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Nature Notes


Violet Viola

This shy fragrant flower is a wonder to smell and look at in spring. It is said that Zeus the Greek God created the violet for one of his loves. When Orpheus lost his loving wife and his lute fell to earth, it is also said, the first violet blossomed. It has always been a flower associated with fertility, bringing life to all around it in spring. Why else would it perfume the earth so wonderfully when winter has passed. It is also the flower of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. The Druids were said to drink violet wine on both the winter and summer solstice to bring luck, protection, peace and healing. Gerard in his herbal says that violets bring to the mind gentleness, the remembrance of honesty and all kinds of virtues. He felt one handful of violets would surpass all the pleasant flowers that grow in the garden.

It is said that the odour and touch of a violet cures both heartache as well as headache. Indeed violet water has long been used to bring back hope and ease the mind. A syrup is not only delicious but used for coughs, sore throats and sleep difficulties. The root is used in an ointment for bruising and swellings. A tea is traditionally used for easing the stomach and digestion. One of my delights is in dipping violet flowers in a mixture of powdered sugar and egg white and leaving it to dry. These candied violets can then be stored and used to decorate cakes. The flowers and leaves are also delicious in salads in spring. Debra


Horsetail

Thanks to those readers who have informed us about the sometimes abundant growth of Horsetail.

Horsetail is an invasive weed with roots that can run as deep as 2 metres below ground, making it incredibly difficult to dig up, especially if it’s invaded planted beds. To make things worse, any fragments left behind will grow new shoots. Left unchecked it will spread via a network of underground stems and quickly crowd out other plants as it competes for light, water and nutrients. The foliage of horsetail is coated in a waxy substance that forms a barrier, making it resistant to weed killers and it will grow almost anywhere. Debra

It could be useful to consult Natural England or the Royal Horticultural Society if you want to know more.


Periwinkle Vinca Minor
Periwinkle trails its beautiful blue flowers through the gorse and brambles and decorates the walls. It is also called Blue Buttons, Joy on the ground, Penny winkle, and Sorcerer's Violet. In France it is called Pucellage or the Virgin's Flower, and in Germany it is the flower of immortality.
In order for the insects to not self fertilize the plant, the anthers are above the stigmatic disk and the stigma is under the disk. The generic name, Vinca comes from the Latin Vincire which means to bind, referring to the stems and roots which may bind to weaker plants. The smaller Periwinkle is minor and the larger Periwinkle is major. Wordsworth described Periwinkle as 'Through primrose tufts in that sweet bower, the fair Periwinkle trailed its wreaths.'
When Rousseau saw a Periwinkle, he was reminded of his friend Madame de Warens who he had not seen for 30 years. He thus named the flower the friendship flower. It has been used in love potions and hung over doors to give protection. If gazed upon it is said to restore lost memories. It is said if a man and woman eat the flowers together love will grow between them.
In 1923 the medical world found it useful as a tea to help diabetes. The infusion or tea of the flowers can help balance the menstrual flow, help headaches and digestion. It has been used in ointments for piles and also inflammatory skin complaints. Fresh leaves can be used as a poultice to help with cramps by wrapping it around the affected area. In Italy the flowers are placed on the coffins of young children to help their journey into the next world. Periwinkle is thought to have been brought to this country by the Romans who tended to travel with a box of herbal plants wherever they went. It is a beautiful flower and in Cornwall often flowers throughout the year.
Debra


