Monday, 12 February 2018

Hospital hotch-potch

Today was the occasion of another visit by Chris and me to Northampton General Hospital. After her check-up she went to have a chat over coffee with one of her ex-colleagues, giving me the opportunity to have a look at some of the plants in the hospital grounds. Not surprisingly there was little to cause a raised eyebrow but here and there were things of marginal interest.
A shady border was home for a patch of Pachysandra terminalis. It is known as Japanese spurge or Carpet box but the latter is a more appropriate name as it is generally placed by botanists in the Buxaceae, the Box family.
Pachysandra terminalis was growing in an out-of-the-way bed.
Northampton General Hospital. 12 February, 2018
From China, Korea and, of course, Japan, it is a rather undistinguished plant and I wouldn't bother growing it but will survive in conditions too dry for many plants and is very hardy. The plants were in bud and I expect them to produce their rather undistinguished flowers in about three to four weeks.
I have wandered around the grounds many time and yet on one stony bank, passed by me on numerous occasions, were the unmistakeable rosettes of Weld, Reseda luteola. Had I seen it there on a previous occasion? I couldn't be sure.
The distinctive basal rosettes of Dyer's Rocket.
 Northampton General Hospital. 12 February, 2018

These basal leaves are shiny and very crinkled and from them will rise a tall spike of yellowish flowers. The plant is often called Dyer's Rocket and was once used to produce a bright yellow dye from a flavonoid, luteolin, found in its tissues.
A third species also saw my camera brought into action. It was Butcher's Broom, Ruscus aculeatus, a curious plant rather local in Britain up to the north midlands but apparently not native to Northamptonshire (It is found naturalised in about twenty places). For a long time it tended to be placed in the Lily family, Liliaceae, but is now generally regarded as a member of the Asparagaceae.
The prickly cladodes of Butcher's Broom. Northaampton General Hospital.
ebruary, 2018
It has no leaves and what appear to be leaves are sections of flattened stem known as cladodes. My photograph shows the flower buds in the middle of these 'leaves'. These cladodes have sharply prickly (aculeate) tips and bunches of the twigs were apparently once used by butchers for cleaning the blood and gore from their slabs. Its use was once suggested by herbalists for 'female obstructions'. Make of that what you will.
Perhaps I would normally overlook the three plant species mentioned, but in the late winter I'm happy to give them blog space.
And Chris was pronounced healthy.

Tony White. E-mail:

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