide.

The village of Edwardstone has a large green where wild flowers grow in abundance.

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Ruth Rendell, the author of so many murder mysteries  loves Suffolk. She had a home in the  nearby village,  Groton, until quite recently.

There are plenty of lovely wild flowers growing on the green here. I love this big clump of tall teasels.
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Lotus corniculatus: Bird’s Foot Trefoil grows in abundance.  The name comes from the seed pods which are supposed to look like birds’ feet. One of the many other common names for it is ‘Granny’s Toe Nails’ which is a bit revolting. This lovely little plant is much loved by bees and butterflies.
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I love the frothy, yellow flowers of Galium verum; ‘Lady’s Bedstraw’ which grows here too. It gets its name from the fact that it used to be used as a stuffing for mattresses. It also used to be used in the making of cheese because it curdles milk and colours it a rich yellow. It had many medicinal uses. This is another wild flower which I would be happy to grow in the garden.
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One more shot of the wild flowers here and then I had to be off home.
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Many thanks to Gail for hosting this meme which celebrates our wild flowers month by month.

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63 Responses to Wildflower Wednesday. August 2014.

  1. AnnetteM says:

    For someone short of time you managed to write a long post full of interesting facts. My wild flower knowledge is definitely improving. Thanks

  2. Pauline says:

    How wonderful to have so many beautiful wild flowers so near to you. Most are over in the lanes here, they all look very brown, so I imagine they will all be cut soon.

  3. pbmgarden says:

    A delightful bike tour Chloris. I’m unfamiliar with most of these. All of these are lovely wildflowers. I’ve wanted to grow Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) but warnings about it being potentially invasive unless well-managed made me think better.

    • Chloris says:

      I gather Purple Loosestrife is very invasive in the States. I have found it seeds everywhere in the garden unless I cut off the seed beads. In the wild it doesn’t t seem to take over too much. Perhaps because it is kept in balance by other vigorous plants.

  4. Julie says:

    Excellent post Chloris, the wildlife trust run Balsam bashing events, I have not taken part, although its rampant along the ditches in our lane and in the field behind and I just cut back the ones I can get too before they explode. Purple Loosestrife is a favourite of mine, I leave the seed heads on though as its a joy to watch small birds perch on the stems over winter and do a little editing in the spring.

    • Chloris says:

      As it’ s an annual I don’ t see why it can’ t be destroyed by simply cutting it back each year before it seeds. I haven’ t heard of Balsam bashing events before- what a good idea.

  5. Tina says:

    All so beautiful–flowers and photos. The Purple Loosestrife is common in the Pacific Northwest of the US–I wish we had that here, but alas, we’re too warm for that. The Bird’s Foot Trefoil is very interesting–I like the Bird’s Foot name better than Granny’s Toenail–yuk.

    • Chloris says:

      Your wild flowers are fascinating to me and most of them quite unknown here. ‘ Granny’ s Toenails’ is rather disgusting. This plant has many common names, many of them regional.

  6. snowbird says:

    That toadflax is lovely, I haven’t seen that in a while. How right you are re bringing in invasive non-native plants, the Spanish bluebell is a case in point. So often now seeds are being brought back from holidays without a thought to what they will do to our environment. A lovely post, I did enjoy it.xxx

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you. I agree about Spanish bluebells. So many people actually introduce them into the wild without realising that they are not native ones and that they are a threat to our lovely native bluebells.

  7. Kris P says:

    I wish there were better safeguards when introducing plants to areas outside their native habitat. I use a lot of non-native plants but try to stick to those grown in climates similar to mine. Still, mistakes happen and then we’re off and running to contain them.

    • Chloris says:

      We all grow exotics that are not native to our countries. I think we have to be extra careful if they are invasive in our own gardens to make sure that they don’ t escape into the wild.

  8. What a lovely photo essay. Isn’t it fun to go hiking or biking in search of wildflowers? It’s a chance to feel like a real explorer! 🙂

  9. Have you had your trip to Lucca yet? I’m headed over again in a couple weeks and have been looking forward to your news.

    I collected a good handful of teasels on my recent trip to Virginia. Unlike the ones in your photo, they were already dry, and I’m planning to use them in an autumn flower arrangement. I didn’t see any critters, but I put them in the freezer to make sure there would be no surprises.

    Your mention of Japanese knot weed reminds me I need to plan my autumn attack on the persistent bits near the river. The head gardener at Tylney Hall told me it is best to spray at the end of the growing season when the plant would take the poison to its roots.

    We do not grow the loosestrife as it is too invasive here. I was shocked to see it in a flower border at Stonecrop Gardens (on the Hudson River Valley trip in July), but the gardener said it was in a container (obscured by other plants) and that it is cut back before it goes to seed.

