Rob Duffy: Sidewalk Botanist, Mid-July notes.

Galinsoga (Rob Duffy)


First signs of autumn are already with us in the form of ripe blackberries, rowan berries and hawthorn “haws”. Soon other trees and bushes will follow.

In Swanside, Huyton, Lamium amplexicaule  (Henbit Dead-Nettle), with its unusual stalkless leaves, is doing well in the pavement cracks; Stellaria media (Chickweed) still flourishes, but we now have aliens to divert on those vacant, post World Cup, corner shop trips. The very occasional Opium Poppy (Papaver somniferum), Pineappleweed (Matricaria discoides), which does what it says on the tin- ie smell like pineapple, when crushed, and the “American” willowherb  (Epilobium ciliatum).

At Broad Green Station, Buckshorn Plantain (Plantago coronopus), still has a hold-it was noted years ago – but is in a tiny minority amongst the Galinsoga (Shaggy Soldier), another South American, named after a Madrid botanist. Apparently, it was deemed an inhabitant of the London area only, 30 years ago.

On the Loop Line, puzzlement over the variation in flower form of S. palustris  (Marsh Woundwort) gave way to certainty that the Royal Fern colonies (Osmunda regalis)had spread massively south from West Derby Station in one year. “You should be counting them “ my fellow botanist exhorted, as Phil Smith would have done. I agree, but find the prospect too much- at the current rate of colonisation it will soon be competing with Broad Buckler Fern.

The embankment just before Bowring Park is a damp ( I use the word “wet” advisedly this summer) meadow”jungle” of  Epilobium hirsutum and Stachys palustris (this colony showing intermediate form and colouration to the two on the Loop Line )giving out as it does onto the roundabout that gives us a fine aerial view to the Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) colonies growing between the lanes of the M62. Described in a 1960 flora as “not a very common plant” reminds us how much the motorways have changed the floral map of England.

Rob Duffy 24/07/18