Primrose Primula Veris (from April Lizard Lives)
Primroses are the first roses of spring and represent both the opening of spring as well as new love. Old tradition says that if a bunch of flowers is gathered in spring and held in the hand whilst closing the eyes, one can see future love. The flower is also said to symbolize purity and youthfulness. Primroses are very adventurous and grow wherever they land, whether it be a cow field, an old stone wall or even the most overgrown of places. The Celts believed it to be one of the fairy flowers and that it grew in places where rings of enchantment could be woven. The Druids made a sacred drink from the flowers of primroses and used it in their sacred fires to awaken the spring and give blessings for new crops. It is said that if you hold primroses in your hand and close your eyes, you will see new love. Holding a posy of primroses in your hand can help to find hidden treasures. The primroses certainly bring hope and sweet colour to the spring time.
The flowers have been used to make wine from ancient times. The Romans were particularly good at making a very strong version. The flowers are also used as a tea that have sedative qualities. An infusion of the root is helpful for gout and rheumatism. An ointment made with the flowers helps with sunburn, skin problems and is said to take wrinkles away. William Turner, the sixteenth century herbalist wrote that primroses mixed with white wine could be used to wash the face and make women fair in the eyes of the world. He also said adding it to bath water would increase beauty.
In the herbalism of today, the roots and leaves are used in an infusion for chronic coughs and bronchitis. The root is also found to slow blood clotting. Teas from the flowers are used as a sedative helping sleeplessness and nervousness. The plant is also antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory, which could help allergy reactions.
The primroses have a sweetness to them with a delicate beauty in the softness of their leaves and flowers. It simply seems to give love to everything that is around it, announcing the spring with its bright colours. It reminds me of the quote from Elizabeth Lawrence - “There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colours are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again”.
Debra


Lesser Celandine or Ranunculus Ficaria (from March Lizard Lives)
I love seeing the first blooms of Celandine along the cliff path. It is often called the messenger of Spring and is said to come with the swallows. It grows low on the ground with its bright flowers bursting forth like a ray of sunshine. The flower appears on the tombstone of Wordsworth, who said of this favourite flower 'that the painter who pictures the rising sun must have taken the idea from the spreading pointed rays of the Celandine's glittering countenance'. The petals, being very sensitive, open and close depending on light and air temperature. Its Latin name Ranunculus Ficaria comes from ranunculus which refers to frog, and ficaria which means fig. It was thought the plant liked the same habitat of moist and dark as the frog likes. The fig refers to the tubers that form on the roots as well as under the leaves. Those under the leaves become self-pollinated seeds which drop into the soil in the summer. Celandine comes from the Greek word, chelidon meaning swallow.
In folk remedies it is said that, if lesser celandine is warmed in a glass of white wine before bed, dreams will be pleasant. In ancient times it was thrown on the fire to celebrate the growing sunshine. It was also worn for protection and to bring good spirits and joy. Gerard, in his herbal, explains that the root mixed with wine is good for piles and the juice of the root mixed with honey purges the head. In more recent times, the plant is often called pilewort. It is used in an ointment for haemorrhoids.
Celandine radiates charm and boldly smiles at us. There is an honesty and determination in her brightly coloured flowers that express the purpose of Spring as a time for each life to burst forth in its own unique way. Hers is a freshness of purpose in being simply what one is. There is this essence in all of us that gets renewed each Spring and this in turn brings the inspiration for the next year.
Debra


Holly, Ilex Equifolium (added 02/02/18)
Holly also has the names of Bats’ wings, Christ's Thorn, Holy tree and Hulver bush. Its evergreen leaves and berries are said to represent the continuation of life through the winter. It is also said to protect the house and fields from extremes of weather and natural catastrophes. The Druids would decorate their Solstice fires with branches and brew a Holly wine. A Holly Liqueur is still made by placing 2 oz. chopped leaves in 1/4 pint of brandy for a day. Then two pints of wine were added and left for a day. It was then strained and bottled. The dried leaves can be used to make a tea that has been used for colds, flu and rheumatism. The dried powdered berries can be made into an ointment for stopping external bleeding. Hanging Holly in stables is said to guarantee successful birthing of animals and protect them. It is said that if you gather nine leaves of Holly and wrap them up in a white cloth tied with nine knots and place this underneath a pillow when you dream, your dreams will come true. In winter another old tradition was to take cuttings of holly branches and place them in pots on the solstice, and a month later when they bloomed, they were given to friends for good health, fertility and strength for the next year. The Celts believed that the Robin gathered branches of Holly and with them showed mankind how to make fire by lighting the branches in the fires of the sun and then bringing the fire back to earth. Offerings were placed out for the Robin to ensure luck for the next year. The Holly branches were also used as spears and shafts for arrows and in this way Holly is said to be a tree that gives courage, spiritual strength and warrior magic. In Christian lore the Holly is the symbol of eternal life, and the prickly leaves represent Christ's crown of thorn, and the red berries his blood representing his suffering.
It is also said to be a tree of divination and, in the language of flowers, is said to be the plant of foresight. On Christmas Eve the leaves can be floated on water with tiny candles on them which are then lit. If the leaves float, success in one's endeavours are assured, if they sink one should rethink the plan of what to do. The rich green leaves and red berries certainly brighten up the winter and are a symbol of all the life that lies deep in the winter snows that will bloom again in the spring.

