White Bryony

White Bryony (Bryonia dioica) climbs with long spiralling tendrils through hedges and woodland margins and can reach a height of about 4 metres. The creamy petals of the small flowers with their green veins and hair-like structures look rather alien. The leaves are from 4 – 7 cm across and divided into 5 lobes. In the autumn the plant can be seen more readily because of the strings of bright red berries.

White Bryony is flowering right now in the hedgerow along the lane by the allotments; entwined amongst the branches of an Elder on the field boundary of the CD Community Orchard; and in hedges of the fields surrounding the village of Charlton Down where there are footpaths that people often follow on their walks. The flowers attract a wide variety of flies, bees, and other pollinating insects. I was pleased to see a foraging red-tailed bumble bee although it buzzed off rather quickly so the shot is a bit of a blur, but you can see what it is nonetheless.

Bryonia is an emetic. That means that taking it orally can induce vomiting. It’s also a diuretic, meaning it can increase urination. This is why some people take Bryonia for relief of constipation, an upset stomach, or fluid retention. Bryonia root may also have anti-inflammatory effects.

Bryonia: Purported Benefits and Potential Side Effects (healthline.com)

Snail 1

Have you noticed how often small terrestrial snails can be found clinging to the tall stems of hogweed? These are usually Banded or Brown-lipped snails with yellow shells and distinct markings. This one, I am not so sure which species. There are so many Helicidae to choose from in Britain. It could be a Banded or a Brown-lipped snail (Cepaea nemoralis or Cepaea hortensis). Their shell makings are varied and include forms with no dark markings at all or interrupted bands. What is remarkable in this individual is that the shell is see-through and the flesh inside is clearly visible – the folded lobes the digestive gland. What lovely creatures these are. I like to watch them extrude their reticulated body and inch upwards on the stalk, with tentacles extended, black dots for eyes on the end. I have previously only noticed translucent shells like this on semi-aquatic species of snail living on the marginal vegetation of the pond in the CD Nature Reserve.

You can click on the image to enlarge it.

Selfheal

After the recent rain, and thanks to a slightly longer time between mowing, large patches of small purple flowers are suddenly appearing in the grassy areas around Greenwood House and the Gym. I thought how attractive these looked yesterday, alongside the daisies, buttercups, plantains, and birds-foot trefoil. I was happily going to post pictures of them thinking they were Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) but I have just discovered that I am completely wrong. They are different. I think they are Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) which is far more interesting. They are one of our native edible plants and are reputed to have medicinal properties. If I have got the identification wrong, could you let me know?

Hedge Woundwort

Lots of Hedge Woundwort (Stachys sylvatica) around the village this year. I have seen it growing in profusion beneath the trees on both the east and the west side of Olympic Park. It is also in the verge beneath the hedgerow in the lane by the allotments. Last year I saw it in the fenced-off wild patch behind the cricket pavilion, and in the CD Nature Reserve too. It is a common plant belonging to the Dead-nettle Family. Apparently it has a very unpleasant smell when the plant is bruised, as in treading on it or picking it. The white markings on the red flowers seem to be rather variable.

Hedge Woundwort is said to have many beneficial properties, mainly as an anti-spasmodic and sedative, and of course, as its name implies, it is considered therapeutic in for healing wounds.

Yarrow

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a strongly aromatic perennial plant that grows in meadows, verges, and on waste ground – like the ones shown here growing on the fenced-off and walled-off patch of land between the cricket pavilion and Redwood House. The photographs are from the summer of last year because this year the area was cut to the ground just as the yarrow and other native wild plants were about to flower. I think this patch of ground would be ideal as a wild flower zone. A wide variety of native wild plants is already established there including evening primrose, great burdock, common teasels, common bindweed, field bindweed, honeysuckle, nettles, ground ivy, honey wort, hedge woundwort, comfrey, black medick, bird’s foot trefoil, buttercups and dandelions of many types, to name a few. It would only need some appropriate management to make it flourish, contribute more seriously to biodiversity in Charlton Down, and provide a beautiful display that also supplies the needs of insects and birds in the area.

