Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Alfalfa

Alfafa (Medicago sativa) is an important forage crop throughout the world. A member of the pea family (there are so many of them), it is usually grown as a hay crop, or cut for silage, or simply grazed by cattle as a green feed. A huge quantity of it is grown world wide amounting to about 430 million tonnes per year. And, here in Shipley Park, it grows wild and beautiful in the dusty, abandoned old over-flow car parks of the American Adventure theme park. It also adds a pleasingly different set of colours to the more numerous yellows and whites of Summer. Some of its flowers are pale blue - almost white - but most are darker blues and violet.
Among the more usual, yellow flowers are these, belonging to yet another pea family member. The Meadow Vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis) creeps and scrambles its way through and around the other plants, almost overlooked as its grey-green leaves merge with its neighbours.
Another yellow flower to raise its blooms to the sun at the moment, belongs to the Perforate St. John's-Wort (Hypericum perforatum). A beautiful plant, which gets its name from the minute perforations in its leaves. You can just make out these perforations in my picture, in the leaves on the right hand side.
More statuesque and stately, are the Rosebay Willowherb plants(Epilobium angustifolium). These too buck the trend of yellow and white with their pink flower spikes. Sometimes called Fireweed because it is almost always among the first large plant species to re-populate an area made barren by fire.
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