Tuesday 23 June 2020

Flora Tensensis 20.06.21

The virtual garden bioblitz of three weeks ago helped to confirm the identities of several tricky species of plants which I was struggling to pin down to species. That's metaphorically 'pin down', not harvesting specimens and sticking them in a book or display case.

However, I have been a bit remiss, and not posted any information on any flowers from Tense Towers for ages, so here goes with, perhaps, my favourite plant in the whole garden. It is deemed an arable weed, a comment which probably just means that it has evolved to exploit disturbed ground, whether that be by wild animals, natural processes or humans. In my book, indeed in our garden, that doesn't make it a weed.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Common Ramping Fumitory Fumaria muralis, one of six species of Fumitory present in Orkney, and one of two species which grow here at Tense Towers.

If that seems incredibly knowledgeable of me, it is only because the local plant recorder has kindly told me which species it is. Fumitories are notoriously difficult to separate, relying upon an ability to judge relative flower size to other species or subspecies and the shape and size of certain parts of the flower.

But I love them for their fragile appearance and delicate colours, combined with a steely determination to thrive in the most inhospitable of circumstances. The above plant is growing in the decorative gravel surrounding the house, hunkered down against a gable wall and exposed to gales from the west, south and east.

The scientific and English names stem from the Latin fumus terrae, 'smoke of the earth' as when growing in profuse clumps the grey/green leaves have a smoky appearance. 

As well as my grateful thanks to JC , the local flora recorder for the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, I am indebted to several reference books which have helped illuminate the swirling confusion of the Fumitory family:

Dean, T. 2014. The Orkney Book of Wildflowers;

Murphy, R.J. 2009. Fumitories of Britain and Ireland, BSBI Handbook No. 12;

Mabey, Richard 1997. Flora Britannica.

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