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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Greenway Botanical Expedition

On Saturday I was very happy to be invited to join Pudding Mill River at the Greenway in Stratford, running through the Olympics site, to collect some plants with the help of some lovely people who joined the Botanical Collecting Expedition.

Marie Briggs at Kew Herbarium was good enough to make the loan of a Vasculum and a press which made it a much more efficient expedition.

We collected specimens from herbs and shrubs. The list is as follows:

Viper's Bugloss - Echium vulgare
Hedge Mustard - Sisybrium officinale
Burnet Rose Rosa pimpinellifolia
Bird's-Foot Trefoil - Lotus corniculatus
Teasel - Dipsacus fullonum
Black Horehound - Ballota nigra
Treacle Mustard - Erysimum cheiranthoides
Common Mallow - Malva sylvestris
Oxeye Daisy - Leucanthemum vulgare
A Grass - unknown

We also saw plenty of apple trees,
brambles and mugwort, ragwort, yarrow, various roses including dog rose, three types of bindweed (probably Convulvulus arvensis, Calystegia sepium, and the non-native Calystegia pulchrum) and a mix of grasses.

Hilary from Pudding Mill River had made excellent blackberry cakes which were very popular and I was delighted to take some home along with a bottle of Pudding Mill sloe gin.

I was struck by how many native plants were growing on the Greenway, in contrast to the railway sides I had seen from the train on the journey there from West london. Buddleia, Russian vine and japanese knotweed dominated most of the tracks all round north london so to see a great many natives there was very interesting.

It is not clear to me what the plans are for the Greenway but my somewhat vague impression is that they intend to clear most of it and then replant after the Olympics are over. I am concerned that the infrastructure of the wildlife already there will be damaged and cannot be replaced. I hope this impression is wrong and would like to know of any plans made public about it. Also whether any more comprehensive surveys are planned or have been done.

We did see a great deal of mugwort growing and this being a relative of the plant used to make absinthe, it a question as to whether mugwort can be used in a similar way. There are some records of absinthe plant itself in the east of london so it may be possible to find some although I didn't spot any on this trip.

I was also very impressed with the people who joined in with the collecting especially Michael and Ayesha who were very open and seemed genuinely fascinated with the whole experience. Michael carried the vasculum which although small is actually a very good way to carry plants around although I don't know of botanists using it any more. He also was very attentive and made sure we got the mustards named correctly which I confess I was being a little too quick about. Ayesha was meticulous in recording notes and labelling and Jim was very interesting adding his knowledge of the plants from his childhood, for example how the rosehips were used not only for paste, rich in Vitamin C, but also to make itching powder to irritate teachers and other enemies. He used to sell rosehips as a kid, and had an excellent tip about steaming them so you dont have to spend hours picking out the little irritating hairs from the inside like I had to last year.

All in all a fascinating and lovely day out and I hope that Kew accept the collections and help to identify the grass. Many thanks to Dan and Hilary from Pudding Mill and to everyone who took part in collecting and naming the wildflowers. Also to Jim for some great photos.

1 comment:

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