    So many interesting things in your post. I will have to check on the Impatiens glandulifera.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Marion. I always thought that Japanese knotweed was almost impossible to eradicate.
      We went to Lucca last week and saw Madame Butterfly at the Puccini Festival at Torre del Lago. Pure magic. Florence was wonderful too. We stayed at Fiesole but we didn’ t manage to see any gardens. So many wonderful things to see. So little time.

  10. What a pleasant bike ride you must have had, Chloris. The Himalayan Balsam takes me back so many years, when we first moved here, and I saw it for the first time. “Mr. Chef” demonstrated to me and our son, its “explosive” nature. We were fascinated by it, and seeked it out on every walk. I must confess that, in my horticultural naivity of the time, I brought some seeds home to propagate. They did germinate, but fortunately for the environment and for our garden, they soon died. My gardening skills are hopefully, a bit better now! 😉

    • Chloris says:

      I can see why people collect seeds and grow it; it is pretty. I saw it growing in great abundance in the French Alps recently. It was a different colour than the one that grows everywhere here and even prettier. It would have been tempting to collect seeds if one didn’ t know how invasive it is.

  11. Cathy says:

    I really loved this post Chloris. These wildflowers are all growing here, but I haven’t had the opportunity to go down to the river recently to see what’s flowering. Himalayan Balsam is also a problem here, but is tolerated so far. In some areas it is mown, but at the water’s edge and even in the water it is very hard to cut back. The hummingbird hawk moths love it apparently, so maybe that is why I now see so many in my garden. And it is such a beautiful sight when in flower en masse!

  12. Chloris it is most distressing when a plant can wreak havoc like that and then to think they will release a disease to try and stop it…scary. We have a similar problem with your beloved loosestrife…it is an enemy to any wetland area choking out many natives throughout the most of the continental US. Teasel is so lovely but banned in my meadow as it also takes over and squeezes out all the native plants.

    • Chloris says:

      I didn’ t realise that loosestrife was such a problem over there. It is quite well behaved in the wild here. Teasel never seems to be too invasive either.

  13. Alain says:

    Very interesting post Chloris. We have just about all of these same plants and some are also invasive. I would say though that Impatiens glandulifera is less of a problem for us than Lythrum salicaria.
    I have never seen Galium verum, although we have a white bedstraw (I forget the name).
    Teasels were apparently brought over to North America to use to card wool (a very interesting article on carding and teasel is – http://blackcatsews.blogspot.ca/2013/04/teasels-for-carding-myth.html

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you, Alain, and thank you too for the interesting link about Teasel.
      We have white bedstraw too, it is Galium album. It is not as pretty as the yellow though.

  14. Great post, Chloris, and so interesting. I also posted about an Impatiens species, I. capensis, which is native here in the U.S., but can also be invasive. Purple Loosestrife, as Donna mentioned, is even more invasive here than the Impatiens. Interesting how Mother Nature had all these things figured out before we started moving around and moving our plants with us. 😉 Beautiful photos, Chloris. I just read one of Ruth Rendell’s books, “A Judgement in Stone,” which was very well-written and thought-provoking.

    • Chloris says:

      I enjoyed your post about your Impatiens: Jewel weed. It is so pretty but it obviously spreads in just the same way as this one.
      You are right, when we start moving plants about we upset the very delicate balance of our ecology.

  15. A really interesting read. I hadn’t heard the granny’s toenails name before, love it!

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Gill. This plant has so many names, many of them regional. This just goes to show how we need Latin names so that we all know what we are talking about.

  16. Flighty says:

    A most enjoyable, and interesting, post with wonderful pictures. I grow a few wild flowers, such as teasels, on the plot. xx

  17. Rose says:

    It’s always so interesting to see natives from different countries. The purple loosestrife, for example, is considered an invasive species here, and gardeners are warned about planting it. The Himalayan Balsam is so pretty; who would have thought it would be such a naughty spreader? But then I suppose those who imported Kudzu to the U.S. South thought it looked like an innocent plant, too:) I’ve read several of Ruth Rendell’s mysteries; how nice to know she has created this wildflower garden, too!

    • Chloris says:

      I’ ve just looked up Kudzu, I had never heard of it. Oh my goodness who could imagine that to be an innocent plant?
      Ruth Rendell didn’ t actually create the wild flower meadow she was asked to open it as she lived nearby and loves Suffolk. In fact she has written a book about it called ‘ Ruth Rendell’ s Suffolk’ .

  18. I love those wildflowers! Great selection. We have lots of ‘Lady’s Bedstraw’ which just finished blooming around here, but i had no idea what it was called. Nature will do the work for us if we are all too lazy… or something like that. 🙂

  19. Interesting that purple loosestrife is a well behaved native there, it is a real scourge around here.

  20. bittster says:

    Beautiful finds. I can see how tempting it would be to plant the impatiens but can only imagine their invasiveness. Our own native types do their best to spread around and they “belong” here!

    The loosestrife is also very beautiful when it chokes up acres of wetland and coats it in a purple wash of color, I guess invasiveness is always something discovered after it’s too late.