Ivy, Hedera Helix
Ivy or Hedera Helix comes from the Greek word Hedera and means to sit referring to its clinging roots, and Helix meaning a spiral shape or to wind. It has always been a symbol of life and rebirth as it remains green throughout the winter. The leaves can be made into an ointment that can be used for tired muscles and as a tonic for the skin. When the leaves are infused in rose water and placed on the temples the can relieve headaches. It is said that when Ivy grows it helps to change negative energy. It is not really a parasite but roots extensively and clings lightly to other surfaces. It provides a very rich nectar for bees in late summer and autumn to help them through the winter. The berries also help the birds through the winter. Indeed, it is often planted next to holly as a charm to bring life back out of the cold barren landscape of winter. 
During the winter solstice the Druids would drink ivy wine and decorate their shrines and altars with Ivy as they felt it represented the immortality of the spirit and would help bring and strengthen the growing light of the New Year. They felt Ivy was a home for nature or elemental spirits. It is said that the spiral growth of Ivy is symbolic of the labyrinth or life-maze from birth to death Ivy ale is still made and drunk at Trinity College in Oxford. Ivy is said to represent love, constancy, dependence, fidelity and friendship. It is used as a charm for fidelity and love.

by Debra


Can you tell your Old Man’s Beard from your Witches’ Whiskers?
These oddly descriptive and rather cheeky names belong to some of our region’s hidden woodland treasures, the lichens. Unsurprisingly not many of us could point them out on a woodland walk yet the south west’s coastal and upland woods (known as Atlantic woodlands) are some of the richest places for lichens, mosses and liverworts in the British Isles. Plantlife with funding from the National Lottery and the support of regional partners wants people to know more about the woodlands on their doorstep so that we can value them more and do more for their conservation.
Over the next 12 months we will be developing the ‘Building Resilience in South West Woodlands’ project and we want to hear from the people who live near these woods, work in or visit the area. Let us know what you think about the woodlands of Dartmoor, Exmoor, North Devon, North Cornwall and the Quantock Hills. Tell us what activities you would like to get involved with. To do this go to www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/BRCommunities
Now back to those beards and whiskers.
On your next woodland walk have a look into the branches of hawthorn, oak, ash and birch trees to see if you can find either of these lichens. Both are nationally fairly rare but can be abundant in some of the south west’s older native woodlands as they prefer to live in the clean, light and damp conditions they provide.
Witches’ Whiskers (Usnea florida)
With its huge hairy wart-like discs, this grey-green lichen can’t be mistaken for any other. The discs are the fruits of the lichen and can grow up to 1cm across although they can be much smaller.
Old Man’s Beard (Usnea species)
Sometimes sticking up on branches and sometimes dangling from them in clumps, these ‘usnea’ lichens are made up of thin, round, grey-green threads and are reminiscent of a tangled beard.
To hear Plantlife’s Alastair Moralee talk about the project on BBC Radio Devon go to https://twitter.com/Love_plants/status/907228502394634240


Witches Whiskers (left) and Old Man's Beard (right) (click to enlarge)


