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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wed 10th Feb 2010 - Mornington Woods, Cowes.

The venue for the Green Gym this week was at Mornington Woods, Cowes. Our task was to plant new trees on the steep hillside above the car parking area. Previously there had been many mature trees on this site but they have recently been felled and we were planting their replacements. The steepness of the terrain, soil made up of stones and clay, old tree roots and a bitterly cold NE wind (and the occasional snow flurry) failed to suppress the enthusiasm of the GG team - although the hot drinks were particularly welcome...! This session was well attended and good progress was made at replanting the hill (see picture above).

Carrie’s Nature Lesson

This week it is Winter Heliotrope, also known as Sweet Coltsfoot (Petasites Fragrans) and in Gaelic Gallan Mòr Cùbhraidh a member of the Aster family. It comes from the Greek word petasos which is the word for the felt hats worn by shepherds, relating to the leaves of the plant which are large enough to be used as a head covering and felt-like. These large green, leathery leaves block light from reaching the ground beneath them, effectively suppressing any potentially competitive plant growth, and in some parts of the world it is classified as a weed. Heliotrope means sun-turning, i.e any plant that turns to face the sun. After opening, it gradually turns from east to west, and during the night turns again to the east to meet the rising sun; it has vanilla-scented white-pink flowers, hence the Latin name fragrans. The Victorians introduced the plant in the U.K. because they thought it looked pretty, but as it has a very deeply growing rhizome and propagates by seed, this makes it difficult to control the plant’s spread.

Flowering in January and February, the Winter Heliotrope is an insect plant, providing one of the first pollen sources in the year, and there are records of it being deliberately introduced beside beehives to provide a nectar source for the early emerging bees. Along with eyebright, cornflowers and plantain, it is an ingredient of a commercially produced herbal tea, said to help the eyes in situations such as soreness from dust, or to ease the eyestrain sometimes suffered by computer users.

Many thanks to Carrie for her Nature Lesson and the bottom photographs and thanks to Eddie for the top 4 pictures.

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