Saturday, 18 July 2009

What a Tease!

At this time of year, there is one plant which towers above almost all others, topped with hundreds of purple flowers. Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum).
All the botanical books will tell you that Teasels grow to around 6ft tall, but nobody seems to have told these which are growing around the old American Adventure Theme Park. Some of them are at least 8ft tall and a few seem much taller. They are just coming into flower and are attracting many different species of insects.
The prickly heads have, of course long been used in the textile industry as combs to raise the nap on fabrics, particularly wool. In recent years they have been replaced by metal combs, but some people still prefer Teasel combs. After the flowers, come the seeds and these are enjoyed by many species of bird especially Goldfinches, Siskins and any of the fine-billed finches.
A more lowly plant, yet distantly related to the Teasels are these strange, green-flowered annual. Pineappleweed (Matricaria discoidea).
Much smaller, growing only a few inches tall at the sides of paths and among the grasses of fields and wasteland. Despite the Pineapple shaped flower heads, it gets it's name from the smell of pineapple which it produces when crushed. The plant has been used as a salad ingredient, but the leaves can be rather bitter. They can be used to make a herbal tea and when rubbed onto the skin, they are supposed to repel insects.
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