Friday, 26 August 2011

Picnic or poison?

A pipe was relaid alongside Kings Barn Lane recently causing a strip of disturbed ground. All along the strip has sprouted this plant - black nightshade, solanum nigrum.

The plant is a bit of a mystery. The white flowers should be followed by black berries - I'll look out for them.

Some books and websites warn that the berries and the whole plant are deadly poisonous.

Other references, mainly Asian, say that the berries make excellent eating and the greens are a tasty meal too. There are several recipes to be found on the web for using it.

A good account of the controversy is given at Forager's Harvest. Remember though, if you are an adventurous eater, not to rely on my identifications of any plant! I do not claim to be an expert.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011


Fleabane was a new plant to me this year.

Its name comes from the fact that it was burnt as an incense to drive away fleas and other insects. The scientific name pulicaria dysenterica is derived from the Latin pulex for flea and its reputed efficacy as a cure for dysentery.

The sap of fleabane is bitter, astringent and saltish, so animals apparently will not eat the plant. This is confirmed by the fact that the stand of plants shown left is thriving in a field containing cattle, where most of the grass is cropped short.

Sunday, 14 August 2011


There is a patch of marsh woundwort growing up through the vegetation by the footbridge at the end of the open field.

It grows in the damp ground of the riverbank.

You can compare it with my earlier picture of hedge woundwort

The woundworts seem to be amazingly useful herbs. The fresh crushed leaves can be used as a poultice for bad cuts. They are astringent and antiseptic. An infusion can be drunk to treat diarrhoea and also used as an eyewash for styes and conjunctivitis. The list is endless.

Besides the medical uses the tuberous roots are edible and said to have a pleasant nutty flavour, and the young shoots can be cooked like asparagus.

The plant also yields a yellow dye! What a collection of uses for a common wild plant.

Friday, 12 August 2011

More pairs

It's the pink and white theme again.

These are the bindweeds.

First, the white one. Hedge bindweed is the large flowering creeper which climbs up through the nettles, thistles and other sturdy plants.


Then there is the pink version.

This is field bindweed. It is a much more delicate plant than its white relative. The flowers are much smaller. The plant creeps over the ground and tends to hide among the long grasses in the open field.

Sorry - this one is only half of a pair!

There is a patch of white campion  near the end of the wood walk.

The other half of the pair is of course red campion. It was flowering a few weeks ago near the bypass but it was gone before I took a picture!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


Some pictures taken in July that haven't made it onto the blog.

Meadowsweet (left) has been in flower throughout July. It lives on the sides of some of the drainage ditches alongside Kings Barns Lane and there is a large stand of them in the low lying wet land between the sewage farm and the wood walk.

I have only found this one specimen of tufted vetch (right). I came across it by chance amongst the long grasses in the open field.

There is another member of the pea family growing in stands alongside the bypass. (left) This is ribbed melilot. They make a colourful patch on the roadside verge and look to me as though they would make a good garden plant.

Also, nearby, on the bramble hedge I came across a ringlet butterfly (right). My sources tell me that the adult butterfly feeds on brambles, thistles and ragwort. There are plenty of all of these in this area so it should be happy. I have not been very successful at catching pictures of the many other butterflies I've seen on my walks but this one posed nicely.

And lastly, Petra's favourites. These little creatures keep her very interested on her walks.

Where do I Walk?

Mainly in a fairly compact area on the north-east side of Steyning in West Sussex, UK.

For a map of this area see My Home Patch