Tag Archives: spurge

Prostrate

It’s the position I have to adopt to take pictures of what’s going on up on the sauveplaine at the moment. I wrote about my discovery of this area here on the blog two years ago, and I go there about as often as believers go to church/chapel/mosque etc, and for some of the same reasons: awe at something which is much greater than myself. There are lots of flowers coming into bloom, but many of them are little, low down or downright ground-hugging. I was on hands and knees anyway because the thyme is in flower and this is the moment to pick the delicate tips, which have the most flavour, and take it home to dry for seasoning dishes during the rest of the year.

Thyme flower harvest

Thyme flower harvest

I wasn’t the only one appreciating these miniature bouquets – I had to be careful not to pick bees at the same time.

bee on thyme flower

bee on thyme flower

I know there are many species of bee, and maybe some kind person, say Morgan from the wonderful blog The Reremouse will tell me which this is. She has a different standpoint: she once wrote that she sees a flower as something for insects to perch on, while I see an insect as something which flowers use to have sex.  If you’re interested by nature – and why else would you be reading this – and you don’t know The Reremouse, you’re missing something. So what else did I see while I was down there on the ground? I’ll start with the highlights: two orchids. The first is the common Yellow ophrys (Ophrys lutea), of which there was quite a colony.

Ophrys lutea

Ophrys lutea

The other was the white orchid , Narrow-leaved helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia).

Cephalanthera longifolia

Cephalanthera longifolia

Now two ground-hugging prostrate plants which I photographed for the first time the other day on the sauveplaine. Both from the same family, the Fabaceae – you know, beans and peas and all that.  The first is a sort of broom, Cytisus supinus, which I identified with the help of another excellent site, Florealpes.  The site says this plant can be confused with a Bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus spp.), one difference being that the latter has leaves with stipules, little mini-leaves at the base of the leaf-stalk, while the former doesn’t.

Cytius supinus

Cytius supinus

This sort of plant is often most easily identified by its fruit, since the flowers and leaves are very minor variations on a common pattern. I was lucky to have caught the charactersitic fruits of the second plant, Hippocrepis biflora, which are flattened and a bit like a strange saw-blade.

Hippocrepis biflora

Hippocrepis biflora

Hippocrepis biflora - the fruit like a saw, or something

Hippocrepis biflora – the fruit like a saw, or something

And the rest? A quick round-up, starting with a couple of spurges – a favourite of mine – I did three posts on the genus a little while ago. The common Euphorbia serrata:

Euphorbia serrata - one of the most common spurges on the roadside

Euphorbia serrata – one of the most common spurges on the roadside

and a rarer sight, the remarkable Euphorbia exigua:

The dramatic Euphorbia exigua

The dramatic Euphorbia exigua

A Star of Bethlehem, Ornithogallum montanum:

Ornithogallum montanum

Ornithogallum montanum

Wild Clary, Salvia verbenaca:

Salvia verbenaca

Salvia verbenaca

Rosy garlic (Allium roseum):

Allium roseum

Allium roseum

Grey-leaved cistus (Cistus albidus):

Cistus albidus

Cistus albidus

The title for the jazz came easily from a phrase I found I’d written: it’s the guitarist Grant Green with the tune Down here on the ground.

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Filed under Allium, Cistus, Cytisus, Euphorbia, Hippocrepis, Ophrys, Ornithogallum, Salvia, Thymus

Veronica and the enamelled parterre

Beneath my feet: speedwell, hawkweed and stork's bill

Beneath my feet: speedwell, hawkweed and stork’s bill

This is all about scale and distance. When I’m standing looking at the ground, there seems to be nothing flowering, just a lot of low leaf growth. But if I bend over and look closely, in the green around my shoes there are a few points of colour. Winter and early spring flowers seem to be mostly small – I suppose the plants are running on their reserves in swollen roots, or on the small amount of solar energy from the winter sun. So in this post I’ve tried to get closer with the macro lens and see how amazing these little flowers are.

Veronica Persica

Veronica persica

Here’s one of the prettiest, just visible in the centre of the first photo – but only showing its full splendour when photographed in macro and enlarged. It’s Veronica persica, Persian or bird’s eye speedwell, distinguished from similar species by its deep colour, prostrate habit and flower stalks longer than the leaves. I took this picture in January.

The way these flowers are studded in the ground cover reminded me of a garden in Wales:  the cloister garden at Aberglasney in Carmarthenshire, where small flowers were planted in formal grass beds or parterres, an effect called ‘enamelling’ – you can see Aberglasney here.  This garden fashion dates from around 1600, and contrary to today’s tastes, the ideal viewing point was thought to be well above – hence the raised stone walkway round the cloister, which originally caused some scratching of heads among the garden restorers at Aberglasney. This style of planting replaced the earlier formal garden habit of carefully shaped flower beds surrounded by box hedges, also best seen from a terrace or walkway above, and called compartiments de broderie. Embroidery, or enamel brooches: Nature was not only to be tamed, but miniaturised enough to be held in the hand.

Lamium amplexicaule - henbit deadnettle

Lamium amplexicaule – henbit deadnettle

Anyway, for 21st-century tastes, on with the magnifications, and here’s another deadnettle I found this week. If you compare it to the plant in the last post, you can see that in this one, the henbit deadnettle (Lamium amplexicaule), the leaves are unstalked, enclosing the stem, and the flowers have a much longer corolla tube.