Yarrow - Achillea Millefolium
Yarrow has delicate feathery leaves and lace shaped bunches of small flowers. It has a strong smell that keeps moths away from wool jumpers and blankets. The Greek name achillea comes from the name of Achilles who was a warrior wounded in the battle of Troy. Chiron came to him and showed him how to make a salve from the Yarrow plant to heal his wounds. It is called the military herb in ancient medicine. Its name millefolium means a thousand leaves and refers to the many feathery leaves of the plant. Yarrow comes from the Anglo Saxon word gearwe and means to prepare or to be ready. It is herb that acts as a defence against ills.
The stems of Yarrow were used by the Druids to divine the seasonal weather. In China they are used to make the fifty I Ching sticks that foretell fortune and the future. The smoke of the burning plant helped to put the high priestess of Delphi into a trance. Yarrow has for centuries been used to heal wounds. The American Indians used it to staunch wounds and fight infection. In Scotland an ointment for cuts and bruises. In the middle ages it was used to treat burns and wounds. Yarrow tea was said at that time to dispel melancholy. When it was placed over the bed of those newly wed it was said to bring enduring love.
We know Yarrow lowers blood pressure, strengthens the wall of the blood vessels and is a useful ointment for slow healing wounds. Externally it is used in an ointment for ulcers, varicose veins, chapped skin, eczema, rashes, wounds and burns. A tea of Yarrow eases menstrual pain, helps with colds and flu, reduces fevers and is useful for weak digestion and colic. It is also said that it helps with baldness if the head is washed with it. Yarrow is one of the plants that is a general all heal plant giving an overall tonic to the entire system. A good plant to have at the end of the summer season to prepare for the winter.
Debra


Portuguese Man-of-War: 

The carnivorous, venomous, Portuguese Man-of-War is not a jellyfish. It is in fact a ‘siphonophore’, an animal made up of a colony of individual organisms called polyps. The man-of-war may be 9-30cms long, with tentacles typically about 10m long (can reach up to 30m). The polyps are attached to one another and physiologically integrated to the extent that they are unable to survive independently, and therefore have to work together and function like an individual animal. The sting from the tentacles, used for killing squid and fish, is painful and venomous to humans and dogs, even when the body of the man-of-war has been washed up on a beach.
BEWARE and do not touch.


Hemp Agrimony (added 29/09/17)

Hemp Agrimony or Eupatorium Cannabinum is also called Gravel Root, Joe Pye Week and Queen of the Meadow. In late summer, Hemp Agrimony grows on tall stalks with bunches of feathery light pink flowers. The stems have been used in weaving along with reeds or nettle stalks when cotton was scarce. The name Eupatoria is thought to come from the King Mithridates Eupator VI who lived in the first century BC. He was famous for his snake bite concoction that was also used for other infections. This Mithridate confection  was used in the London Pharmacopoeia until 1746. Agrimone was a word given to plants by the Greeks for those plants which healed the eyes. The common name Joe Pye Weed was given to the plant in the USA because a Native American Indian called Joe Pye used the plant in the treatment of typhus.

In the middle ages it was used in cremes for skin problems. Tinctures and teas were used for scurvy, jaundice, arthritis and influenza and fevers. Leaves were put on wounds to help with infection and also on bread to keep the bread from moulding. Today the tea is used for fevers, colds, flu and other acute viral infections. The plant itself is considered to be a tonic. A tea helps to maintain resistance to acute viral and other infections. In folklore a wish can be written on a leaf and left under a pillow for a night for the wish to be put in action. It is said to be particularly effective when it comes to love. The native Indians, druids and certain oracles also used the smoke of the plant to bring about prophetic dreams or trances. It is certainly a plant that at this time of year can be used to prepare the body for the rigours of winter.

Debra


Treasures in the sky (added 24/08/17)
If you have never stepped outside on a clear night and looked up, you don't know what you're missing!  Since moving here from south London, I have been enthralled by how much there is to see without all that light pollution.

