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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wed 26th May 2010 - Carisbrooke Priory.

Yet another re-visit to a site we have not been to for about four years, Carisbrooke Priory. An excellent turnout of some 35-40 people on a dry (forecast said rain, but us Green Gymmers are a lucky lot!) and sunny morning. There were several tasks - cutting down some quite tall sycamores which had grown up against the outside wall of the Priory, and stacking them into pyramid shapes so they are easier to dispose of (apparently); cutting back some low level ivy in their lovely wildflower garden; clearing a bank of ivy which has invaded and swamped the wildflowers; and finally, using a VERY long saw, to cut back some branches of a yew tree in the grounds which are touching the outside wall of the Priory itself.

Carrie's Nature Lesson

This week it is Ivy-leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria Muralis), also known as "Mother of Thousands, Kenilworth Ivy and Pennywort". It is quite charming when it drapes from an old wall, but if allowed to grow in a rockery it can overwhelm more delicate specimens. It was introduced from Southern Europe in the 17 century, but is now widespread in the British Isles. The dark green leaves are held on long, redddish stalks and have five rounded lobes giving them their ivy-like character. In flavour they are acrid and pungent in a similar way to cress, and have been used in salads in their native regions. A poultice can be used to stem bleeding, and an extract may have a use in treating diabetes. The slender stems are the same colour as the leaf and flower stalks, and can be up to 90cm long with roots at intervals along their length. The single flowers appear from April to November and are lilac with a yellow centre. They are usually fertilized by bees, and the mature seed pod is bent inwards to be pushed into a crevice. Using this method of seed dispersal, the plant can colonise a whole wall, and is able to climb to the top of a building.

A big thanks to Carrie for the text and photographs.

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