The Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) is a familiar sight in our woodlands and grassy banks during the spring. They grow from bulbs, with the leaves emerging shortly before the violet-blue scented flowers. They are an important plant and an indicator of ancient woodlands.
They are also known as auld mans bells, ring-o-bells and wood bells.
Medicinal uses of the bulb include diuretic and styptic properties, this is because the bulbs contain toxic substances, they were a popular source of glue for bookbinding.
The Spanish Bluebell is a threat to our native bluebell and is frequently planted in gardens and the two species will hybridize with each other.
Stinging nettles (Urtica Dioica) are easily recognised and can also be unpopular as a weed; unfortunately it is often easily felt as the whole plant is covered in stinging hairs.
Stinging nettles produce formic acid which they hold in brittle hollow hairs. When you crush a plant, you break the hairs, causing the acid to burn your skin.
Nettles can be made into drinks such as beer, wine, champagne and tea. They are high in iron, vitamin C, a source of Calcium and Magnesium. Nettle soup is also popular. They are also an important wildlife plant for insects, birds, and butterflies, such as the small tortoiseshell and peacock that will use it as their food plant.
The yellow flower of the dandelion (Taraxacum officinaleis) commonly referred to as a weed of roadsides, gardens and waste ground. The flower heads are a fantastic nectar source and food plant for bees, hoverflies and butterflies.
Linnets, a bird of farmland is known to feed the developed seeds to its young chicks. The seed heads are white and can be seen dispersing in the wind.
The leaves when young can be used in salads and the flowers to make dandelion wine.
Native ivy (Hedera Helix) is a vigorous evergreen climbing plant which can be found growing up and over walls, trees and hedges. It is one of the best wildlife plants, supporting excellent cover, nesting sites, nectar rich flowers and berries. It is the food plant for many species of moth and the holly blue butterfly.
Ivy is wrongly thought to damage trees and it is not a parasite, it takes nothing from the tree and only uses it for support. It does not strangle the tree or cause deformities. Occasionally, when it gets in to the canopy it can reduce the amount of light reaching the leaves of an old tree and can make the tree more liable to blow over in the wind
In former days old English taverns bore a sign of an ivy bush over their doors, this to indicate the excellence of the liquor supplied, hence the old saying “A good wine needs no bush”.
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