At this time of year the Radipole hedgerows are starting to come in to their own. One particular family of plants is the Carrot Family or the Umbelliferae (now known as Apiaceae). These plants are easily identified by the umbrella shaped arrangement of their flowers. However, umbelliferae flowers can look confusingly alike at first. The photos below will assist you in sorting your parsleys from your hemlocks as you wander around the reserve. There are fourteen types of umbelliferae flowers on Radipole and Lodmoor. The plants below are ones that are currently flowering in the hedgerows around Radipole.
This is one of the earliest to come into flower, the season being from March – June. Alexanders is a solid tall biennial growing up to 150cm. It has yellow celery-scented flowers and glossy deep green leaves in groups of three toothed leaflets. The fruit is black and sharply ridged. It grows in roadsides and waste places, more common near the sea. Alexanders can be seen near the VC and along the riverbanks by the car park though it is coming towards the end of their flowering season
May is the peak flowering time for Cow Parsley, which can grow up to 100cm tall and has green fern like leaves sometimes turning purple. The leaves can appear as early as December. The flowers are white in umbels 5-6cm wide. This is a common plant of hedgerows and roadside which flowers from April – June and is abundant along the footpaths around the reserve at this time of year. The garden variety of this species is known as Queen Anne’s Lace.
This is a patch forming hairless perennial up to 100cm tall with trifoliate leaves with irregular toothed leaflet. The umbels are white and flower from May to August. It grows in shady places. Ground Elder grows in patches due to the underground rhizomes and, as many of you know, it is an invasive garden weed. There is a large patch of Ground Elder on the western side of the Buddleia Loop path, just past the concrete bridge
Hemlock Water Dropwort
Hemlock Water Dropwort is common on paths by the streams on the reserve flowering from May through to August. It is a tall stout perennial up to 150cm with three glossy leaves forming a triangular shape. Plants form large clumps in damp wet habitats by streamsides in grassy areas. The parsley-scented flowers are white forming umbels up to 10cm across and can look like tiny balls when young. (Note:This is a very poisonous plant).
Hogweed is a now coming into flower, is a common plant of summer, and is abundant along the footpaths throughout the reserve. It is a tall solid plant with stiffly hairy ridge stems up to 200cm. Leaves often have five lobed-toothed leaflets. The flowers are white, occasionally pink, in umbels up to 15cm across. One of the identifying features of this flower is that the petals on the outer flowers of the umbel are unequal. Hogweed is can also be seen flowering through a mild winter. In the past pigs ate the tubers of the plant hence the name Hogweed.
Although this plant is not currently in flower, its distinctive large triangular leaves with its many sharp-toothed leaflets are already evident in the damp hedgerows by the footpaths and stream banks around the reserve. Look for this tall stout purple flushed umbelliferae from mid June to September. The unpleasant smelling flowers are white or pink with petals that curve inwards.
Later I will bring you Radipole's Lacey Brollies: Part 2 which will show you how to identify the summer umbellifers of Radipole Lake.
Angie, very good article to highlight familiar plants which always seem difficult for me to identify whilst walking around the Reserves, looking forward to Part 2!