For the first time ever I have been able to see the Milky Way, which is the galaxy we all live in. The best view would be from the southern hemisphere, but in summer we can see some of it from here.  A faint misty band of light, which might be taken at first for hazy high cloud, stretches across the sky, and if you look at it through binoculars or a telescope, you can see thousands of stars. Amazing!

So if you want to go out one night and see what there is up there, here are a few pointers.

So what can you see? Looking up at all those stars can be very confusing at first, so it's helpful to learn a couple of the easiest signposts to help you navigate. One thing that should be easy to identify is the Plough, or the Big Dipper. It's that saucepan shaped collection of stars with a curved handle, right above us in summer. If you follow the line of the 'handle' in an arc you will soon come to a very bright star called Arcturus. This is a red supergiant star, so a lot bigger than our sun.

The middle star in the handle of the Plough is called Mizar and it is a binary star. A lot of stars up there are binaries, but it's not always easy to see them. With a good pair of binoculars and a steady pair of hands, you may be able to distinguish the two stars of Mizar.

Looking at the right-hand side of the bowl of the Big Dipper, follow the line made by the two stars upwards and you will come to Polaris, the Pole Star. With a name like that, you'd think it would be a big, bright star, but it isn't. Its claim to fame is that it is so close to the point in the sky around which the Earth revolves that it doesn't appear to move. All the other stars go round it, but Polaris stays still.

Another useful signpost is Cassiopeia. It's high in the sky now we are in late summer. Look for a collection of 5 stars that look like a rather relaxed 'W' shape. Cassiopeia marks one end of the Milky Way, which stretches away southwards to the horizon.

If you look at the second 'V' of Cassiopeia's 'W', and then follow the line downwards for some distance and slightly right, you will come to a faint smudge of light which can be seen more easily with binoculars. This is Andromeda, another galaxy like the Milky Way but bigger. Just to make it more interesting, the Milky Way and Andromeda are on a collision course. But don't worry, it won't happen for a few billion years yet!  If you are hoping to see the gorgeous detail and colour of photos taken by the Hubble telescope, you're going to be disappointed. Most distant objects look like a misty patch, but in Andromeda, you're looking at a trillion stars. Amazing!

At certain times you can also see planets. Jupiter was very bright and very visible all through spring and early summer, but it sets too early now for us to see it. But look out for it when it returns. It's one of the brightest objects in the sky, and through binoculars, you can spot the four largest moons of Jupiter. They are orbiting the planet and will be in a different position every night. With a telescope, you can see the bands of cloud on Jupiter, and if you're lucky, you may be able to pick out the Great Red Spot.

Another planet which is quite bright is Saturn. This is lower in the sky to the south at the moment and looks yellowish. It is a clear oval shape. Through binoculars or a telescope you can make out the rings, which always gives me a thrill.

There are things up there which are moving much faster. I have been amazed at how many shooting stars I have spotted here. There are certain groups of shooting stars which the Earth passes through every year, and you can download apps which will tell you which ones are current and roughly which bit of the sky to look at. These are usually created by debris left behind by comets which the Earth passes through on its annual circuit of the sun. However there are other types of shooting stars caused by passing lumps of rock or bits of debris we have left up there. They burn as they re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and can be very bright and stretch across the sky, or dimmer and burn out quickly. Blink and you miss it.

One of the most spectacular faster moving lights is the International Space Station. There are apps which tell you when this is due to pass over us. It is surprisingly big and very bright, especially when its giant solar panels catch the sun from far below the horizon. It moves at quite a brisk pace across the sky and is always worth a look if the sky is clear. But there are hundreds of satellites up there too, and while they might not be quite as bright or spectacular, you won't need to wait long before you spot one.

The universe is immense and filled with wonders. All you have to do is look up and marvel.

WARNING. PLEASE NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN, AND NEVER POINT BINOCULARS OR A TELESCOPE AT THE SUN. YOU WILL PERMANENTLY DAMAGE YOUR SIGHT.

