Monday, 23 September 2013

Practical Session Report - September

For many months we've been enjoying the wonderful flowers that the plants within the churchyard produce. At first, we had to wait as the year seemed to take much longer than expected to wake up. But when it eventually did, it provided the animals with food and us with joy. There was an ever-increasing flurry of activity from April to July as more and more plants started to flower.

August was the month where everything slowed down and our records show that while many plants continued to flower from previous months, only two plants began flowering in August. Those were the Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) near the Yew trees next to the side wall and a brief flowering from the Devilsbit Scabious (Succisa pratensis). Now we're in to September and some plants have carried on flowering, but no new plants were in flower.

This month's star of the show: A Speckled Wood resting on some Ivy
However, all was not lost! As the autumn provides is with lots of colour in the form of the fruits made by the plants in the hope of providing the next generation. In the churchyard we have a wide range of coloured fruits from pure white through to orange and red, all the way to black.

Here we have the various stages of fruit growth on the snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) to the left, with the specific epithet of the species name - albus - referring to white. We have the bright orange fruits of the stinking iris (Iris foetidissima) on the right.

Red is a fruit colour that we're all familiar with. It seems that the red colouring has co-evolved with birds, who have vision sensitive to red. The Yew (Taxus baccata) berry to the right is even named for the bright red berries - with baccata meaning bearing red berries. To the right we can see the cluster of red berries that are developed on the plant lords and ladies (Arum maculatum).

The fruits above are from the Tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum). These berries initially start off being a white/yellow colour and as the develop turn red and eventually to black.

It is important that you don't eat any of these berries. As well as being vital food for birds as the weather gets harsher over the months leading to winter many are poisonous.

The year is not yet over, in the next couple of months we will look forward to seeing the ivy in flower, attracting many invertebrates such as flies and wasps; and watching for the holly berries as they turn from a green/orange colour to bright red.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Parish Life - September

The work day for September is Saturday 14th 09.30-12.00 all welcome, as ever. 

This day coincides with the Historic Churches Ride and Stride. Participants will be raising money for their chosen Church plus benefitting less fortunate Churches in Wiltshire. We will be able to meet and greet them with a cheery smile and refreshments. Perhaps you are riding and striding - the Church will be open and welcoming at St. Giles.

The welcome dry spell has reduced growth somewhat, so there may be less spoil to clear up and more time for plant TLC, which is always enjoyable. The majority of species in the botanical kingdom have been tested by human beings over the centuries for their nutritional or medical benefits. Graves of short lived food tasters testify to the poisonous

We have two species of Filipendula at St. Giles. The slender and delicate Dropwort with its delicate white flower heads tinged with pink. More numerous as a down land plant, yet still found locally.  The other is the more robust and widespread Meadowsweet. The heady scent from this plant fills a room and conjures up images of halcyon days of childhood in the minds eye.

Many uses have been found for Meadowsweet - wine, soups, salads. More importantly the plant contains salicylic acid the active ingredient in Aspirin, where this chemical was first isolated. Dried leaves can be made into tea to relieve headaches. The plant also contains anti-rheumatic compounds. The flowers are used as an infusion to treat colds and flu, fluid retention and arthritis. The antiseptic qualities mean that an infusion is also good for relieving the symptoms of urinary tract infections. All these uses from one plant, so how much reliance is placed on plants for our wellbeing?

The majority of you will remember Eve Pegler. Eve is now Team Vicar at Motcombe in Dorset. We visited Eve at her request, to assess the possibilities of a Living Churchyard at Motcombe. Pat and I spent a pleasant afternoon recently talking to Eve and the PCC to kick start the Project there. They have fine areas of Snowdrops, Orange Hawkweed, Birds Foot Trefoil and much more. With help from the Dorset Wildlife Trust and Living Churchyard Project, they are going to formulate a management plan based on the St. Giles concept.

Contributed by: Ivan Randall; Coordinator.