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 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

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.

Greater Spearwort

These yellow flowers are members of the buttercup family and are called Greater Spearwort (Ranunculus lingua). They are growing on the damp edge of the pond in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve. There are over 600 species of Ranunculus in the world and this is one of 35 species that occur in Britain.

Blackberry 1

Another of the commonest wild plants is the bramble (Rubus fruticosus)and it can be quite a nuisance too. Its sprawling, spreading, intertwining growth habit means that it spreads with ease and can soon reach out over paths and catch you as you walk by. You can’t miss them in Charlton Down. No-one ever seems to manage them – even while there is a great eagerness to mow down and cut back every other sign of natural wildlife on a regular basis. We more than tolerate them for the promise of the berries to collect in the autumn. Buds quickly turn to blooms (white or pink), and flowers rapidly convert to green fruits. Whether these develop into luscious black berries is another matter. So weather dependant. My mouth is watering at the prospect of collecting in due course the fruit from the orchard too, for making blackberry and apple crumble!

Herb Robert

Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) seems able to survive almost anywhere. I have seen it at the foot of hedgerows, in the undergrowth beneath trees, and in really hostile habitats like the angle crack in concrete at the junction of walls and paths, and on stone steps in Charlton Down. I think the colour of the foliage is dependent on the degree of shade and moisture in which the plant is growing – so that the redder leaves and stems are on plants in the drier places. They are low-growing creeping plants with much-divided leaves and hairy stems. There are small pink flowers and lovely long pointed beak-like seed capsules that are the give-away sign that they are members of the cranesbill family of plants.

Plantains

Humble plants, often overlooked, but very common and found growing all over the place. They come in tall varieties and short ones. Lawn mowers try to exterminate them but they keep returning. I am talking about Plantains (Plantago spp.). They may not be very pretty and colourful but they are interesting and attractive in their own way. The cream flowers borne on tall stalks certainly provide a useful feeding station for insects.

Dog Roses

There is something special about Dog Roses. Somehow it seems a special treat to see them in the hedgerows. Their pale pink petals so fragile, tender and ephemeral, their colour changing with the degree of light and shade. Dog roses are blooming this week in the village playing field (Olympic Park), the Charlton Down Nature Reserve, and the place I call the ‘Meadow’ on the north side of Charlton Down – to name just a few of the easily accessible spots where you can enjoy them. In these locations there are only isolated rose bushes but sometimes the whole hedgerow is adorned with them; I have included some pictures like this from a walk on Charminster Down taken several years ago.

Frome Water Meadows

A few pictures from a gentle evening stroll among the Frome River Valley water meadows, on the northern edge of Dorchester, and just a few miles from Charlton Down. The fields are looking particularly glorious right now with thousands and thousands of bright yellow buttercups. Despite the overcast skies, it was a very enjoyable walk in very pleasant company with the added delight of observing clouds of newly-emergent dancing mayflies.

Rosy Garlic

From a distance I thought at first that these delicate pink flowers were Lady’s-Smock also known as the Cuckoo Flower, but closer inspection showed that they were Rosy garlic (Allium roseum) a member of the onion family which has naturalised in the south of England. I found these flowers along a lane-side verge beneath a hedgerow on the edge of the village. It could have been an escapee from the allotments but not necessarily.

Hedgerows and verges are a wonderful place to find wild flowers. If you are a fellow resident living in Greenwood House in Charlton Down (Dorset) and are interested in finding out more about them, I have a free fold-out Field Studies Council “Guide to Hedgerows” to give away with lots of interesting information about plant and animal life in this biodiverse habitat. Just e-mail me on winderjssc@aol.com and I’ll pop it through your letterbox.