Greater Bell Flower - Campanla latifolia
This is a mid summer treat on the east bank of Cart below the White Bridge. The flowers can grow up to 4½ feet tall and the blue purple flowers are graced with a three white stigmas.
They are a signature flower of the Yorkshire and Derbyshire Dales and are uncommon further south but are widespread in Scotland.
Burdock - Arctium minus
Dandelion and Burdock both grow in the Park, we can all identify the first but this is about this substantial plant that grows in several places in Linn Park. The ingredients for this ‘near beer’ now are mainly brought in from Eastern Europe but historically this was made from the roots and young shoots.
Burdock is notable for the hooks on its flower and seed heads. These account for one of its common names, Velcro plant. The inventor George de Mestral was inspired after he examined the burrs from a burdock, sticking to his dog’s coat after a walk in the Alps.
The other notable feature of burdock is the leaves, which are almost as large as butterbur. Like this plant, they were used to wrap butter. However burdock has also inspired many landscape artists and both George Stubbs and Claude Lorrain manage to include burdocks in many paintings.
A notable use of burdock in Soctland is the Burry Man who parades round South Queensferry on the second Friday in August as part of the Ferry Fair. This has been a tradition that dates back to before 1687. The Burry Man’s costume is 500 or more dried burdock burrs stuck to his clothes (without glue of course) decorated with a few flowers.
Japanese Knotweed - Fallopia Japonica
This is a well known invasive plant of riverbanks and damp grassland. It can grow and spread at a prodigious rate. It was introduced during the 1830's from Japan as a garden plant and spread when discarded over garden walls along railways and rivers becoming widespread in Scotland only in the 1950's.
It is now officially regarded as Britain's most pernicious weed and it is illegal to deliberately plant it in the wild. One reason for this reputation is that it has very deep roots and will re-grow if a small fragment. It can erupt through tarmac years after it has been laid and discovery in your garden can reduce the value of your home - see this article in the Daily Mail. No current chemical or mechanical method offers reliable long-term control.
It often grows along with Indian Balsam and Rosebay Willowherb which can battle with it effectively.
As with many alien species, it was not introduced with the rest of the eco-system in which it had evolved. In an attempt to control it over 150 insects from the native plants in Japan were studied and a possible candidate has been found. As reported by the BBC, it is a beetle like insect Aphalara Itadori and its effect has been studied in trials since 2010 and so far looks good.
Richard Mabey reports that in Japan it is regarded as a vegetable with a tart taste like sorrel or rhubarb. In South Wales shoots up to 12cms high are cooked like spinach and children suck sharp tasting juicy stems and call the plant Sally Rhubarb.
Broad-leaved Helleborine (Orchid) - Epipactis helleborine
This should be known as Glasgow’s orchid. It is an uncommon plant in the UK except in Glasgow where it thrives in urban spaces. I have seen in many gardens, cemeteries, golf courses, waste-ground and of course, in Linn Park. It occurs in shade, under trees or wood margins in long grass.
There are many specimens around Linn flowering July and August. Once you see the fleshy stems and distinctive leaves you can spot them from June as they unfurl the flower spike.
The flowers are small but clearly an orchid. If you look closely you’ll see that like all orchids which native to the UK, the flower turns through 180° effectively turning upside down. As you can see sometimes the flowers don’t quite make it all the way.
Orchids require the correct fungus in the soil around them to survive, they give the fungus sugars and the fungus gives the orchid other nutrients. So they don’t transplant well, as it doesn’t do well as a cut plant resist the urge to pick one.
The other orchids (Common and Heath Spotted Orchids) that occur in Linn are pink or purple in flower and tend not to occur in shady places.
Red Campion - Silene dioica
This is one of the typical plants of a summer walk. It grows in woodland edges, meadows and hedgerows and its glorious pink flowers make it easily spotted. In Linn Park it can be seen with the white Ransoms (Wild Garlic) and Bluebells.
