Monday, 3 September 2018

Wayside plants

A cash-strapped local authority seems to be allowing our local grass verges to grow rather more between cuts. The consequence is that plants are flourishing when twelve months ago they would have received the chop.

Some of these, such as yarrow, are commonplace and put on a good show whatever the mowing regime. Others are doing much better than usual and brightening up the verges no end. One such species is Black Knapweed, Centaurea nigra. It is welcome in its own right but is also a plant frequently visited by a range of insects including some interesting picture-winged flies of the Tephritidae family.

Black Knapweed is otherwise known as Hardheads. Christchurch Drive,
Daventry. 3 September, 2018
Perhaps a little less welcome is Oxford Ragwort, Senecio squalidus. It can be untidy but no one can deny that it with its yellow flowers it provides a splash of colour, and is again popular with insects.
Oxford Ragwort is now a common plant of roadsides and waste ground.
Badby Road West, Daventry. 3 September, 2018

A puzzle presented itself in the form of another untidy, yellow-flowered plant whose four-petalled flowers immediately marked it off as a member of the Brassicaceae - the Cabbage family. It looked vaguely like Hedge Mustard but the flowers were too large on the general habit too bushy.

An untidy plant. Hoary Mustard blooms beside Christchurch Drive,
Daventry. 3 September, 2018
I took a sample home and examined it properly, concluding that it was Hoary Mustard, Hirschfeldia incana. It is a native of southern Europe but is a frequent casual in Britain.

Hoary Mustard is a typical member of the Cabbage Family.
Forty years ago I would have been excited by my find as it was not recorded in Northamptonshire prior to 1974, but it has become increasingly common on waste ground and appears to be spreading. I was nonetheless pleased, not least because the Brassica family can be tricky and I rarely delve into its mysteries.


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