Saturday, July 9, 2011

Get your kicks here

Today was my day for an arable weed quest to Naunton Court Fields in Worcestershire. 
Amongst the usual arable weedy suspects (poppies, buttercups, sow-thistles, mayweeds, creeping thistle, etc.) were some scrummy little plants.

First off is this scrambling creeper, Kickxia spuria, round-leaved fluellen.


It's in the figwort family (same family as toadflaxes, snapdragons and monkey flowers). It isn't very common and tends to occur in the southern half of the UK. The flowers are really lovely; butter-yellow lower petals with a deep, dark, rich purple upper lip. 
They have a spur at the back, like toadflax.
The hairs you can see in my photos are from all the sow-thistles in the fields. Fluellen is quite sticky so tends to catch them.

I also came across the more delicate; Kickxia elatine, sharp-leaved fluellen.
Another scrambling plant, this has paler lemon-yellow flowers on longer stalks.
Other plants seen included; common fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica), which wasn't quite open but always makes me think of late summer. It was used to treat dysentery (hence dysenterica) and was burnt to keep fleas at bay (Pulicaria is from the Latin for flea, pulex).
Field pansy (Viola arvensis); tiny but very beautiful.
At the edge of the field were some scorpion-weed flowers (Phacelia tanacetifolia). This green-manure crop was introduced from America and is beloved by bees.
I found a corn-buttercup (Ranunculus arvensis) gone to seed.
You can see why farmer's didn't want these seeds in their grain.

During my walk, I noticed this odd looking creature (not unlike a trussed-up roast chicken) on a bud. It's an unfortunate aphid, which has been attacked by a parasitoid wasp (like this one).

Eventually an adult wasp will chew its way out of the 'mummified' aphid's abdomen, leaving a shell like this. A bit like 'Alien' in miniature.

The bud the aphid is on, with the jazzy yellow glandular hairs, is perennial sow-thistle, Sonchus arvensis, which looks like scruffy giant dandelions.

The weather started to look a bit dodgy..... 
...so we headed home. On the way I got waylaid by a village fête, where I bought some treacle & ginger cakes, 8 books for £2 and a jolly nice lamp for 50p.
If you want more info on arable plants try....
UK Arable Plants Survey: Identification Guide
Plantlife's arable plants webpages
An excellent id book is Arable Plants: A Field Guide by Wilson & King, published by Wildguides UK. (This used to be available online but sadly now not so.)

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