It’s August 1st – where has the time gone this year? July passed in a flash as 2020 progresses in the most alarming of circumstances. Although the last few weeks have given us very mixed and not the best of summer weather (until the last two days of course), that hasn’t stopped an explosion of wildflowers! This month, I’ve made a selection of flora from south west Wales, starting in a damp meadow in Coed y Foel, Llandysul:
And what a meadow! Grasses, ferns, umbellifers galore. The marsh thistle, cirsium palustre, with its spiny stems and leaves is common across the UK and is a serious bee magnet. Senecio jacobaea, the common ragwort is often maligned as an occupier of waste ground and has some really disparaging nicknames, including ‘stinking willie’ (due to the smell of its leaves). However, I think it makes a great contribution to this meadow, not only for height and colour but also its capacity as a pollinator – as it has a high nectar content, moths and butterflies love it. However, it is apparently toxic to horses, so beware!
In the same area, this stream is bordered, surrounded and swamped with wildflowers, particularly the billowing conium maculatum. However, its innocuous appearance is deceptive as it is the highly poisonous hemlock – fictionally added to their cauldron by the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Looking at this idyllic scene, I can’t help thinking it could be the inspiration for a fabulous garden pond (minus the hemlock)?
Wild angelica, angelica sylvestris, is a real beauty and is reputedly useful for easing indigestion as it has antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory actions – but I’m not recommending it!
Moving on from the meadow to the coastal path and a favourite of mine – the pom poms of sea thrift, Armeria maritima. Not surprisingly, another bee magnet! I have planted this low growing plant in rocks in the garden in Wales and although not ideal conditions, it is doing well.
The flower heads of hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) yet another great pollinator, fluff over during August giving rise to the nickname ‘raspberries and cream’. Growing in wonderful abundance in the cove of Cwm Tydu, it’s cut stems have a lovely sweet aroma. A cousin of this plant, Eupatorium purpura, commonly known as Joe Pye weed is a fairly common herbaceous perennial used in prairie planting schemes.
This rather attractive European native plant is linaria vulgaris or common toadflax and in times gone by had its uses – the leaves are said to have antiseptic properties and the flowers were used as a dye. It is a plant I do not recall ever seeing before, but it seems it’s common across the UK and beyond – an invasive weed affecting crop yields in parts of the USA where it was previously introduced.
The pretty native sea mayweed (Tripleurospermum maritimum), grows in sandy salty conditions and can be found all around our coast line. This is a small clump, but it does grow to a height and spread of approximately 60 x 60 cm, the flowers being around 3-4 cm. It is said to be an effective soother to reduce skin inflammation, but I can’t find any evidence for this!
The flowers of red campion, silene dioica are known in folklore as a guard for bee honey stores and also as providing a hiding place for fairies. It’s a striking plant with an upright habit and vibrant pink flowers. More commonly seen in woodland and hedgerows, this plant was growing happily on the cliff side at Cwm Tydu.
I’m finishing July’s wildflower hunt on the bank of the river Teifi. Firstly a delightful clump of foxglove, digitalis purpurea – highly poisonous but the basis of a life saving heart drug, first discovered in 1775. However, look out for the heart shaped leaves and pink stems of Japanese Knotweed intertwining it!
The very pretty English Stonecrop, sedum anglicum growing on a rock on the bank of the river Teifi at Cenarth Falls. This plant loves a dry wall to grow on and will form a dense mat with a 5cm height.
I’m now looking forward to our walks seeking out the wildflowers of August, with fingers crossed in hope of good prospects for a healthy future for us all…