Friday, 2 September 2016

September ... and Morning Glories (with postscript)

Weeding and dead-heading in the garden. It was a dull day weatherwise but that didn't prevent conditions from being warm and sticky. I flopped down in a chair to gather myself: was it to be a line of Bolivian marching powder or a cup of tea? I opted for the latter, being a bit short of the B.m.p.

Yesterday, whilst in Byfield, I photographed the white bindweed, Calystegia sepium. I used to puzzle about the specific epithet of 'sepium'. Surely sepia is a black-brown dye made from cuttlefish ink? This is where yawning voids in my education become apparent. We didn't do Latin (we barely did English) or I would have known that sepes is Latin for hedgerow.

Calystegia sepium. Muddy Lane (Pit Lane), Byfield.
2 September, 2016
I mention Hedge Bindweed because today Morning Glory, Ipomoea purpurea, has just come into flower in our back garden. I could accuse it of being tardy but, to be fair, I was late planting it out. The briefest of glances shows that the two plants are closely related, both being members of the Convolvulaceae Family. Indeed, Linnaeus placed both species in the genus Convolvulus (or was it simply Volvulus?)

Morning Glory - flowering at last. Stefen Hill, Daventry.
2 September, 2016
Another member of the family is the Sweet Potato, Ipomoea batatas. It too has very attractive flowers, usually some shade of pink with a deep carmine throat. Next year I may try growing some as a curiosity.

Aeons ago I did a couple of tours with the R.A.F. in Aden (now part of the Republic of Yemen. Sporadic fighting over various issues continues 55 years later). A very common plant there was the Camel's Foot Vine, Ipomoea pes-caprae. It was reputed to have hallucinatory properties and one or two of my colleagues professed a temptation to crunch up a few leaves or seeds. It is as well that they didn't for, like several other (most?) species of Ipomoea, it does indeed cause hallucinations, but has some nasty side effects. The genus is the subject of considerable research by the pharmaceutical industry and in universities.

Anyway, the Morning Glory is currently providing a lovely splash of colour and hopefully will do so until the first frost. Clumps of Sedum spectabile are also just coming into flower and Ivy-leaved Cyclamens, Cyclamen hederifolium, are now adding their colour. The late John Hutchinson, a distinguished Kew botanist, suspected that the latter plant is a British native but there is little evidence to back this view.
Cyclamen hederifolium. The leaves have yet to appear. Stefen Hill,
Daventry. 2 September, 2016

Of course, other flowers are coming to an end. The yellow Achillea tomentosa is responding to dead-heading but can't go on much longer. This plant may look rather like a member of the Carrot Family, Apiaceae, but is in the Asteraceae (Daisy) Family. With its woolly (tomentose) leaves and neat corymbs of lemon-yellow flowers it is valuable in the rock garden but I find it is rather vigorous and needs to be curbed. I must consider propagating the plants; it is perhaps a little late for cuttings but I may be able to collect seed.
Achillea tomentosum still in flower at Stefen Hill, Daventry.
2 September, 2016

Speaking of seed, I am reminded that the plant with which I opened this blog, Hedge Bindweed, only rarely produces seed. Plants are self-incompatible and most seem to belong to one clone. Indeed, in sixty years of botanising I cannot recall finding a seed capsule. Instead fragments of underground stem (rhizomes) are readily taken from garden to garden where it can become a noxious weed, difficult to eradicate. I have sometimes wondered if it is truly native, but it was certainly well-known to John Clare:

                            Round fields and hedges, flowers in full glory twine,
                            Large Bindweed bells, wild hop and sweet woodbine.

                                               Clare's Shepherd's Calendar, 1827

So, native or an archaeophyte? We may never know.

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