Sunday, August 10, 2008

100 Species Challenge: Part 1

My first four species in the 100 Species Challenge:

1. Daisy
2. Creeping buttercup
3. White clover
4. Selfheal

I am starting my list with four common flowers growing in our front lawn. Our grass is not the manicured kind, and has various wild flowers growing in it.

Daisy

Scientific name: Bellis perennis
Family: Asteraceae
Flowers: All year

The name comes from "Day's Eye" as the flower only opens during the day. Little Cherub and I often look to see whether the daisies are "awake" or "asleep". Those in the shadier parts of our garden sleep longer than those in sunnier spots, so we often see some open while others are still closed. She also likes me to make her daisy-chain necklaces, though I have to spend a lot of time carrying out running repairs.

Daisies can be used as a herbal remedy to sooth wounds (apply the leaves, crushed). An infusion of one ounce in one pint of water can be cooled and used as an eye wash.

To the Daisy

In youth from rock to rock I went
From hill to hill, in discontent
Of pleasure high and turbulent,
Most pleas'd when most uneasy;
But now my own delights I make,
My thirst at every rill can slake,
And gladly Nature's love partake
Of thee, sweet Daisy!
William Wordsworth
(read the rest of the poem here)

Creeping Buttercup

Scientific name: Ranunculus repens
Family: Ranunculaceae
Flowers: May to September

The hairy stemmed creeping buttercup is the common-or-garden lawn variety, as opposed to the lankier meadow buttercup. It spreads by rooting runners, so is a difficult weed to get rid of. Not that any weed growing in our lawn has any need to worry.

I always thought of buttercups as thoroughly harmless and ... well ... nice, but it turns out that they are poisonous to cattle and the toxins they contain can cause contact dermatitis. The poisons are broken down by drying, and hay containing buttercups is safe. So that's all right then.

As children we used to hold a buttercup under a friend's chin. If it reflected yellow on their skin, it meant they liked butter. (Logically, I'm sure it was far more likely to mean that it was a sunny day.)

Alternative names include Devil's Guts, Granny Threads, Ram's Claws, Sitfast and Tether-toad. Nice.

White clover

Scientific name: Trifolium repens
Family: Fabaceae (pea)
Flowers: June to September

Something I did know: the clover flower head is not a single flower, but a cluster of tiny individual florets.

Something I didn't: unlike the buttercup, clover is a seriously useful plant. It can be used as a forage crop for livestock, and as it is much higher in protein than grass will increase the amount of protein in meat and milk. According to Wikipedia is also a valuable survival food. The leaves need boiling for 5 to 10 minutes to make them digestible. Dried flowerheads and seedpods can be used to make a nutritious flour or soaked in hot water for "a healthy, tasty tea-like infusion". Bees love clover, and will use the pollen to make a delicious clover honey.

It gets better. Clover is a natural fertiliser due to its ability to fix nitrogen. Through symbiotic bacteria in the roots, clover plants take oxygen from the air and convert it into usable nitrogen in the soil. Planted as part of a crop rotation, clover and other legumes can make a useful contribution to organic farming methods.

Selfheal

Scientific name: Prunella vulgaris
Family: Lamiaceae (mint)
Flowers: June to October

Despite having seen this many times it is a flower I had never previously identified. In the photo the leaves are hidden under grass and clover leaves. With space to grow, selfheal can reach 30cm in height and looks like this. In lawns it grows in low clumps, avoiding the mower blades.

In herbal medicine, selfheal is used for sore throats and mouth ulcers. It has traditionally been used to stop bleeding.

3 comments:

theysaywordscanbleed said...

thanks!

arlene,
Federal Way florist

Fiddler said...

I loved reading the Wordsworth poem--adding poetry to the 100 Species Challenge is a nice touch! And your photos are lovely. I look forward to seeing more.

Thanks,
Fiddler

spinninglovelydays said...

Hi. I really enjoyed reading your entries as I come from a totally different region (SE Asia). Thanks for sharing. :)

Have a great one!
Ivy