Hilary Hoad


Heather (added 24/08/17)
Heather is a soft carpet of bell shaped flowers with a rich scent that the bees love. It helps the bee reserves both in spring and also at the end of summer when other flowers have had their time. Its seeds can remain in the soil for years and because of this it is one of the first plants to reshoot after forest fires. In ancient times the root was made into musical pipes. Heather was made into mattresses and brooms, and today it is still used in herb pillows to give deep sleep. Its Latin name Calluna comes from the word kalluna which in Greek means to brush. The flowers are also used to brew ale. Apparently when the Norse invaded the Picts in the 4th century, even under torture the Picts would not reveal the way to make the restorative heather ale. The dew gathered from the flowers is said to restore vitality and the tea is said to restore youthfulness. In Ireland there is the legend of the giantess Garbh Ogh. She, at the time of her death, set her chair amidst the blossoming heather in the womb of the hills. At sunset she faded into the hillside and forever after protected the country around her. It is also said that when burned, heather can conjure up ghosts and make it rain.

Today heather is used in many ways. The tips of heather gathered in the autumn are used for poultices for easing the aches and pains of rheumatism. The tips are made into a crème that is also used for cuts, bruises, and chilblains. Heather tea is said to help gently cleans the urinary tract. It has for centuries been used for cystitis, kidney stones and bladder infections. The tea is said to be a good general overall tonic to the system. As a Bach flower remedy it is said to restore the inner vitality of a person so they have the strength to put difficulties behind them and be more compassionate for others. Heather inspires changes that come in spring and helps us move into the changes of autumn with its rich carpets of sweetly scented flowers, in the same way it fills the reserves of the bees.

Debra


Meadowsweet (added 28/07/17)
To see the delicate feather like tuffs of Meadowsweet among the heather on the moor lands is wonderful. This plant is also known as Mead Wort, Queen of the meadow and Meadow Lady. It is a member of the rose family and has a very sweet soothing scent. Its Latin name is Filipendula Ulmaria. Ulmaria means elm like describing the leaves of the plant that resemble those of the elm. Filipendula comes from Filum meaning thread and Pendulus which means to hang. The flowers hang off the stem and the tubers of the roots hang off the fibrous roots.

In Greek mythology the plant was sacred to Venus the goddess of love and was often used in love potions and at weddings. In Welsh mythology it was said that Gwydion and Math created a woman out of Meadowsweet and Broom and named her Blodeuwedd or flower face. In the Middle Ages it was strewn on the floors of churches and used in weddings and other festivals. Queen Elizabeth I put Meadowsweet first among all the herbs for her chamber and said it made the heart merry and was joyful to the senses It is found in ancient burial sites both in medicine bags as well as containers that probably held honey based Mead. Indeed it has been used to flavour Mead, vinegars, and beers for centuries. It is also used traditionally in stewed fruits and jams to add an almond taste.

A tea made from the flowers has long been a traditional remedy for acid stomach. The root was also powdered and used in tea for headache, gout rheumatism, infection and fevers. It was one of the first plants to be recognized for its aspirin properties.

Debra


(Added 28/07/17) Did you Know! Gannets often die of osteoporosis - fragile bones due to their fishing technique, though they do still live for up to 35 years unless caught in fishing nets etc.  Their wing span is up to 6.6 foot wide. Gannets fly up to 98 feet high, circling, then plunge into the sea, achieving speeds of 62mph to dive after their fishy food!

Adults are large and bright white with black wingtips. They are distinctively shaped with a long neck and long pointed beak, long pointed tail, and long pointed wings. At sea they flap and then glide low over the water, often travelling in small groups.

To enter the water to fish, at speeds of up to 62mph, they have specifically developed neck muscles and a spongy bone plate at the base of their bill to reduce the impact. They also have special membranes to guard their eyes. If you’re lucky enough to see gannets feeding out to sea you’ll notice that they do so in large groups, sometimes up to 1,000 birds strong. When they dive, these seabirds swim down to around 15m, staying submerged for only a few seconds.

