Sunday, 1 May 2016

People at Work - Sunday Stamps II

On 21 July 1969 Poland commemorated the 25 anniversary of the establishment of the Polish Peoples Republic with a set of stamps showing people at work.

Poland
The industries represented are (from the top)
  • Coal production
  • Shipbuilding
  • Sulphur production
  • Steel production
To see other workers or a May Day theme check the links at Sunday-Stamps-ii-72.


Saturday, 30 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016 - Wild flowers 'Z'

My theme this year is wild flowers. Most of us will be aware of the flowers that grow in our gardens but what surprises me is how few wild flowers that I know.

I pass them every day but rarely look at them. Well this year will be different - even if many of them may fall under the letter 'X' for unknown.

'Z - Zenobia

I wasn't sure whether I now suffer from xenophobia or hadn't practised zen enough until this hairless (at least I can match that) American shrub turned up. I though my challenge had fallen at the last hurdle.


Zenobia pulverulenta
The foliage has a waxy coating, with leaves that are elliptical or egg-shaped. The bell-shaped white flowers each produce up to 200 egg-shaped seeds.

Completing the A-Z Challenge for another year gives us great satisfaction even if at some time or other we may have felt like Sisyphus continuing to push his rock up the hill.

However I discovered there are a series of spiny shrubs under the name Zizipus but I think I will end in India and China where an evergreen tree grows.

Zizipus mauritiana
Attributions:
  • Zenobia pulverulenta; 12 June 2006, US Department of Agriculture, public domain
  • Zizipus mauritiana, 13 January 2015, Jodphur - India, by Yercaud-elango, CC BY-SA 4.0




Friday, 29 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016 - Wildflowers 'Y'

My theme this year is wild flowers. Most of us will be aware of the flowers that grow in our gardens but what surprises me is how few of the wild flowers that I know.

I pass them every day but rarely look at them. Well this year will be different - even if many of them fall under the letter 'X' for unknown.

'Y' - Yellow Rattle, Yew

As we have nearly reached 'Z' I guess it's time to think about celebrating. What better way is there than to make a noise with a rattle.


Yellow Rattle (Rhinatus minor)
This is actually a pernicious weed. and a semi-parasite, that grows on grasslands and in old meadows. It helps itself to minerals and water by means of its roots making contact with the roots of grasses and other plants.

The flowers appear from May to August, each one developing into a swollen capsule containing numerous large seeds. When the capsule is dry and the stem is knocked or shaken, the loose seeds inside make a rattling sound. This natural alarm clock was once used to signal the time for haymaking.


One of the tasks I have set myself is following the development of flowers from when they appear until they have faded away and turned to seed. Sometimes this has not been possible and I'm starting the other way around. The Yew tree is a marvellous example of this.

Berries on a Yew tree
It was only last month that I wondered what the its flowers looked like.

Yew tree flowers on a local tree
Not very obvious, are they?

Flowers on a churchyard tree
There is an ancient tradition that the evergreen yew sheltered the first Christian missionaries to Britain - before churches were built - and this is why so many yew trees are found in our churchyards.

Last summer I found a magnificent yew in Cornwall just outside the village of St Mawgan. Because of where it was located I could not get all of it in one photo.




By the size of its trunk, it must be hundreds of years old. I'm left wondering whether it is a male or female tree.

Attributions:

  • Yellow Rattle; Great Holland Pits, Essex, 30 May2004, ex en.wikipedia.org,by Sannse - CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Common or English Yew, flowers on a male tree - St Mary's Churchyard, 19 February 2009, ex geograph.org.uk, by Trish Steel - CC BY-SA 2.0 generic

Thursday, 28 April 2016

A-Z 2016 - Wildflowers 'X'

My theme this year is wild flowers. Most of us will be aware of the flowers that grow in our gardens but what surprises me is how few of the wild flowers that I know.

I pass them every day but rarely look at them. Well this year will be different - even if many of them fall under the letter 'X' for unknown.

'X' - Xique-Xique, X = Unknown

Not to be beaten I searched the net for a flower beginning with X. It would certainly be a sore point if you tangled with this Brazilian specimen,


Xique-Xique cactus
Can you make out that pink spot on one of the arms in the centre of the photo?

A close-up that I found elsewhere shows the flower and the cactus spikes you have to content with.


Xique-Xique flower
In the last year I have taken hundreds of photos of wildflowers, a vast number of which I've failed to identify. That's why I classified them 'X' - Unknown.

