Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Olive or Gromwell

To resolve a dispute over a plant's identity for the benefit of the common wealth, I selflessly approached the roundhead of the Sugarloaf again.
I had failed to record the plant's qualities objectively, just taking a couple of poor photographs. So this time, I took more poor photographs. First, I made sure it was not an olive* then approached the plant more scientifically.
At 18" (½m) tall, it has about ten separate stems rising from the ground, and a number of dry brown sticks that were presumably last year's growth, indicating that it is an annual, not a perennial.
Each stem throws off numerous short side shoots which have sets of leaves with nutlets at their base. Stems and leaves are lightish green, rough and hairy; the leaves oval to pointed with a clear vein, and the flowers (when present) occur at the tips of each stem.
This time, however, it had not even one of its puritanical white flowers, but the ironsided nutlets were clearly greenie-brown, not white as in common gromwell. So I conclude that it is indeed Corn or Field Gromwell, which not only has two God's English names but two papist Latin ones - Buglossoides arvensis and Lithospermum arvense.
Common gromwell 'officinale' apparently has contraceptive qualities, so could be called the Lord's protector.
Corn/field gromwell has, of course, seriously reduced in numbers as it is a crop pest, and so suffers from herbicides, insecticides and regicides.
The path down was the short direct one, near-vertical, which is of course to my liking. The heat of the English summer's day was searing, with temperatures approaching 20 degrees.........
....it's great to live near the coast when it's hot inland!

And ever the yaffle.

* terribly tenuous pun, sorry for the cavalier attitude.


Greenie said...

Steve ,
Thank goodness for that , now we can all get some sleep .
I must admit worrying about a man of your age , climbing that mountain in such conditions , but in true Bonnington style , you made it and confirmed the mystery plant . The 'shrub' described in the first post was only tiny then !
I hope there was a pub at the bottom of that steep slope down .

Anonymous said...

I feel better already and learnt soemthing into the bargain. I had no idea it was so masculine (large, rough and hairy). No wonder farmers got rid of it and it now rare.
And thanks for the herbal education - contraceptive eh? Quick www scan revealed red dye from roots and use as herbal sedative.....no evidence to back up any of those claims though!

Kingsdowner said...

Greenie, hope you're satisfied now.
You will be pleased to know that I climbed and decended with an energy and sure-footedness that belie my age and portliness.
And no liquid refreshment was partaken, despite the appalling prose.

Mel, looking forward to finding your 'stingless' nettle, but will prepare myself with a supply of dock-leaves.

Mary said...

Why is it I can tell that I'm the only one that doesn't speak "English" when I read your posts? Had to look up the Yaffle.

Kingsdowner said...

Mary, if "yaffle" is the only bit of text that you had trouble with, I'm most impressed. I thought it was mostly rubbish!

David said...

gromwell is called another name:
Lithospermum purpurocaeruleum
for more informations: