Monday, 30 June 2014

Oak Lane, St Brelade - Part 3


Leontodon is a genus of dandelion-like plants in the family Asteraceae (Compositae), commonly known as hawkbits. The name of the genus, Leontodon, is formed from two Greek words, meaning Lion's tooth, referring to the toothed leaves.

Their English name apparently derives from the mediaeval belief that hawks ate the plant to improve their eyesight. I’ve been so far unable to trace any original sources documents for this.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was called (by John Ray and others), ‘Hieracium minus præmorsâ radice, “Hawkweed with bitten roots”, Yellow Devil's bit’ (after Devil's bit Scabious). The compressed form “hawkbit” was introduced by James Petiver in 1713.

The earliest mentions of the term “hawkbit” are as follows:

1713   J. Petiver Catalogue. Ray's English. Herbal,   Common Hawkbit, Jagged Hawkbit, etc.
1825   J. E. Smith Eng. Flora III. 351
1843   W. Gaze in Zoologist I. 30   The autumnal hawk~bit and dandelion.
1881   G. Allen Vignettes from Nature xxii,   Some golden heads of the autumnal hawkbit.

Although originally only native to Eurasia and North Africa, some species have since become established in other countries, including the United States and New Zealand.

Yellow dandelion-type flowers can be difficult to tell apart, a situation not helped by three of the genera having common names that start with hawk, namely, hawkweeds, hawksbeards and hawkbits.

Rough hawkbit is a short, grassland perennial with a very hairy stem that swells slightly at the top. The solitary flowers, which are in bloom from late May to October, are a rich golden yellow with the outer florets often reddish or orange and the bracts behind the flower appearing very shaggy.

All the Hawkweeds abound in honey and have a sweet honey-like smell when expanded in the full sunshine.


The Rough Hawkbit has been used medicinally in the same manner as the Hawkweeds and the Dandelion, for its action on the kidneys and as a remedy for jaundice and dropsy, and is still used for its diuretic qualities in country districts in Ireland.

Rough Hawkbit was used by traditional herbalists to treat jaundice, and the roots used to be roasted and ground as a substitute for coffee. The young foliage can add flavour and texture to a salad.

En Jèrriais:

pîssenliet d'rue / pîssenliet dé r'lié
i.e road dandelion, relief dandelion

Oxford English Dictionary

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Oak Lane, St Brelade - Part 2

Bindweed (Convolvulus sepium)

Bindweed (Convolvulus sepium)

Calystegia sepium (larger bindweed, hedge bindweed, Rutland beauty, bugle vine, heavenly trumpets, bellbind) (formerly Convolvulus sepium) is a species of bindweed, with a subcosmopolitan distribution throughout the temperate Northern and Southern hemispheres.

It is an herbaceous perennial that twines around other plants, in a counter-clockwise direction, to a height of up to 2–4 m, rarely 5 m. The pale matte green leaves are arranged spirally, simple, pointed at the tip and arrowhead shaped, 5–10 cm long and 3–7 cm broad.

Other vernacular names include greater bindweed, bearbind, hedge convolvulus, hooded bindweed, old man's nightcap, wild morning glory, bride's gown, wedlock (referring to the white gown-like flowers and the binding nature of the vine), white witches hat, belle of the ball.

Calystegia sepium is a plant with showy white flowers. However, because of its quick growth, clinging vines and broad leaves, it can overwhelm and pull down cultivated plants including shrubs and small trees. Its aggressive self-seeding (seeds can remain viable as long as 30 years) and the success of its creeping roots (they can be as long as 3–4 m) cause it to be a persistent weed.

Folk Sayings

“We were intrigued recently, visiting our grandchildren in Waterlooville in Hampshire, who were playing with the flowers of bindweed (Calystegia sepium). By squeezing the calyx with their fingers they were making the flower head pop off, and as they did so they were reciting a rhyme ‘Lazy Maisy jump out of bed’. My wife comes from Sussex and, like me, had never heard this before, so we assume it is very local to that part of Hampshire [Horley, Surrey, January 1999].”