Gannets hunt fish by diving into the sea from a height and pursuing their prey underwater. Gannets have a number of adaptations which enable them to do this:

The chicks are unique 
When gannet chicks first hatch they are featherless, as well as being blue or black in colour. They need to be fed a couple of times a day on average by the parents and will keep up this arrangement for about 90 days. When the young do fledge the nest, by around September, they are so chubby and buoyant that they’re not actually capable of surface diving! The fledglings will usually go without food for two or three weeks at this point until they’ve slimmed down a touch and mastered diving. That’s what we mean by unique!


Mallow Malva Sylvestris: (added 25/06/17)

The mallow trees are in full bloom to the delights of the bees at the moment. This is a plant that has been used for coughs and colds since ancient times. Both the garden hollyhock and hibiscus are members of the same family. The fruits that follow in the autumn have been given the name cheeses because their shape resembles a round cheese. They can be sprinkled onto salads and have a nutty taste. Its Greek name Malvaceae comes from malake which means soft and refers to its ability to soften and heal. The generic name althaea comes from the Greek word altho which means to cure. The Spanish say that a kitchen garden and mallow are all that is needed to stay well. The Druids believed that if mallow was gathered in the full moon it brought virility. Mallow seeds were buried with a Neanderthal man over 6,000 years ago to strengthen his journey to the next world.

The entire plant can be eaten. The Roman's used the leaves in barley soups, for stuffing pigs and to make a fragrant vinegar. The root was often fried with onions and butter. Pliny believed that whoever took a spoonful of Mallow daily would be free of disease. The young leaves and flowers can be eaten in spring salads to stimulate the kidneys. The leaves can be made into a poultice for inflammation. The roots were peeled and given to babies to chew on when teething as it reduces swelling and calms the stomach. The French make sweets out of the roots for sore throats, coughs and hoarseness. It is sometimes mixed with eucalyptus for coughs and other chest ailments. The flowers are used as a tea for colds as well as to decorate cakes and salads. The root when boiled in water gives a mucous like substance. This helps when the natural mucus has been lost such as in the intestines, stomach and lungs. Flowers boiled in water with honey is a good gargle for sore throats. They can also be used as an infusion to put on inflamed skin. It is indeed a very useful plant to have around not to mention its beauty.

Debra


Dandelion: (added 29/05/17)

Dandelion or Leontoodum Taraxacum, is also called witch-gown, lion's teeth, golden sun, fortune teller, blow-ball, fairy clock, swine snout, and rustic oracle. The flowers open at sunrise and close at sunset. The feather tuffs are said to predict calm or stormy weather similar to how a barometer uses humidity changes. The name comes from the French 'dent de lion' meaning lion's tooth which refers to the leaves. The whole of the plant is eatable and rich in vitamins and minerals. Dandelion leaves actually stimulate urine and cleanse the kidneys and liver without the loss of potassium. A tea of the flowers and leaves is said to help rheumatism and arthritis because it helps to remove the acid deposits. During the war years the roots were roasted and used for dandelion coffee. In folk traditions it is said that you can blow a dandelion seed to send thoughts to a loved one. If you dream of a dandelion, it could mean a changing time is ahead.

The traditional time to make dandelion wine in on St. George's day, April 23rd, when St. George fights the dragon of winter and brings in the festival of spring. This is also the time when the Goddess Eostra and Taurus the bull come to fertilize the land. Traditionally eggs were given to the goddess as a gift and dyed with gorse for yellow, cochineal for red and pasque flower for green. This is the history of the present day easter egg. In Scotland oatcakes where also made and given to the earth for fertility for the coming year. The end of the month is the traditional time of Beltane when there was dancing around the bonfire. The ashes of the bonfire were often sprinkled on the land to bring fertility to the crops. What happens between Beltane night and May 1st, should perhaps remain a mystery.
Debra


Shepherd's Purse or Capsella - a rare plant: (added 29/05/17)

