Friday, 9 May 2014

Practical Session Report - April 2014

This month the plants have sprung into life with us recording 20 species in flower, compared to 11 last year. One species that has been out for the last three Aprils is the ever-lovely cowslip.

Interestingly the botanical name for the cowslip, Primula veris, means first flowering (Primula) and spring or flowering in spring (veris). The cow slip has a range of old common names from hey-flower, peggles, paigles and cowslip balls. The cowslip used to be abundant, but went into decline between the 1950s and 1980s due to the change in farming practices.

Churchyards, like ours at St Giles, are important places for many reasons. In this case, because churchyards are relatively untouched (both by ploughing and by herbicides), species such as the cowslip have continued to flourish. Luckily since the 1990s the cowslips have begun to recover, especially on the chalky soils of England and Wales, providing a splash of welcome colour each springtime.

Another welcome sight was the field wood-rush (Luzula campestris). Part of the botanical name for the field wood-rush is Campestris, which means of fields or open plains. Another common name for the field wood-rush is Good Friday grass as it tends to appear quite early in the year and apparently always in time for Easter - although while looking very much like a grass isn't actually a grass.

This year, I'm making the effort to get better acquainted with the grasses and rushes of the churchyard. This rush has grass-like leaves that are hairy with a knob at the end of each leaf tip. It's quite a low growing rush, which doesn't seem to grow taller than around 15 cm tall. In rushes, the perianth (collective term for petals and sepals) has 6 segments, which in this species are brown. If you have a look at the close up below, you will be able to see the 6 bright yellow anthers surrounding the green ovary. The ovary has a style with 3 fuzzy and twisted thread-like stigmas projecting out of it. .

I'm really looking forward to our next session. If you want to join us or have any questions; feel free to leave a comment or use the contact form to the right to get in touch.

Francis Rose, 1999. Colour Identification Guide to the Grasses, Sedges, Rushes and Ferns of the British Isles and North-Western Europe. Edition. Penguin UK.
Lorraine Harrison . Royal Horticultural Society, 2012. RHS Latin for Gardeners: Over 3,000 Plant Names Explained and Explored. Edition. Mitchell Beazley.
Richard Mabey, 1997. Flora Britannica. First Edition Edition. Sinclair Stevenson.

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