Snowberry Symphoricarpos × chenaultii
Snowberry belongs to a small group of flowers related to honeysuckle. Like honeysuckle the berries are POISONOUS, however they are a food source for pheasant and other game birds. It is deciduous and a native of North America. It is an unusual plant with pure white berries. The plants in the park are probably spread by birds from gardens but are well established.
Snowdrop - Galanthus nivali
The first sign that winter is coming to an end for me is when the snowdrops appear. Thirty-two years ago I was told that the snow always falls on the snowdrops and it’s held true since and again this year .
Although it is often thought of as a British native wild flower, or to have been brought to the British Isles by the Romans, it was probably introduced around the early sixteenth century. Many snowdrops have been planted but I think most of those in the Linn Park woods have seeded naturally.
The flower has 2 sets of 3 petals* and the inner set have a small notch at the tip with a greenish yellow bridge over this notch. Like many plants this fine detail is exquisite.
Their Latin name is Galanthus nivali. The genus is derived from Greek gála "milk", ánthos "flower" and the “Milk flower” was named by Carl Linnaeus a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern biological naming scheme of binomial nomenclature. He is known as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology.
An active substance in snowdrop is called galantamine, which is used in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, though it is not a cure
*technically they are not actually petals rather tepals which are intermediate between sepals, the green leaf like structures behind a petal, and a petal itself.
Tutsan - Hypericum androsaemum
This is member of the St John-wort family. It is widespread throughout the park beside the path and in woods. In the spring the bright green leaves and bud are striking to be replaced by the bright yellow flowers with many
stamens. The fruit is a bright red berry.
Even though it is native, it is likely that all the plants in Linn are garden escapes. It is spread by birds who value the berries.
The leaves are born on the two edged reddish stems and have a pleasant smell especially when dry. It has been described as evocative of cigar boxes and candied fruit, so now you know. The leaves were favoured as book marks especially in bibles in the West Country where it was known as Bible Leaf.
The name tutsan is from the French toute-saine meaning “all-heal”
The Taller Willow-herbs
Linn Park has two large willow-herbs that can grow well over a metre tall. The commonest is the Rosebay Willow-herb (Fireweed) Chamerion angustifolium that was a rare plant of the woodland edges in Victoria era.
It exploded just around the First World War because large areas of forest were felled for the war effort. During the Second World War it was the signature plants of the bombsites especially in London. Between the wars it spread rapidly along railway lines, especially when the steam locomotives set the railway banks alight as it favours where there have been fires.
The clouds of finely plumed seeds disperse far and wide and each plant can produce tens of thousands of seeds. In September there is almost a blizzard across some of the paths on the east side of the Park as the Willow-herb sheds its seed in the early autumn winds.
The other large common Willow-herb is the Greater Willow-herb Epilobium hirsutum which is also known as “Codlins and cream”.
This is a name I cannot understand as codlin is a small green cooking apple, not the glorious pink of the flower. Greater Willow-herb is taller than Rosebay and more hairy. The flower is stunning in close-up with a cream coloured stigma with 4 downwards curving lobes. Even in seed you can clearly see the difference with hairier broader leaves than Rosebay.
Woundworts - Stachys
These are common flowers of the wood margins throughout the park. There are two species: the Wood Woundwort S. sylvatica and Marsh Woundwort S. palustris.
The Wood variety is commoner and grows in woods, hedgerows and any rough ground. The Marsh species prefer longer grass especially where is it wet underfoot or beside water. The Wood Woundwort has darker claret-red flowers and the leaves are heart shaped and on stalks. The Marsh Woundwort is a prettier pinkish purple flower with longer thinner leaves with virtually no stalks.
There are many hybrids – especially on the east side of the Cart upstream from the White Bridge that are intermediate between these species.
Woundworts were used to dress wounds and the Marsh species was thought to be the most effective. Both species have an astringent smell when the leaves are crushed, especially the Wound Woundwort which I think is quite foul. I wonder if Richard Adams was making this point when he named his arch villain General Woundwort in Watership Down.
They are members of the Dead Nettle Family and related to the mint. All these species share a square stem.