365 Days Of Botany: Week 1

If you didn’t know already, I am currently undergoing somewhat of a personal quest to find, photograph and hopefully learn about a new plant on each day of the year. That’s 365 days and therefore, 365 plants. Quite the challenge for an amateur botanist who until recently could only identify one hundred or so species before suffering a severe brain melt.

Why am I doing this, I hear you say? Because plants are diverse, beautiful and terribly important – the very cornerstone of the ecosystem we all call home. But also because I wanted an excuse to learn something new, visit new places and yes, keep various channels updated with a steady stream of new content.

Although I hadn’t planned on it, I have decided that I will post a summary of my haul to this blog each week, both to keep myself on track and in case anyone finds plants half as interesting as I do. Here we go…

Day 1: Yellow-flowered Strawberry (Duchesnea indica)

Yellow-flowered Strawberry Duchesnea indica

Otherwise known as Mock Strawberry, this unassuming little plant is native to South Asia but has been widely distributed around the globe as an ornamental. It has naturalised in a number of countries, including the UK, and here, was observed growing along the banks of a local river.

The flowers of D. indica are yellow, as opposed to the white or pale pink of ore traditional wild strawberries. The leaves are trifoliate, dark green, and can be seen year-round. The plant has a creeping habit and readily roots from the nodes interspersed along its runners.

Fun fact? A poultice made from the crushed leaves of this plant is used to treat eczema.

Day 2: Buck’s-horn Plantain (Plantago coronopus)

Buck's-horn Plantain Plantago coronopusA native species, P. coronopus is most often found as a coastal plant where it grows on sandy or gravelly soils (I found it growing in the grounds of a local Priory); though recently it has grown increasingly common inland where it grows readily beside salt-treated roads. Its name derives from the shape of its lance-shaped, toothed leaves which are said resemble the horns of a buck.

Fun fact? This plant is commonly grown as a leaf vegetable known as ‘erba stella’ and is a popular salad ingredient in upmarket settings.

Day 3: Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)

Winter Aconite, Eranthis hyemalisA real beauty and one of the earliest ‘wildflowers’ to bloom in Britain each winter. A member of the buttercup family native to calcareous woodlands in South Europe, I was genuinely surprised to find out that this species is non-native. It was introduced to Britain in approximately 1596. A distinct species, look out for yellow flowers held above a collar of leaf-like bracts.

Fun Fact? The Latin name of this species derives from its early flowering nature, with hyemalis meaning “winter-flowering”.

Day 4: Wall-rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria)

Wall-rue, Asplenium ruta-muraria

The first fern to feature as part of #365DaysOfBotany and a widespread one, of that. A common species with a broad global distribution. A. ruta-muraria grows exclusively on limestone or other calcareous rock. It commonly colonises masonry, and can often be observed growing in crevices in walls and other man-made structures.

The fronds of this bushy species are triangular-ovate and are toothed above the middle – visible this image.

Fun fact? While common in the UK, A. ruta-muraria is fairly hard to come by in the United States. Where it is found, it favours well-weathered and dry limestone outcrops.

Day 5: Trailing Bellflower (Campanula poscharskyana)

Trailing Bellflower, Campanula poscharskyanaA rather fancy looking trailing plant favoured by many for its delightfully blue star-shaped flowers. Native to a relatively small part of Europe – the Dinaric Alps in Yogoslavia – it readily colonises the hospitable climes of towns and cities in the UK.  C. poscharskyana is often encountered growing in walls or other places boasting suitable nooks and crannies, often with some degree of shading.

Fun fact? This plant is intolerant of strong sunlight and the midday sun can cause the plant to effectively transpire to death – perhaps the reason it is often found growing on the shaded side of walls?

Day 6: Maidenhair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes)

Maidenhair Spleenwort, Asplenium trichomanesAnother fern familiar from walls, buildings and other rocky places, A. trichomanes is a widespread species occurring almost worldwide where suitable habitats persist. It grows in tufts with long, narrow, tapering fronts; each boasting a glossy black mid-rib.

Fun Fact? There are three sub-species of A. trichomanes found in the British Isles. The subspecies quadrivalens is commonly encountered on calcareous rock surfaces within the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Day 7: White Comfrey (Symphytum orientale)

White Comfrey, Symphytum orientaleUntil this week, I had no idea that the white-flowering comfrey plants I have seen in past years were an entirely separate species to the Common Comfrey often encountered on my Summer walks. Silly me!

A medium-tall, soft, hairy plant and frequent garden escape, the most noticeable thing about this plant are that its flowers are snowy white, as opposed to a dull cream. It favours damp places, woodland and hedgerows, but is not overly common in Britain. Where it does grow, it is often encountered near human habitation (as mine was). The native range of this species includes Turkey, Russia and the Caucasus.

Fun Fact? Both Symphytum and the common name, comfrey, mean ‘grow together’. It is thought that this derives from the historic use of comfrey to heal broken or fractured bones.


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