Both the white and pink shepherd's purse form heart shaped seed cases. The Latin Capsella means a little box or case and when the seed cases dry they open and the seeds fall out. This was how it was named as a little purse full of delicate seeds. It has been used for years as a tea for stopping bleeding and hemorrhages. Ointment was used for ear ache and for wounds. It was used during the World Wars for wounds when Goldenseal was in short supply. It has also been used for cystitis, dysentery diarrhoea and eye problems. As well as stopping bleeding it is anti-inflammatory and can reduce fever. When cows eat the plant it is said to give the milk a strong odour. The seeds are a delicacy for birds and if chickens are fed on the plant it can make the eggs taste stronger. Shepherd's purse is also an important bee food when other flowers are scarce as they flower from early spring throughout the summer. I find pressing the stems with the seed cases flat make lovely book marks with the lovely heart shaped seeds. The whole plant is eatable but has a strong flavour. In Medieval times the seeds were used to make a strong flavoured cheese and added to mead for a stronger flavour. It is a real treasure to look after and survives being trampled over but can reach a foot or so if protected giving even more bee and bird food. (Debra)


Celebrating Wild Lizard

The Lizard National Nature Reserve was extended in 2016 to include an extra 470ha of land in National Trust and Cornwall Wildlife Trust care such as Kynance Cove, Lizard Point, Black Head and Windmill Farm.  This makes the Lizard NNR one of the largest in the south-west at almost 2500ha of nationally important land recognised for its incredible wildlife.

In celebration of this extended National Nature Reserve, the National Trust and partners Natural England, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Cornwall Bird Preservation Society are organising a series of events during May and June 2017. Track down elusive nightjars by their bizarre churring calls, peer into ponds to discover dragonfly nymphs and newts, join botanists to marvel at the glorious spring flowers carpeting the cliffs and get to know why the Lizard Peninsula is such an important place for wildlife and a mecca for naturalists. With events appealing to all ages and interests, there’s bound to be a wildlife adventure to suit!

Look out for further details about these events, download the attached pdf, or click the link below for the Lizard website for a full list of events and for more information: http://www.the-lizard.org


The Violet (from April "Lizard Lives")

This week this shy fragrant flower has begun to blossom. It is said that Zeus the Greek god created the violet for one of his loves, and that when Orpheus lost his love and his lute fell to earth the first violet bloomed.  It has always been a flower associated with fertility bringing life to the seeds in spring. It is also the flower of Aphrodite the goddess of Love. The Druids were said to drink violet wine on both the winter and summer solstices to bring luck, protection, peace and healing. Gerard in his herbal says that violets bring to the mind gentleness, the remembrance of honesty and all kinds of virtues. He felt one handful of violets would surpass all the pleasant flowers that grow in the garden. It is said that the odour and touch of a violet cures both heartache as well as headache. Indeed violet water has long been used to bring back hope and ease the mind. A syrup is not only delicious but used for coughs, sore throats and sleep difficulties. The root is used in an ointment for bruising and swellings. A tea is traditionally used for easing the stomach and digestion. One of my delights is in dipping violet flowers in a mixture of powdered sugar and egg white and leaving it to dry. These violets can then be stored and used to decorate cakes. The flowers and leaves are also delicious on salads in spring.
Debra


Flowers (from March "Lizard Lives")

Spring is rarely subtle. It is as though the March hares run wild, stirring up the wind and wild rains to dance the earth into action. At this time there is a magical constant change of weather. The month of March has both the god of Mars and the goddess Hretha. They are full of passionate energy and are quick to take up the challenges of chasing old man winter out of the way. They love initiating new beginnings and sparking off new life. Seed cakes and gingerbread were often eaten and given to the earth in their honour and to celebrate the Spring.

One of the plants that is out at the moment is Campion, Silene Latifolia. Its name comes from the 14th century word for champion and the flowers were made into garlands for tournaments. The name also comes from the French word compagne meaning fields. The shoots can be eaten as vegetables either sautéed or boiled with various sauces. It is also called the herb of thunder and is said to protect against storms. No wonder it grows along the cliff edges to protect against the storms that come.
Debra


Edwin's pages - download pdf