Saturday 22 October 2016

Clematis and Hawthorn

This is the second post about fruits and berries in Milton Country Park.



Bank of fruiting clematis
Clematis vitalba - 21 September 2016
Its similarity to an old man's beard is striking

Clematis vitalba has colonised a number of the trees and bushes in the north of the park.  In many cases, the climber has completely swamped its host, and, as in this picture, very little of the supporting tree or bush is visible, behind a bank of the invader.  The appropriateness of its common name, old man's beard, is very obvious when a mass of its seed heads like this are seen.

Tree covered in flowering clematis
Flowering clematis - 31 July 2016
Tree completely covered in clematis flowers.

This plant is also commonly known as traveller's joy. This name, that has been in use since at least the 16th Century, refers to the bright and cheerful display its seeds make during the sombre autumn months.  Although small greeny white flowers are quite showy, they do not have the impact of later fruit.  

Close up of clematis flowers
Clematis flowers - 24 July 2016
The flowers are unusual in that they have no petals.

The most unusual feature of the flowers is that they have no petals; the petal like structure that can be seen in this picture are sepals.  Maybe not that surprising in the wild plants, but, far more so in the cultivated plants with their huge multicoloured sepals.

Fruiting clematis and brambles
Clematis and brambles - 12 September 2016
Like scavengers fighting over a corpse, brambles and clematis vie for dominance

One of the things I have become increasingly interested in is plant communities and how plants compete for space and light.  In this picture, it is hard to know what is buried below the smothering mass of brambles and clematis.



Clematis with fruit climbing around hawthorn full of red berries
Clematis and hawthorn - 11 September 2016
Contrasting seeds of hawthorn and clematis

Given the number of hawthorn bushes in the park, it is not surprising that some have been invaded by clematis.  I found the contrast of the small dense berries of the hawthorn and the fluffy white seeds of the clematis quite striking.

Hawthorn bush with masses of red berries
Hawthorn - 12 September 2016
Hawthorn bush with a good crop of berries

What a difference a year makes!  Last year, I worked hard to find any hawthorn bush with more than a few berries.  This year, every bush, like the one in this picture, was laden with them.

Rose Hips


Arching briar with rose hips
Rose Hips - 12 September 2016
Easily missed amongst the mass of hawthorn berries

Almost totally lost amongst all the millions of hawthorn berries in the park are few dog roses with their bright orange red hips. I spotted these on a bush at the north of the park.

I was surprised how little folk lore and herbal medicine is attached to this plant. Its medicinal use seems to be confined to use as a source of vitamins, particularly vitamin C, when a syrup is made from the hips.

Perhaps, the most intriguing bit of folk lore I came across is the Indian belief that if fairies ate rose hips and turned three times counter clockwise, they became invisible. Eat the rose hips again, and turn three times clockwise, and, hey presto, the fairies become visible again.

The rose has also been a symbol of silence since the early Egyptians. Any matters discussed under a rose were in strict confidence. This led to the custom of carving roses on the ceiling of banquetting halls to remind guests that any conversations were not to be repeated outside of the hall.

Next: Reeds

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