    • Chloris says:

      Yes, invasive plants are kept in balance in their native habitat. We keep interfering and introducing plants where they don’ t belong and the results can be catastrophic. The same with animals like grey squirrels, rabbits and in the UK, the dreaded Muntjac deer which escaped from The Duke of Bedfordfordshire’s park, Woburn Abbey in the 1990s and have become a terrible pest.

  21. Another great post Chloris. I too love to see the wildflowers and feel we rather miss out in a car as we fail to notice the life in the hedgerows and verges. Bike power! I posted about the meadow where I work yesterday and having just looked at this I am going to try to link to it as some of your photos are much clearer. my article is http//digwithdorris.wordpress.com/2014/8/28/meadow

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you for linking with my post Dorris. I really enjoyed your post about meadows. You made a point that I agree with wholeheartedly. I think our enjoyment of nature stems from the freedom we had to enjoy it as children. I can’ t see how today’ s children will ever have the same connection.

  22. Cathy says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post Chloris, and finding more about some of the plants I know just a little about. I remember the first time I discovered Himalayan Balsam as a stray seedling with a plant I bought and was very disappointed when I realised how invasive it was. Must look up Anne Stevenson – she has used some great adjectives!

    • Chloris says:

      Himalayan Balsam is so pretty but unfortunately very invasive.
      I love the poetry of Anne Stevenson, I can’ t understand why her poetry is not better known. Do look her up she is wonderful. She reminds me of Sylvia Plath.

  23. What a lovely wildflower tour, Chloris.
    and now I know the names of plants that grow wild on my present property and our former.Impatiens glandulifera grew near our stream, and the Bird’s Foot Trefoil is b,looming in the back of my garden.

    Thank you!.

  24. What a wonderful post Chloris! I’m not sure I’d recognise that many wildflowers when I’m out and about. I feel like I should brush up on my knowledge now 😉 I’ve recently planted Lythrum salicaria ‘Robert’ and can’t wait for it to spread out. The original form looks just as wonderful, although too much for my tiny garden I suspect!

    • Chloris says:

      Wild flowers are a life- long love of mine. I was interested in them as a child long before I started gardening.
      Lythrum ‘ Robert’ is a beauty, I hope it will do well for you.

  25. Debra says:

    Thanks for the ramble through some wild spaces. =) As others note it is weird how a plant can be invasive in one place but perfectly well behaved elsewhere. Kudzu is fine in Japan but a monster in the Southern States; Prickly pear cactus is well behaved in the Southwest US but a disaster for Australia. I guess all it takes is one element to be out of balance ….

    • Chloris says:

      The ecology of our planet is so delicately balanced. We are always blundering around interfering with it and we can never foresee what will happen when we upset the balance of nature by introducing alien species. As gardeners we have to take the blame for the introduction of non- native exotics where they don’ t belong. We never know how disastrous the outcome will be until the damage is done.

  26. Robbie says:

    Impatiens glandulifera is that the same as Camellia Balsam ? or related? I grow those in my yard since they reseed all over + the bees do like them too. Your pictures are lovely + I always love your plant/flower tours always…you should write a book! Your attention to detail with words and pictures is amazing!

    • Chloris says:

      I don’ t know if it is the same as Camellia Balsam, it sounds like it though. Maybe it is not as invasive in the States as it is here. One country’ s pest is another’ s treasure.
      Thank you so much for your lovely comment Robbie, I always enjoy your posts and photos too. Perhaps we should write a book together, combining an American urban potager and an English country garden!

  27. Robbie says:

    I like your banner too…is that a Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff in your banner picture….so pretty-one of my favorites!

    • Chloris says:

      It is indeed The Bishop of Llandaff.. I have grown some lovely really dark dahlias from seed from the Bishop which I think are even more beautiful.

      • Robbie says:

        oh my…from seed! I dug up the bulbs of that plant + grew some from seed ( Seed Savers Exchange) but they were a mix and lovely. I only got red from my bulbs…if I save seed from the red would I get “red”? They are stunning!

  28. Anna says:

    A most informative post Chloris. Unfortunately Himalayan Balsam has appeared on our allotment site in the last year 😦 I imagine that you have probably read ‘Richard Mabey’s ‘Flora Britannica’. I have a copy of the concise edition which gives a fascinating insight as to how this plant and other non natives came into this country and the subsequent problems that have arisen.

  29. Chloris says:

    I have lots of wildflower books Anna, including quite a few Victorian ones, but I don’ t have Richard Mabey’ s ‘ Flora Botannica’. I really should get it.

  30. Benjamin says:

    Lovely! Thanks for sharing. I love evocative names like Toadflax and Butter-and-Eggs. Cheers!

  31. Aquileana says:

    Remarkable photos!. And a very informative post too!
    Thanks a lot for sharing!, best wishes, Aquileana 😀

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