Signs of Spring 3

Here are three more woodland related plants you may come across on your daily exercise. As always please follow government rules and don’t travel to exercise and maintain a safe distance from others. Please search online to get better images of the plants.

Greater Stitchwort                                     Hazel                                                         Wild Garlic


Greater Stitchwort can be found in deciduous woodlands, hedges and verges. It is beneficial to many flying insects, including bees and butterflies as a Spring nectar source. It is also the food plant of several moths. It has an explosive seed dispersal system and in late Spring when the seed capsules ripen it can be heard popping. As it’s name suggests it was once used to treat a stitch (the pain in the side felt when exercising) and was also known as the Poor Man’s Buttonhole presumably because it was used for this purpose. Some stories say if you pick it you will start a thunderstorm and in Cornwall it was believed to be the property of Pixies and picking it would anger them. It has a number of other names including Snapdragon, Star of Bethlehem and Stinkwort.

Hazel is a very useful tree found in woodlands and hedges. It can grow up to 12m in height but traditionally it was coppiced (cut down when 10 to 12 years old) and left to regrow. The coppiced wood has a variety of traditional uses as it can be twisted or knotted, including hurdles, thatching spars, furniture and water-divining sticks. It can also be used to make charcoal and is also valued for it’s nuts or cobs. Hazel grows both male and female flowers and in Spring the male flowers appear as yellow catkins before the leaves and the female flowers are small and bud like. The leaves are bright green when they appear and grow to become large and oval and have a hairy underside which makes them soft to touch. The leaves provide food for a variety of moth caterpillars and coppiced Hazel trees provide shelter for ground nesting birds. The nuts provide food for a range of birds and animals and are particularly associated with Dormice. Hazel was known as a magical tree and a Hazel rod was meant to protect against evil spirits as well as being used as a wand and for water-divining. In some parts of England hazelnuts were used as charms or held to ward off rheumatism. In Ireland it was known as the tree of knowledge and in medieval times was a symbol of fertility.

Wild Garlic is also known as Ramsons and at this time of the year can be found covering the floor of woodlands and verges. The long pointed leaves fill the air with a garlic smell and the small white flowers rise up on a long stem. As with some other flowers mentioned before Wild Garlic is an indicator of Ancient Woodland so if seen in a hedge or verge could indicate that there was once a woodland present. As an early flower Wild Garlic is important for bees and other pollinators. It is a popular plant to forage and the leaves can be used raw in salads, blanched and used like spinach or made into pesto or soup. They are best used before the flowers appear. The flowers can be eaten raw in salads. The bulbs are not large like commercial garlic but can be a food source for pigs and boars. The bulb was also used in tonics to help cure rheumatism and high cholesterol.

Signs of Spring 3
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