Monday, 16 September 2013

Mud, mud, glorious mud

Adjacent to my friend Harry Ferminger's house is a pond with a surface area of around 500 square metres (Does that make it a small lake?). I asked Harry who owns it. He said that he wasn't sure but didn't think it was his! 

Anyway, yesterday I decided to have a stroll round it and so, sweep net poised, I gave it a recce. The first thing to catch my attention were the waterside plants. Cattle regularly visit the pond/lake to drink and their trampling has created a very interesting uliginous environment with Celery-leaved Buttercup (Ranunculus scleratus), Red Goosefoot (Chenopodium rubrum) and Marsh Cudweed (Gnaphalium uliginosum) present. None of these is rare but, with the loss of this kind of habitat, all are far less common than was once the case.

Marsh Cudweed beside pond near Byfield.
16 September, 2013 
No one would regard Marsh Cudweed as a spectacular plant and, with its small, brown, petal-free flowers it is hard to accept that it is in the same family - Asteraceae - as Dahlias and Marigolds.

Celery-leaved Buttercup beside pond.
Byfield, 16 September, 2013
The Celery-leaved Buttercup is also a disappointment for those familiar with its larger flowered relatives. It is a plant demanding close inspection to appreciate its features. It also required me to kneel in mud to get a decent photograph and I drew the line at that. 

A closer view of the same plant.

As a child I was familiar with this little buttercup at Kingsthorpe Mill and elsewhere. I rarely see it nowadays so I was delighted to make its acquaintance once again.

Red Goosefoot is another frankly dull plant. It is probably most often to be seen on manure heaps, and many people would probably argue that it is an appropriate habitat for this member of the Amaranth Family, Amaranthaceae. Until recently it was always placed in the Spinach Family, Chenopodiaceae, but times are a-changing. The pondside mud in which it was flourishing was probably enriched with cattle droppings so, although the plant is edible ("a delicious addition to salads", claims one website) I didn't exactly salivate and the plants remain where I found them.

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