“When you squeeze the green bit at the bottom of a convolvulus flower saying ‘Granny pop out of bed’ the white petals pop off. This came from my mother and aunt in London [Hampstead, London, September 1987].”

Maureen (Jersey) says: "Grandma, pop out of bed' was a well known ditty when picking these flowers walking home from school in St Saviour when I was a child."


Only the roots are used.  Hedge Bindweed is mainly a purgative and not commonly used in herbal medicine. It is taken internally for constipation and bowel issues. It also helps with inflammation of mucous membranes. It is not to be taken in large doses or for an extended period of time or it can cause constipation and other health issues.

Nicholas Culpepper, 17th century herbalist, said: "This is the plant which produces Scammony, the gum resin used as a purgative. It does not grow as large in England as abroad. The juice of the root is hardened and is the Scammony of the shops. The best Scammony is black, resinous and shining when in the lump, but of a whitish ash-colour when powdered. It has a strong smell, but not a very hot taste, turning milky when touched by the tongue. The smallness of the English root prevents the juice being collected as the foreign; but an extract made from the expressed juice of the roots has the same purgative quality, only to a lesser degree."

En Jèrriais:

des veîl'yes, des vêles (also pronounced as velle in the East of the Island)
des cannes à lait
des belles d'un jour

des manchettes dé la Vièrge

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Oak Lane, St Brelade - Part 1

Here are some of the wild flowers, herbs and plants to be seen if you walk round Oak Lane, La Moye in St Brelade. Identification by Jeff. Details pinched by me from Wikipedia and other online sources of information..

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a flowering plant species in the celery family Apiaceae or Umbelliferae. It is treated as the sole species in the genus Foeniculum by most botanists. It is a hardy, perennial, herb, with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. It is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean but has become widely naturalized in many parts of the world, especially on dry soils near the sea-coast and on riverbanks.
It is a highly aromatic and flavorful herb with culinary and medicinal uses and, along with the similar-tasting anise, is one of the primary ingredients of absinthe. Florence fennel or finocchio is a selection with a swollen, bulb-like stem base that is used as a vegetable.
Fennel is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including the mouse moth and the anise swallowtail.

Fennel is often claimed to be the perfect flavour enhancer for mackerel - the inside if the fish stuffed with young fennel fronds before cooking, preferably over an open fire. Fennel is at its best during June (before it flowers and sets seed) and mackerel come inshore and can be caught in numbers during the same month. Coincidence?

Lavatera maritima
Lavatera is a genus of about 25 species of flowering plants in the family Malvaceae, native to the Mediterranean region, central and eastern Asia, North America (California and Mexico) and Australia. A number of species are naturalized in North America.
Many Lavatera species have now been transferred to the related genus Malva. Lavatera species are known as tree mallows, or rather ambiguously as rose mallows, royal mallows or annual mallows.
This famous dunny 'leaf' used to be known as 'Irish toilet paper', although it was also used in the Channel Islands and in parts of England. The leaves are soft, but they are also strong and don't tear at the wrong moment! Lavatera is a tall growing, easy care plant. It flowers all year long in shades of pink and mauve. (Note: lavatera self-seeds very easily and should not be planted if you live near bushland.)

What is not so widely known is that a compound can be extracted from the flower petals which was once used to treat sunburn. It is a midsummer flowering plant. Coincidence?

En Jèrriais:

fennel = fanon

Lavatera/mallow = mauve

Monday, 16 June 2014

This is a new blog, set up to show wild flowers around Jersey, where you can find them, and background information on them.

Locations will be placed in labels, so if you want to easily find all the wildflowers relating to a particular location, just click on the label.

There may be multiple blog postings relating to one label.

My knowledge of wild flowers is minimal and I am indebted to Jeff Hathaway for helping me identify the various flowers. However, any mistakes on this blog are mine, and not his, and I will correct them as soon as I am able!

I hope you enjoy this new venture, which is a learning curve for me, and also something I think fills a gap both for locals and tourists.

I am aware of good books on the subject of Jersey wild flowers, but I wanted an easily accessible, online, and free resource.

I will also be starting a shared Facebook album on which users can post photos of wild flowers, some of which may be reposted here.