Wild Marjoram

Wild Marjoram (Origanum vulgare) is one of the most prolific wild herbs in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve and becomes dominant in the undisturbed meadow section after the Yellow Rattle has finished flowering. The plant likes to grow on dry grassland on calcareous soils. The stems are often reddish. The flower buds when small are a deep reddish purple, but as the buds open the petals are seen to be a much paler pinkish-purple. It has a pleasantly aromatic smell and it often forms large swathes in the grass, alongside other scented wild flowers like Lady’s Bedstraw.

Yellow Rattle

Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) is a small flowering plant which you might easily overlook, but in the CD Nature Reserve it is the most abundant plant in the wild area nearest to the pond. It is semi-parasitic on the roots of other plants. Yellow rattles are known to grow in undisturbed meadows and stabilised dunes. In our area the plants are never reaching their full height or vigour as in other places I have visited (like the sand dunes of Oxwich Bay in South Wales). They reach about 6 or 7 inches and are very crowded together amongst the grass and other vegetation. The flowers are yellow and have leaf-like bracts with a distinctive triangular shape and serrated edges. The common name alludes to the inflated capsules that develop when the flowers are done. The ripe seeds will actually rattle in the dried brown pods.

Click on any image to enlarge.

Knapweed

The purplish-pink fine-petalled flowers of Common Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) are starting to open up in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve. They look a bit like thistles among the taller grasses. The flower buds look strange with their dark brown spikey bracts. Insects love the flowers.

Nature Reserve Flowers

Our local Charlton Down Nature Reserve is a small space with about half of the area left untouched at this time of year. One grassy patch now has a multitude of flowers and looks very colourful and attractive. The general low cover of Yellow Rattle is dying back with their characteristic seed pods forming; and taller flowers such as Knapweed, Oxeye Daisy, Wild Marjoram, Birds-foot Trefoil, and Ladies Bedstraw are flowering, mostly behind an outer border of tall grasses, dock, and umbelliferous plants.

Bladder Campion

Here is another member of the Campion family. I have already shown the Red Campion and the White Campion, and this is the Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris). These specimens were photographed at various times this summer and last, and were growing at the base of the hedgerow that lines the lane by the allotments in Charlton Down.

Poppies 1

Just two poppy flowers actually. Standing out as bright red jewels beside two tall thistles in a field of ripening rape seeds. Rather battered poppies flapping this way and that in the wind. Somehow, minute beetles still managing to cling on tight, and hoverflies quickly darting within whenever they could. The petals looked like crumpled tissue paper, sometimes with angular folds reflecting light like the fragmented patterns of a kaleidoscope.

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)

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.