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Flowers & Plants
Angelica & Common Valerian
Meadowsweet & Marsh Marigold
Purple Loosestrife & Yellow Loosestrife
Common or Black Knapweed & Ox-Eye Daisy
Yellow Rattle
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 A selection of charismatic, easily identifiable and folkloristic plants

 found at Dubwath Silver Meadows Wetland Nature Reserve. 

 Ox-Eye Daisy Common Valerian

              

 

 

  

 

 

                              (Information kindly provided by Mark Tilzey)

 
Angelica (Angelica sylvestris)

This is a tall plant, growing up to 2m (more usually 1.5m), and very common and characteristic in the damper areas of Dubwath Meadows. The white or pale pink flowers are found in compact round heads or umbels at the top of leaf stalks, which swell to an inflated sheath where they meet the round and purplish hollow stem. Angelica flowers from June to September.

The seeds of angelica, which are winged to aid dispersal and are bitter to taste, are used to flavour alcoholic beverages such as Vermouth and Chartreuse.

The plant has long been given its angelic name because of its seeming ability to cure anything - it was considered to be a great defence against evil spirits, witches, spells and the plague. 

Common Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

This again is a tall plant (up to 1.5m) and very common in the wetter parts of Dubwath Meadows, often growing with Angelica and Meadowsweet. It has very attractive pinkish-white small flowers growing closely together at the end of tall stems - these flowers appear from June to August, and turn into feathery seeds which are dispersed by floating on the air.

Valerian, otherwise known as All-Heal, is well-known as a medicinal herb used for calming the nerves, encouraging sleep and reducing blood pressure. When bruised, the plant is strongly attractive to cats which feel compelled to roll on it. It is also attractive to rats and can be used as rat bait (it is sometimes said that the Pied Piper of Hamelin secreted parts of valerian about his person to gain his rodent following).

The name Valerian is said by some authors to derive from Valerius, who first used the plant in medicine, while others derive the name from the Latin word valere (to be in health) due to its medicinal qualities.
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)

Another tall and conspicuous plant (1-2m tall) and again very common in the wetter parts of Dubwath Meadows. Meadowsweet has delicate, graceful, creamy-white flowers clustered close together with a very strong, sweet smell (after which the plant gets its name). The plant flowers from June to September.

The green parts of the plant are aromatic and possess an almond-like fragrance. Because of this, the plant was traditionally spread on floors to give rooms a pleasant odour. Gerard, the great herbalist, noted that: "the leaves and flowers of meadowsweet farre excelle all other strowing herbs for to decke up houses, to strawe in chambers, halls and banqueting houses in summer-time, for the smell thereof makes the heart merrie and joyful and delighteth the senses."

The plant is also used to flavour wine, beer and vinegars. It is also a source of salicin and the drug asprin was named after the old botanical name for meadowsweet - Spiraea.

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)

The bright, glowing flowers of this clump forming plant are amongst the first to appear in spring. This welcome early flush of colour is reflected in the large number of colloquial names the plant has attracted, including, kingcup, mollyblobs, water-bubbles and may blobs, although it may flower as early as March or April.

The flowers are cup-shaped and stand tall on long, hairless stems. Marsh marigold has large, glossy, dark green leaves. The plant grows in very damp areas, alonside streams and ponds. It is an early pollen source for a variety of insects, and provides good shelter for frogs and other pond-side creatures.

The scientific name Caltha derives from the Greek word calathos meaning cup or goblet, and refers to the shape of the flowers. All parts of the plant are poisonous and can be a skin irritant (like many members of the buttercup family of which it is part). The name marigold refers to its use in churches in medieval times at Easter time as a tribute to the Virgin Mary, as in Mary gold.
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

This is a tall plant (1.5m) of particularly wet areas of Dubwath Meadows and it is not as common as angelica, valerian or meadowsweet. Purple Loosestrife has very distinctive and attractive spires of small, clustered reddish-purple flowers, each having six petals. It cannot really be mistaken for any other plant (rosebay willow herb does not occur in wet habitats). It flowers in high summer from July to September.

It is called loosestrife because of its superficial similarity to yellow loosestrife to which it is, however, unrelated. It does not possess the medicinal properties which give rise to the name loosestrife. It was, however, formerly esteemed by herbalists in the treatment of chronic diarrhoea and dysentry.

The scientific name Lythrum is from the Greek luthron, meaning 'gore', a reference to the colour of the flowers. Salicaria refers to the similarity of the leaves to some members of the willow family (Salix).

Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris)

The bright yellow flowers of yellow loosestrife have orange edges and are bunched together in terminal spikes. They provide plentiful pollen for bees and appear in high summer from July to September. The strong downy stems are covered with opposite pairs of spear-shaped leaves. The plant is occasionally common at Dubwath in the wetter areas and along stream banks. It occurs in similar areas to purple Loosestrife to which it is, however, unrelated. The plant grows to approximately 1.5m in height.

Yellow loosestrife has often been known as Yellow Willow Herb, Herb Willow or Willow Wort, although it is not related to the true willow herbs. The Yellow Loosestrife belongs to the same family as primrose and pimpernel. Both the scientific and popular names of the loosestrife have interesting origins. The name Lysimachia is supposed to have been given in memory of King Lysimachus of Sicily, who, according to Pliny, first discovered its medicinal properties and then introduced it to his people. It had the ability to staunch bleeding of any sort - the young leaves bound about a fresh wound were said to check the bleeding and perform a cure in a very short time. However. even in Pliny's time, it was suggested that the plant did not really derive its from a more or less mythical king, but that it was compounded from the Greek words signifying 'dissolving' or 'ending strife' - it being held that not only oxen, but also restive horses, could be calmed by it.

Indeed its common name of loosestrife is very old and refers to the belief that the plant would quieten savage beasts and that, in particular, it had a special virtue "in appeasing the strife and unruliness which falleth out among oxen at the plough, if it be put about their yokes". The plant appears to deter biting insects and flies, and so placing it under the yoke relieved oxen of their tormentors, making them quiet and tactable. For the same reason, the dried herb used to be burnt in houses, so that the smoke might drive away unwanted insects - it was particularly valuable in marshy districts where the plant is most common.
Common or Black Knapweed (Centaurea nigra)

This plant is common on the drier grassland of Dubwath meadows and, indeed, is one of the most characteristic plants of traditional hay meadows. It is thistle-like in appearance but without spines. Dark flower heads with pink-purple flowers appear on branched stems from July to September and are very attractive to insects including hoverflies, bumble bees, butterflies and day-flying moths. The flower head is hard, a mass of bracts overlapping each other like tiles, each having a central green black fringe-like edge, the latter giving the plant the name 'black'.

Both the name 'knapweed' and its alternative 'hardheads' come from the round, hard head, 'knap' being a form of 'knop' or 'knob'. The plant once had a very reputation as a healer of wounds. Indeed, the scientific name Centaurea derives from Centaur Chiron of Greek mythology, who was famed for his skill in medicinal herbs, and is supposed to have cured himself with it from a wound he had received from an arrow poisoned with thw blood of the hydra.

Ox-Eye Daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum)

This plant is often to be found with knapweed on the drier parts of Dubwath and, like knapweed, is a very characteristic flower of traditional hay meadows. The plant looks like a giant daisy - it comes into flower by mid-May and continues until the end of June (it may continue to flower sporadically until autumn).

The ancient Greeks dedicated the plant to Artemis, the goddess of women, considering it useful in women's complaints. In Christian times, the plant was transferred to St Mary Magdalen and called Maudelyn or Maudlin Daisy after her. The herbalist Gerard called it Maudlinwort.

The scientific name comes from the Greek words chrisos (golden) and anthos (flower) and from leucos (white) and anthos - in other words 'gold flower - white flower'.


Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor)

Yellow Rattle, which grows in the drier grassland of Dubwath Meadows alonside ox-eye daisy and knapweed, gets its name from the fact that the seeds rattle in the husky capsules when ripe. The plant has short leafy spikes of bright yellow, lipped flowers. The stem is spotted black and carries opposing pairs of narrow, spear-shaped leaves. Unlike most meadow flowers, this is an annual and is thus dependent on producing enough seed for the next year.

The plant used to be called Rattle Grass and the herbalist Gerard also called it Pennygrass, referring to the flattened, fairly circular outline of the capsules. The scientific name Rhinanthus comes from two Greek words meaning nose and flower, referring to the projecting beak of the upper part of the flower.

 

Yellow rattle was considered to have certain properties that could cure poor sight. The herbalist Culpepper states that: " it is held to be good for those troubled with dimness of sight, if the herb being boiled with beans and honey; put thereof to be drunk or dropped into the eyes. The whole seed being put into the eyes draweth forth any skin, dimness or film from the sight without trouble or pain".

Yellow Rattle (Copyright Eiona55)