Erodium cicutarium - common stork's bill

Erodium cicutarium – common stork’s bill

I also found another stork’s bill (Erodium) – I blogged E malacoides on 8th December here. This one’s E. cicutarium, common stork’s bill, also from January, though there are a couple in the right of the first picture too. You can see the characteristically pinnately-lobed leaves (lobes in rows each side of the stalk), deeply cut in this species, which also has fleshy stems.

E. cicutarium stalks and leaves

E. cicutarium stalks and leaves

True Geranium flowers are often similar to those of stork’s bills, but the leaves are always palmately lobed in that genus, radiating like fingers from a palm.

Then a few puzzles. Here are some grape hyacinths coming up – but which ones?

Grape hyacinths - Muscari

Grape hyacinths – Muscari

I’d have to go back when they’re fully open, but mostly here I see the tasselled Muscari comosum, which I blogged on 3rd September here. These could be Muscari neglectum – common grape hyacinth. Then a lovely spurge which I can’t identify till it opens fully.

Spurge - Euphorbia - but which one?

Spurge – Euphorbia – but which one?

On the opposite side of the road the yellow heads of Euphorbia segetalis had fully colonised a neglected vineyard (with a few beautiful big sun spurges – E. helioscopa). You know I have a thing about spurges, and this sight made my day.

Neglected vineyard colonised by Euphorbia segetalis

Neglected vineyard colonised by Euphorbia segetalis

E. segetalis and E. helioscopa

E. segetalis and E. helioscopa

 

And finally you may have noticed the yellow composite flowers in the first photo – here are some more on a stony hillside:

 

Hawkweed - a species of Hieracium?

Hawkweed – a species of Hieracium?

I think they’re a species of hawkweed (Hieracium) but since there are at least 800 species I’m not going to try to guess which one. Curiously they can produce seed asexually, and thus produce lots of identical clones in a neighbourhood, and it’s hard to tell what’s a clone or variety and what’s a species.  If you count all the different forms described for this genus, there are 10,000!

Back to the title of this post and the lovely blue speedwell, this is ‘Veronica’, written by Elvis Costello with Paul McCartney, and about Elvis Costello’s grandmother. It’s on the album Spike (1989), his first album for Warners.  He had songwriting skill to burn in those days – so many strong songs on one album.  This version is from 1989, live outside the offices of his new record label, and acoustic, showing Costello’s fine vocals and driving guitar chord playing which still captures the song’s falling bass lines. The Warner Bros staff don’t look like the most responsive audience he’s ever had – no wonder he shouts ‘Back to work!’ at the end.

 

 

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Filed under Erodium, Euphorbia, Geranium, Lamium, Muscari, Veronica

New gear resolution

I’d like to start by wishing all of you who have found your way to this blog:

Happy New Year!

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Bonne Année!

Bona annada plan granada!

Many thanks to everyone for your interest and comments since I started last year, and welcome to anyone visiting here for the first time. It’s New Year’s Day, you haven’t got time to read, and nor have I to write much. This is a short post to share some images of flowers taken over the last few days, to show there is life out there in the middle of winter – helped by a recent mild spell with some sunny days when the temperature reached 16 degrees. And of course I’m also showing off my new camera and lens – the title isn’t a typo.

Iris unguicularis

Iris unguicularis

The Algerian Iris (I. unguicularis) – originally from North Africa but grown widely in gardens, and the first Iris to flower. This was in some waste ground next to an electricity substation – it was probably planted there, and has spread and settled. It’s a very low-growing species, and my flower book says the ovary is at or below ground level – amazing, I’ll have to look closer next time.

Geranium rotundifolium

Geranium rotundifolium

I think this is the round-leafed crane’s bill – all the little geraniums look very similar to me.  If I keep at this, I hope I’ll get better at telling them apart.

Euphorbia

Euphorbia

Yes, but which Euphorbia? I’m planning a longer post soon on the great variety of species of spurge round here, because I find them bizarrely fascinating. And I love their shades of green and yellow.  The little yellow star-shapes are nectar glands, and the buds are separate male flowers – the female flower usually grows in the middle of the glands. Found by the side of the road – Chaiselongue said to me, ‘You know, all the people who pass in cars are looking at you strangely – they think there’s only one thing you can be doing crouched down in a ditch.’

Viola alba subsp. dehnadii

Viola alba subsp. dehnadii

The first violet I’ve seen, on the path just by our garden – had to lie flat on the ground to take this. The Latin name is a bit confusing, but there is a white subspecies too (scotophylla) , found in the Balkans.

Resolutions: To work on a comparison of the various spurges, as I’ve said. And other topics I’ve got in mind include something about the social life of plants (yes, really), more on the beach bums of the plant world who survive on the sand dunes, the wonderful plants of the garrigue, a botanic garden mystery ( a Kewdunnit) – and much more. Hope to see you again many more times in 2013.

And there will be more Brazilian music too. Here’s the genius Baden Powell showing how to play with a lit cigarette:

 

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Filed under Euphorbia, Geranium, Iris, Viola