Sunday, 31 May 2015

Garden Show Visit

Visited the Gardening Scotland Show at Ingleston yesterday. There were many excellent show gardens and displays. Two in particular caught my eye. The first was a garden dedicated to the War Dogs that had served from the Western Front in the first World War to Helmand province in Afghanistan.

The second in the Floral Hall from Alnwick Gardens was a display of poisonous plants complete with a spooky coffin. The caged plant above is Cannabis Sativa, although for the show it was actually artificial as it requires a licence to grow it, and their licence only allows them to grow it at the Alnwick Garden. Last year I had to dig up and destroy a cannabis plant in my garden which was growing under the bird feeder, presumably dropped from the bird seed mixture.
A second cage (on the right in the photo) contained khat (Catha edulis), although again the plant was probably artificial. Khat is a flowering plant native to the Horn of Africa  and the Arabian Peninsula. Among communities from these areas, khat chewing has a history as a social custom dating back thousands of years.
Khat contains a stimulant  cathionine  which is similar to amphetamine. Chewing it can make people feel more alert but it can also cause insomnia, heart problems and feelings of anxiety and aggression. In June 2014 khat became a controlled class C drug in the UK.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Trees Within a Tree

Two tree seedlings growing in a patch on a large beech tree trunk in the Serpentine Walk, where the bark had been stripped by some disease or other.
 There is a beech seedling at the back and a sycamore in the front.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Wild Flowers Between the Tracks

Standing on the platform at York station waiting for the train back to Fife, after a brief visit to Yorkshire, I was surprised by the profusion of wild flowers between the rail tracks. I could identify Herb-Robert (Geranium robertianum) and think that the yellow daisies might be the flowers of Oxford ragwort (Senecio squalidus).

Oxford ragwort, a non-native species, is thought to be a hybrid between two ragwort species, that occur in Sicily. This plant was brought from Mount Etna to Oxford Botanic Gardens, in England, in the 1700s, and from there it escaped into the surrounding countryside. With the expansion of the railway network in the mid 19th Century, Oxford ragwort, an attractive but rather invasive plant, soon spread along railway lines and can now be found throughout the UK. The clinker of the tracks provided a similar habitat to that found on the slopes of Mount Etna and trains helped to carry its parachuted seeds.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Cuckoo-pint Flower Opening

At the beginning of April spotted the arrow-shaped leaves of a patch of cuckoo-pint, or lords-and-ladies (Arum macrolatum) close to the beginning of the Serpentine Walk and have been watching the flower spikes develop over the last week or so.
In this photo the flower spikes are just beginning to open.
 A few days later could see the purple-brown spadix.

Today another flower had opened giving a better view of the cowl-shaped spathe surrounding the spadix.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Grey Wagtail at the Keil Burn

Looking down from the road bridge over the Keil Burn in Lundin Links spotted this grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) on a boulder in the burn.

It had an insect in its beak and was showing characteristic behaviour, continually bobbing up and down and wagging its long tail.