Wednesday, 15 January 2020

The fragrant and the foul

Today involved a routine visit to Byfield but a visit to the village pocket park was not included. However I did get the opportunity to stretch my legs with a general walkabout.

Dropping Chris off at her friend Julie Ferguson's house I set out to do a spot of shopping and was pleased to see en route a fine growth of Winter Heliotrope, Petasites fragrans, growing through a stone wall. 

This Winter Heliotrope has insinuated itself via rhizomes, through a garden
 wall. Bell Lane, Byfield. 15 January, 2020
This North African plant cannot be described as breathtakingly beautiful and it was undoubtedly introduced for its very fragrant, vanilla-scented, flowers. It is apparently sterile but spreads rapidly via rhizomes and has in places become a real nuisance. Should this householder wish to eradicate the plant it will probably prove to be a difficult task. It is closely related to our native Colt's Foot, Tussilago farfara, also an early flowerer.
Seen from a distance the flowers are rather dull, but in close-up  they
do have a certain attraction.

So much for the fragrant. A little further on I passed a clump of Iris foetidissima. I have often mentioned this plant as it is very common in the Byfield area. Its specific name refers to the pungent odour released if a stem is crushed, a smell which has caused it to be known as the Stinking Iris or the Roast Beef Plant. Foul indeed!

Yet untouched, the berries on this Roast Beef Plant may go if we
encounter a spell of nasty weather. Byfield, 15 January, 2020
Its berries, though tempting in appearance, have been left untouched. Is this because it has been a mild winter or are the berries rather distasteful? I suspect it is neither of these things. So tempting and abundant are the offerings of local bird feeders that thrushes and others perhaps simply can't be bothered.
The local brook had failed to cope with recent heavy rain. I turned on my
heel and left. Byfield, 15 January, 2020

As I have said, I gave the local pocket park a miss, not least because as I approached I could see that the adjacent stream had breached its banks, flooding local fields. It looked as though conditions underfoot would be pretty wet so I turned back.

The only other feature to catch my attention was an old stump bearing a nice growth of the fungus Auricularia auricula-judae. Once known as Jew's Ear it is now more often referred to as Jelly Fungus. The specimens I found were more than usually robust and, being edible, would have filled a pan nicely. I didn't bother.

A robust growth of Jelly Fungus on an old tree stump. Byfield,
15 January, 2020
The 50 pence piece I used for scale may have been gleaming in the bright sunlight but the weather was distinctly chilly. I did my shopping and scurried back to the warmth and comfort of my car. Wimp!

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