Saturday 24 September 2016

More Summer Flowers

As summer draws on, there is less and less colour in Milton Country Park; the flowers that are out tend to be reasonably inconspicuous and occurring in small isolated clumps.

Clump of tansy growing besides a path
Tansy - 7 August 2016
This is the single clump in the whole park



One such flower is tansy. There is a single, and very prominent, clump of its bright yellow flowers next to one of the paths in the north of the park. It is not only decorative, but useful in companion planting for biological pest control: for instance, growing tansy next to potatoes protects them from potato beetle. In the domestic environment, planted around your dustbins it will repel mosquito, ants and flies. It dried flowers will also serve the same purpose.

Historically, has been used both to induce abortions and, paradoxically, to help conceive and prevent miscarriages. Other uses included treatment for worms, fevers, and flatulence. But it is basically toxic, and its medical use is now largely discredited.

Common Fleabane

Flowers of common fleabane in among the reeds
  • Common Fleabane - 15 August 2016
  • A lot of this flower goes unnoticed amongst the reeds

Another insect repellent to be found amongst the reeds at the edge of the lakes in the park is common fleabane. It is so named because its scent repels insects, and was kept in the house specifically to repel fleas.

Great Hairy Willowherb

Single plant of willowherb catching the light
Great Hairy Willowherb - 3 August 2016
Its bruised leaves are said to smell of codlins and cream

Another plant to be found in isolated clumps around the lakes is the great hairy willowherb, not to be confused with the rosebay willowherb and purple loosestrife which occupy the same habitat. The plant shown here was by the jetty on Dickerson's pit, and catching the last rays of the evening sun.

Apparently, and I haven't tried it, when lightly bruised the leaves, and particularly the top shoots have the smell of scolded codlings. This has given rise to a number of alternative names including: codlings and cream, apple pie, cherry pie, gooseberry pie, and sod apple and plum pudding.

Water Figwort

Single spike of water figwort in bud with single flower
Water Figwort - 10 July 2016
A plant for tooth ache and nightmares

Yet another plant of the water margins, but a very inconspicuous one. I only found a couple of plants by the small inlet at the north-west corner of Dickerson's Pit, while looking at the reeds.

The origin of the name of figwort is interesting. One source states it is derived from its use according the doctrine of signatures to treat the disease ficus, which is apparently a synonym for haemorrhoids. A second source suggests its name comes from the shape of its root!

It has previously been used as a herbal remedy for ailments as diverse as toothache and nightmares; and is still used in the treatment of wounds.


Close up of head of hogweed
Hogweed - 14 August 2016
Early in the morning and the flies that are usually to be found on it are not yet awake

There are few plants of hogweed in the park, but those that are there are very obvious. This picture was taken in the early morning before the hoards of flies and hoverflies come looking for its nectar are awake.

Opinion seems divided as to the derivation of the name: it is alternatively given as either the flower smelling of pigs, or the love of pigs for its roots.


Close up of flower head of burdock
Burdock - 31 July 2016
Its stiff hooks, the inspiration for velcro, are clearly visible

In contrast to the other flowers here, burdock is abundant right across the park. It has two claims to fame. Firstly, its roots are use to make dandelion and burdock cordial. Secondly, the stiff hooks and its flowers and seed heads, which gave rise to its alternative names of beggar's buttons and clingers, were the inspiration for velcro.


Water Figwort
Great Willowherb
Common Fleabane  

For information on names, I also consulted the book 'On the Popular Names of British Plants' by R.C.A. Prior 

Next: Apples and Plums  

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