Yarrow is an edible plant reputed to have beneficial therapeutic properties, and it can be used as a preventative medicine as well as an anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, diuretic, diaphoretic, astringent, and expectorant – though it is mainly used for the healing of wounds. As with the use of most herbal remedies it is always best seek professional advice before using wild plants as medicines.

CD Countryside Views 2

The views from the elevation of Higher Charlton Down are magnificent and span miles of countryside. You get there by crossing the main road on the upper part of the village and following the footpath signposted to Waterston Ridge. The English system of hedgerow boundaries gives the landscape the look of a great patchwork quilt with each parcel of land a different colour depending on what is growing at any particular time in the farming year. Individual trees, small clumps, copses and woods are spattered over the landscape, while the odd barn or building stands out like a modern monument in the panorama. The ancient monuments are more difficult to spot – sometimes only discernible when the light is just right and only then when you know where to look. Pictures taken on 5 May 2021.

CD Meadow Walk 1

Some pictures from a few weeks ago when I strolled around the place I call ‘the meadow’ – which was originally, in the old Herrison Hospital days, known as the incinerator field! All the shrubs and grassland plants were burgeoning. Guelder rose, buttercups, vetch, umbellifers, sorrel, grasses of many types, sallow or goat willow catkins fallen to the ground, a poor dead vole, and a red and green early instar shield bug on a colour-coordinated grass flowerhead.

Remember you can click on any image to enlarge it in a gallery

River Cerne Walk 1

We are lucky to have access to such a lovely little chalk river only a short walk from the village of Charlton Down. Like every habitat, it can change dramatically in its appearance through the seasons, with the water level rising and falling, and the banks increasingly shrouded with luxuriant vegetation as the weather warms up. This winter saw a big tidy up and cut back for river management reasons, but last year there was a spectacular abundance of white-headed umbelliferous plants including Water Dropwort mixed in with Comfrey. Last year in June the riverbank plants were well established but the Dropwort had not yet reached anything like its full height. This year everything is a bit behind because of the cold Spring and it will be a while for plants to re-establish after the cull. It is a very pleasant walk along the bank at any time, with expansive views of the surrounding slopes and fields. There was a field of poppies in the distance, and young barley close by (field peas are the crop this year) on this particular walk.

Common or Russian Comfrey

Comfrey is a common on the banks of the Cerne, but does crop up in other place away from the water in Charlton Down. These ones with the pink-purple flowers in curved clusters could either be the Common Comfrey (Symphyum officinale) or the Russian hybrid (Symphytum x uplandicum) – there is a wide variation in the colour of the flowers and it is difficult for an amateur to tell them apart. The pink flowered plants grow mostly by the water. White or creamy flowered comfrey seems to only occur further away from the river and can be seen in a few places in the centre of the village.

In herbal healing, Comfrey is known for an impressive list of alleged medicinal benefits that include wound healing, reduction of pain, anti-inflammatory activity, boosted immune system, better bone growth, anti-cancer potential, improved respiratory health, and skin care. But be careful. One online site gives this

Word of Caution: There is a high concentration of specific alkaloids in comfrey that makes them controversial and potentially toxic when used inappropriately. These alkaloids are particularly potent when consumed, which is why many medical professionals do not suggest any internal use and only limited topical use instead. As with any new herbal remedy, check with a trained herbalist or medical professional, as some of the complications of this high alkaloid content can affect the health of your liver. Use of comfrey is restricted in some countries such as UK and U.S. so consult your local health specialist before use.

CD Countryside Views 1

The spectacular Dorset countryside around our village of Charlton Down is constantly changing with the seasons and with farming activities. There is always a new perspective. One of my favourite viewpoints is along the lane by the allotments. From the gateway by the barn you can look roughly westwards towards Wood Hill Clump. Hardy’s monument is on the far horizon. The village lies mostly hidden behind the trees to the right. Right now, the parallel lines of fresh shoots in the field follow the undulating contours of the slopes and skirt the patch of trees next to the nature reserve. A wide strip of tall rye grass remains as a top border to the newly sown crop. While at the very edge of the field, wild grasses and flowers are flourishing alongside the hedgerow and beneath the old barn.