Monday, 21 March 2016

Colts and Dogs

This morning, Malcolm and I set out for a good walk along Slack Lane to Mapperley Village, then up and over Shipley Hill. We were delighted to see three Ravens as we approached the hill, indulging in some display flying and tumbling through the air as they left the woodland and flew off across the farmland. Too far away to be able to get a photo, they immediately reminded me of the medieval folk ballad 'The Three Ravens' first published in 1611. I love this version sung by Sarah Leonard which was used in Simon Schama's 'A History of Britain' on the BBC.
Leaving behind the ravens, we marched on and soon found a patch of bright yellow Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara).
These beautiful flowers open fully in sunshine, so this morning's dull conditions were not conducive to a good display, but they were nice to see even so. Used medicinally to treat coughs and chest conditions, they also contain some toxic chemicals known to cause liver problems.
A little further along, we found large numbers of Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis). Not as showy as the Coltsfoot, they are nonetheless among the first spring flowers to appear each year and help to 'green up' the woodland floor at this time off year.
A member of the Spurge family, their flowers are inconspicuous and they have been known to be poisonous for centuries. Only a few hours after eating them, drowsiness, vomiting and stomach cramps and kidney problems will develop and death has been known to occur (first reports of death from poisoning by Dog's Mercury date from about 1693).
So, enjoy the plant, but don't eat it!!!
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