Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Hospital: nearly there

To Northampton General Hospital. A couple more visits after today and that should wrap things up for Chris, giving her a clean bill of health.
Often, I am pleased to say, she dozes over the couple of boring hours whilst her medication is slowly administered. For my part I again slope off and stroll around the hospital grounds, witness to the seasonal changes: Chris improves but the insect and plant life is generally becoming impoverished. Never mind - so long as the world's pesticide manufacturers can turn in fat profits. Yes, cynical I know but the toll on wildlife is now at intolerable levels.
I did my usual rounds, looking for...anything really. Weeds, cultivated flowers, insects and galls - all are of interest.
As I have remarked in previous blogs, the hospital grounds are unusually blessed in toxic and officinal plants. Opium Poppies, Papaver somniferum, seem even more abundant than ever, tall despite growing in apparently poor soil.
Opium poppies are abundant on dry banks. Northampton General Hospital.
6 June, 2018
The colours vary from almost white through to a deep plum-purple and the species is understandably admired by gardeners. No true poppies yield nectar and visiting bees are seeking the pollen, produced in copious amounts. Sadly and worryingly I witnessed no bees today at all.
Their numerous stamens produce great quantities of pollen.
Also growing tall were plants of Hemlock, Conium maculatum. It is general assumed to be a British native plant and yet there are a number of records of hemlock from ancient Roman settlements across Britain - perhaps introducing a scintilla of doubt?
Hemlock towers almost two metres high. Northampton General Hospital.
6 June, 2018
I looked, too, for Deadly Nightshade, Atropa belladonna, but all I found were its dead, skeletal remains, having been given the coup-de grace by a weedkiller. It may have been present in the grounds for a century or so and I hope that it may yet reappear - although I doubt the hospital authorities would share my sentiments.
The only 'new' plant I noted was Scarlet Pimpernel, Anagallis arvensis. In Clare's time this little annual was abundant; by 1930 Druce was describing it as 'common' but Gent & Wilson only called it 'occasional'. This pretty member of the primrose family was inevitably remarked upon by John Clare:

                            And with eye of gold
                            And scarlet-starry points of flowers,
                            Pimpernel dreading nights and showers,
                            Oft called the Shepherds' weather glass
                            That sleeps till sun have (sic) dried the grass,
                            Then wakes and spreads its creeping blooms,
                            Till clouds with threatening shadows come -
                            Then close it shuts to sleep again...

                                                               Clare's Shepherd's Calendar, 1827

In the bright sun scarlet pimpernel was spreading its petals.
6 June, 2018

The scarlet pimpernel can hardly be called toxic although handling the leaves can cause a mild dermatitis.
Its days as a 'weed' in the hospital car parks are surely numbered. Wouldn't it be lovely if hospitals could not only care for its patients but for the wildlife in its grounds.




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