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Suggestive plants

No, not that sort of suggestive!  I mean,I have found some plants whose presence or growth habit suggests something about the place that they are growing. 

First, we have these flowering whortleberry plants.

They are strangely located on a hedgebank that until recently was surrounded by mixed woodland, which is not at all where you'd expect to find plants that usually prefer sunny moorlands.   I suspect they may be a survivor from the time before the woods grew up in the 20th century - after the market gardens and the mines closed.   The ground would have been much more open and exposed then.  They have struggled on with just enough light because they are on the top of a hedge bank. 

Recently, the woods immediately around the bank where these plants are growing have been felled - on one side, to put in new telegraph poles, and the other side the land has a new owner who has decided to clear the scrub and woodland. The whortleberries are clearly delighted with this turn of events and are growing and flowering like mad. 

And this is Common Scurvygrass, which I learn is so named because it is well endowed with Vitamin C and makes a good salad. I didn't know what it was so had to pick a bit and take it home to identify.   

 I couldn't work out why there was so much of this plant flowering madly along the B3257, but almost none at all along the side lane that branches off it.  You can step from a road that is white with scurvygrass to a lane completely devoid of it, in a couple of paces.  No other obvious difference.

I've now discovered that Common Scurvygrass is a maritime plant - and suddenly it all makes sense.  The  B3257 is regularly salted in the winter.  The side lane isn't.   This also explains why you so often see scurvygrass growing in the central reservation of motorways, which is something I'd been wondering about for ages. 

Here's a photo showing a bit more leaf : it's quite a straggly thing but grows in big clumps.

Finally, here is an old hedge, down by the Tamar. I think this hedge originally divided off a small field, that I am standing in, from the mine workings on the other side.  

  It's not a Significant hedge because it's now in the middle of a woodland, pretty much is only growing beech trees and moss, and doesn't divide up anything any more.  But it is interesting. 

You can see that beech tree on the left, that turns a right angle, going first along parallel to the ground, then straight up, has been laid.  A very long time ago, I think someone half-cut through that trunk when it was a young pliable stem, and then staked the young tree so that it would grow sideways and create a barrier.   Then, eventually, nobody cut the hedges and they got big and tall, and the land around them became seeded with the children of the hedge-beeches, and then it was a beechwood. 

According to the Rules of Hedgelaying as I learned them, that old hedgelayer did it wrong!  The tree has been laid so the trunk pointed down the slope - you are supposed to lay hedges on a hill so that the laid trunks point up the hill, as if you point the trunk downwards, the tree often gives up on that trunk as too much hard work and instead sends out new stems going straight up.  Clearly this did not happen in this case.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
5th May, 2012 16:43 (UTC)
The hedgerow detective! It's interesting how the signs of past land use are there if you know how to look...

I'd sort of assumed Scurvy Grass was edible because of the name, but I hadn't realised it could be used in salads - I suppose because it always grows along busy roads, you wouldn't really want to risk eating it.
5th May, 2012 22:31 (UTC)
Well, I confess I have not tried eating it for the exact reason you mention - it's exactly at dog leg-lifting height, and I suspect would also be quite gritty!

Wikipedia says " strong peppery taste similar to the related horseradish and watercress"

Which frankly begs the question - horseradish OR watercress? Quite a difference there! I would NOT want to taste stuff that I hoped might taste like watercress and found it was more like horseradish! :-ooo
5th May, 2012 21:12 (UTC)
One of my boundaries has the remnant of a hedge the other side of the wire were it's still possible to made out the cut and laid sections in places. They are fascinating things!
5th May, 2012 22:47 (UTC)
It's remarkable how long the trees preserve the shapes. I think that is probably the only way of getting a date direct from the hedge, if you could take some sort of core from an old tree, you'd know the hedge was at least that old...
17th May, 2012 18:05 (UTC)
Hey, you're doing well with the landscape archaeaology here. Next step will be carrying out walkover surveys. THEN you'll be doing the likes of me out of a job!

Interesting information about the scurvy grass...
17th May, 2012 19:07 (UTC)
Hmmm, and you make your job sound so appealing too, pouring rain, madly multiplying toilets...

I think I'll pass! :-D
19th May, 2012 17:01 (UTC)
Wow, that was all really interesting, thank you!
19th May, 2012 17:07 (UTC)
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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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