Saturday, 17 May 2014

Practical Session Report - May 2014

Our May session saw us enjoying the lovely weather. Ivan had been out earlier in the week to start the mowing, which meant that Lucy and Liz were able to begin raking straight away, while Archie loaded up the wheelbarrow and carted the grass cuttings over to our compost heap.

Sue and myself had our walk around the churchyard, which kept us busy recording the plants in flower and photographing them for the blog. This is the first year that I've seen a holly (Ilex aquifolium) in flower, we have a male plant along the side fence and a female plant along the back wall. We were a bit late for the female flowers, which as you can see in the photograph below, had already begun to develop berries (right).

After our first sighting in the churchyard of pignut last year, we were very happy to see another one this year. Interestingly it wasn't the same plant, but another individual about a foot away - last year's plant hasn't come back for some reason, which is odd as it is a perennial plant.

Pignut is a plant from the genus Conopodium and has the specific epithet of majus, which I initially found odd as the largest I've seen it is no more than 30 cm tall. I've tried to have a look at other species of the genus, but it doesn't seem to be a well documented genus, so I can't find what it's supposed to be bigger than - however O'Reilly and Rose note that it grows up to 50 cm tall, while Mabey suggests it can grow up to 80 cm tall! Pignut seems to be the only species of this genus in Britain. It's an important species because it only grows on long established grassland and open woodland - and as such is an indicator of ancient woodland for most of Britain, including our county of Wiltshire, but this picky nature means that it has declined in recent times due to loss of habitat.

As an umbellifer with fine leaves, it, perhaps, doesn't take much looking at to realise that it's part of Apiaceae, the carrot family. If you trace the roots carefully, and with permission of the land owner, down to the tubers, you'll find some roundish 'nuts'. These nuts are the reason for the common name of pignut and are about the size of walnuts. Eaten raw they apparently have a taste somewhere between hazelnuts and celery (another member of the carrot family). When cooked they are reported to have the taste of yet another member of the carrot family, that of parsnip. Talking of food, it was soon time for our mid-session break for tea and biscuits.

It was an important session for myself and Lucy as it was our last session before getting married! Our lovely churchyard friends gave us a card and some lovely presents during break time. Here's a couple of photos:
The happy couple

One of the lovely presents they gave us to celebrate our getting married. Thanks team :)
Well, that's it until next time. There won't be a practical session report for June as I'm visiting family and celebrating my niece's 10th Birthday. Sue, will be recording the plants in flower, so I'll update the spreadsheet with her findings. The next post will be of the 2014 Wiltshire Living Churchyard Seminar at Chilmark.

Mabey, Richard. Flora Britannica. 1st edition. London: Chatto & Windus / Sinclair Stevenson, 1996.
Mabey, Richard. Food for Free. London: Collins, 2012.
Rose, Francis, and Clare O’Reilly. The Wild Flower Key. Rev Ed edition. London: Warne, 2006.

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