Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Sophora and Marchantia

A couple of days ago, walking into Daventry, I was stopped in my tracks by a magnificent shrub tumbling over a wall.
Japanese Pagoda Tree, Badby Road West, Daventry.
27 April.2015

It was a specimen of the Pagoda Tree, Sophora microphylla. A member of the Pea Family, Fabaceae, it is more likely to be found in plant catalogues or garden centres under its old, confusing, name of Sophora japonica.

The pinnately compound leaves are distinctive.

The specific epithet of microphylla - small leaved -  is appropriate, for the leaflets on the pinnate leaves are tiny in view of the size of the opulent flowers, each an inch or so across.

Being from New Zealand, and having such an exotic appearance, one might expect it to be tender. In fact it is reasonably hardy and it would take a long and severe frost to cause its demise.

Marchantia polymorpha in a garden, Byfield, Northants
28 April, 2015
From a ten feet high shrub or small tree to a 1/4 inch high liverwort. There couldn't be a much greater contrast. The liverwort in question is Marchantia polymorpha and was growing in damp shady conditions in the garden of my friend Oliver Tynan. Despite its lowly stature it is a plant to be treated with caution. Often the soil around plants bought in a garden centre will be infested with Marchantia; every bit should be carefully removed and safely discarded.

Lophocolea bidentata in the meadow adjacent to High
Wood, near Preston capes, Northants. 26 April, 2015

Liverworts are often quite different in appearance from Marchantia and this tiny, delicate species, Lophocolea bidentata, was creeping through turf at High Wood last Sunday.

However, it is the so-called thallose species which earn these plants the name of liverwort. It will be seen that the surface of the thallus on Marchantia has the appearance of liver, albeit green. Liverworts are sometimes called hepatics, a word derived from the Greek hepatos, liver, and early herbalists may have used the plant in the treatment of liver complaints.

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