From Prince’s Feathers to Goosewort may seem a large step to take but if you’re Silverweed you can take it in your stride. How would you, for instance, feel about being called More Grass. No, I haven’t misspelled “More” and I haven’t misspelt “More” either. Spelt, of course, is that ancient grain that has a moderate amount of gluten in so it is possible to use it to make bread, or beer in Bavaria, or vodka in Poland.
But I digress. Silverweed grows along our verges in profusion and it is starting to flower. Just in case you like to be sure of these things – no, this is definitely not a buttercup, I especially selected this one as there are no buttercups nearby. You can see how easy it would be to think it was though and where they grow in close proximity, without following every flower stem back to its base, The Dog and I certainly can’t be sure. The other problem I have is that once I start investigating a plant too closely The Dog feels that digging the thing up will resolve the issue so, in the interest of the environment, I can’t give any one plant too much attention.
Early on in the year the leaves were, as its name suggests, a striking silvery colour. As the seasons have progressed, the leaves have lost their silver sheen and have become a similar, boring green to all the other plants nearby.
I guess the Silverweed has bowed to peer pressure.
We were plodding purposefully along the other day when we noticed something strange about the sky. No it wasn’t that it had changed colour and now had a large number of blue bits in it. In fact we’ve had quite a few days with periods of blue skies and other indications of – dare I say it – ‘summer’. We’ve also had a good few days when the shape of individual clouds was discernible, even though they overlapped to produce a generally grey sky most of the time. I think that most of these clouds were amateurs, though and perhaps in training for the Olympics Opening Ceremony. There were occasions when their timing slipped and they let a patch of blue show through – I hope they got it right on the night.
No, the interesting thing about this sky was that the thin patchy clouds that look a bit like a watermark were travelling in exactly the opposite direction to the larger cottonwooly puffy ones, and both doing so at a good lick. I stopped and watched for quite a while because I wasn’t sure if it was just an optical illusion and the top clouds just seemed to be moving – but no, they were both moving across the sky.
Imagine if you were floating along in the bottom lot and you decided to go just a bit higher – it would be like sticking your head out of an express train.
“WHO’S THAT CLIP-CLOPPING OVER MY BRIDGE?”
“It’s just me, Willygoat Gruff.”
“I’M THE BIG BAD TROLL AND I’M COMING TO EAT YOU ALL UP!
“At least I think that’s what it says, I haven’t left my glasses up there on the bridge by any chance have I? Oh. Drat! I’ve lost my place now. I don’t suppose you can remember what comes next can you?”
“I seem to remember that I had to butt you over the bridge and I ended up with a headache for three days afterwards.”
“Oh, yes. I remember that bit too, a most unpleasant ending if you ask me. Shall I put the kettle on and make a nice cup of tea?”
“That would be lovely. I’ve got a cheese sandwich and a banana in my lunch box. Would you like to share it?”
“Mmm, half a banana would just hit that empty spot. I think I’ve a packet of biscuits somewhere too. I was saving them until someone came to have tea with me, but you don’t see many people crossing this bridge since they built the motorway. Ah, here they are. As I’m a kind of HobGoblin I always buy Chocolate Hobnobs, you know. Milk and sugar? You don’t mind it in a mug do you?”
“Thank you very much! I know you complain about being bypassed now they’ve built the motorway, but it does mean we can sit on the bridge and watch the river without having to worry about all that traffic!”
“Mmm. It is peaceful here isn’t it.”
We complain a lot here – and elsewhere too, of course. In fact, if the truth be known, complaining is something we do well. As with anything you do well – we enjoy doing it.
One of the things we like to complain about most is the way plants are named. The trouble is that people who give plants their common names don’t really care that the stalk has a line of hairs down the back. They look at the flowers and the leaves and they call everything that looks roughly like that by the same name or to be more accurate the same names as it isn’t often that a plant doesn’t have at least three or four different common names.
The Latin ‘scientific’ names live in a different world from the rest of us normal people. For instance (as we’ve mentioned earlier) there are five different Latin names for what are really just Wild Roses or Dog Roses or more-and-more-common-names-as-required. Then there’s fourteen different ‘scientific’ plants that are actually just Thistles. Most of the differences that make it possible to separate one from the other are only visible on detailed examination.
Here then we come to Hog Weed. This picture is of one with pink flowers. There are other similar plants with white flowers along our verges. So, do these two quite different plants have different names?
What can I say?
Grasses are a real challenge to us (The Dog, Google and I). The problem is that there is just so much of the stuff to start with and then to make things worse it habitually grows all jumbled up together. This means that without getting down on your hands and knees in the mud and slush it is quite difficult to separate out exactly which leaf goes with which flower or seed stalk. Then on top of this the leaves all tend to be – sort of grass shaped and sort of grass colour.
It may be politically correct to be green but, in my opinion grass goes a bit over the top.
This one was quite distinctive so we hoped that it would be easy to find out what it was. As a general rule when you ask Google about plants it makes two assumptions. First that you want to buy seeds and second that if you don’t want seeds then you know the Latin name of this bunch of green stuff you hold in your hand.
Wrong Google – and wrong Google. Think a bit. If I knew what it was I wouldn’t be typing “identify grasses” in, now would I?
But here we have success at last – this is Dactylis glomerata. Does that clear things up for you? No, nor me, but it’s also called Cocksfoot because of the second sprig which looks like the spur on a hens foot.
And it does best when grown in dry conditions. I feel a bit sorry for it really.
Goose grass, you might think would be the preserve of geese and I’m sure that your average goose would be pleased if you chose to present it with a handful. But it’s not just geese that enjoy this tasty morsel, most poultry, and horses pigs and sheep find it to their liking too. So why blame the geese?
This wretched plant sticks to anything and everything and now the seeds are starting to form, The Dog gets covered in small green baubles that are almost impossible to untangle from her fur.
Bedstraw it is and Cleavers and so on and so on, a great many names are recorded and it gets called a great many other things too when it winds itself round my legs if I should happen to venture onto the verge to look at something or other. Mrs Grieve (A Modern Herbal) says that many of its local names are derived from the Anglo Saxon ‘hedge rife’ – a robber or tax collector.
They had a problem telling the difference even in those days apparently.
When we get to the T junction, as you might expect, we have the opportunity to turn either to the right or left. To turn left is a bit of a cop-out as it takes us round the block and home. We only do this if we are in a hurry, as for instance if we slept late, the day has got into its stride without us and we need to take some executive decisions (short cuts) in order to get caught up.
If we turn right this takes us up to another T junction where it’s normal for us to turn back. Halfway along this stretch are a row of cherry trees of various ages, some fairly mature and starting to get a bit chunky, some still fit enough to go to the gym and keep young and spindly. In the spring, young and old alike, they all gave us a great show of cherry blossom. Now you’d think, cherry blossom – cherries, wouldn’t you?
In that whole row of perhaps a dozen trees, these are the only cherries I could see.
Three cherries, from all that blossom? It just doesn’t seem worth the effort.