Common broomrape – a parasitic plant

Whilst out walking near Powderham last weekend I found a colony of Common Broomrape Orobanche minor. Broomrapes are parasitic plants which derive their energy and nutrients by tapping in the root systems of other  plants who get their energy from the sun and their nutrients from the soil.

Common broomrape
Common broomrape a species which parasites clovers and members of the daisy family – it is probably that this broomrape is paralysing the fleabane in this picture.

Broomrapes can be quite tricky to identify and I am grateful to my old friend Phil Wilson who helped me with the ID.


Never seen so much Adder’s tongue fern

I was down at Dawlish Warren yesterday – in one of the dune slacks close to the visitor centre I found an Adder’s Tongue Fern – once I got my eye I could see hundreds of them. Never seen so many before anywhere!

To those people who have never seen an Adder’s Tongue Fern before I suspect most would not recognise it as a fern at all.

Adder's tongue fern 1
The blade of the fern with its spore bearing stalk.

Adder's tongue fern 2Get your eye in and there are over a dozen Adder’s Tongue Fern plants in this square metre alone

Adder’s Tongue Ferns are plants of unimproved grassland and are usually pretty difficult to find as they blend into the similarly coloured grassland. There are three species in the UK – two very rare and this one which is more abundant but not at all common. The Latin name for the genus is Ophioglossum. It comes from the Greek ophis which is a snake and glossa which is the tongue.

I’ve always found this description rather baffling as snakes (and adders in particular) have forked tongues…..

An Adder with its forked tongue
By Thomas Brown via Wikimedia Commons

I guess the spore bearing stalk resembles a snake tongue before the fork!

The hawthorn is in full flower

Devon’s hedgerows are ablaze with hawthorn flowers at the moment. Hawthorn is also known as the May tree because of the month it flowers in. It is a member of the Rose family.

 The Woodland Trust says the following about hawthorn “In Britain, it was believed that bringing hawthorn blossom into the house would be followed by illness and death, and in Medieval times it was said that hawthorn blossom smelled like the Great Plague. Botanists later learned that the chemical trimethylamine in hawthorn blossom is also one of the first chemicals formed in decaying animal tissue, so it is not surprising that hawthorn flowers are associated with death.

Hawthorn 2In the wild the majority of the blossom is white but many shrubs have pink blossom

Hawthorn 3The leaves have a very characteristic shape

Hawthorn is very common in Devon’s hedges and woodlands – take a few moments to spot it and wonder at its beauty.


Emsworthy’s bluebell lawns

The bluebells at Emsworthy are coming into full flower – it is an impressive and joyous sight.

Emsworthy bluebells 4
Emsworthy is a nature reserve owned and managed by the Devon Wildlife Trust – see here for location and details

Emsworthy bluebells 1
It is located west of Haytor and Saddle Tor on the road to Widecombe

Emsworthy bluebells 2
Look out for the orange barn – that is where you need to head

Emsworthy bluebells 3
The spectacle is all the more enhanced by the calling of the cuckoo – zoology and botany hail our spring