X1
Its stem is less than 3 inches long and its leaves give no clue to its name - a day later and it had gone.

X2
Here the leaves and the two buds at the right may give some help. If those buds resemble a bird's beak then this may be a Wood Crane's Bill.

Some flowers are just a pleasure to see even if they have finished up in my 'X' files.

X3 & X4
Please feel free to help me out if you are able to name any of these few examples.

Attributions:

  • Xique-Xique Cactus - 6 Oct 2013, Acilondiolivera, CC-BY-SA 3.0
  • Xique-Xique flower - 6 March 2014, Jose Pinlolo da Nobrega Alencar, CC BY-SA 3.0

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016 - Wildflowers 'W'

My theme this year is wild flowers. Most of us will be aware of the flowers that grow in our gardens but what surprises me is how few of the wild flowers that I know.

I pass them every day but rarely look at them. Well this year will be different - even if many of them may fall under the letter 'X' for unknown.

'W' - Woodbine, White Deadnettle

For me the word woodbine has always been synonymous with the wartime cigarettes. I never expected it to give me a flower for the letter 'W'.


Woodbine in the early spring
It's a climbing plant that may be seen in hedgerows and in woods. The stems turn woody and silvery-grey as they mature.

The flowers soon become more pronounced with a promise of things to come.


Woodbine flower shaping up
Eventually flowers up to 5 inches long hang in clusters; creamy, white flowers turn cream and may be flushed with purple. At dusk their strong flowers attract moths; during the day they are pollinated by bees.

Woodbine
Of course you may know it by another name - also associated with bees - it's Honeysuckle to me.

It should be no surprise therefore to find that, if you pluck one of the flowers, you can suck nectar from the narrow end.

The honeysuckle (woodbine) has glossy scarlet berries in the autumn.


Honeysuckle outside our bedroom window

Another flower from which it is possible to suck nectar is one that I tasted regularly as a child.


White deadnettle
You would need to be careful here as it is growing among the stinging variety. Better to find one that is growing on its own.


White deadnettle
Its white flowers make it easy to find and identify at roadsides, in hedges, in woodlands and on waste ground.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016 - 'V'

My theme this year is wild flowers. Most of us will be aware of the flowers that grow in our gardens but what surprises me is how few of the wild flowers that I know.

I pass them every day but rarely look at them. Well this year will be different - even if many of them may fall under the letter 'X' for unknown.

'V' Valerian, violets

I first becamed aware of Valerian when visiting Cornwall where it grows by roadsides and sprouts from walls.


Red Valerian (centranthus ruber)
It's also know by the name Red Jupiter's Beard.

The leaves have a bitter taste but if young leaves are boiled the taste disappears; they are used in 'gourmet' salads apparently

Butterflies and day-flying moths find its nectar irresistible. The downy seeds are easily spread by the wind.

Common Valerian (valeriana officialis) is the second of the three wild species that occur in Britain.


Common Valerian
This can grow to 5 feet tall in rough grassland, hedges and beside streams. Its flowers have a vanilla like smell, but it's the dried roots smelling like new leather that are attractive to cats.

The dried roots have also been used in linen drawers. Valerian has herbal uses - particularly as a nerve tonic, or to cure anxiety and to relieve the symptoms of St Vitus' dance and epilepsy.

Marsh Valerian has separate plants for male and female flowers and spreads by creeping stems. Its flowers are small and pale pink; its seeds disperse on feathery parachutes.



Common Dog Violet
Common Dog Violets are unscented and perhaps that is why their name implies that they are inferior in some way to the sweet violet.

The Sweet Violet is one of the first wild flowers to bloom after winter. Its delicious scent definitely lifts the spirits. Its flowers are a deep purple colour, or sometimes white like these I found in a local wood.

Sweet Violets (viola odorata)
Its leaves have a characteristic heart shape. In ancient Greece it was the flower of Aphrodite, the goddess of love as well as being the symbol of Athens.

Is petals were once strewn on cottage floors as an air-freshener. Other uses include in toiletries and confectionery.

Attributions:

  • Red Valerian - 21 May 2009, ex geograph.org.uk, by Rod Allday - CC BY-SA 2.0 generic
  • Common Valerian, Near River Leven, Scotland - 21 July 2007, ex geograph,org,uk, By Lainch Rig - CC BY-SA 2.0 generic
  • Common Dog Violet - 27 April 2007, ex geograph.org.uk, by Anne Burgess - CC BY-SA 2.0 generic

Monday, 25 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016 - Wildflowers - 'U'

My theme this year is wild flowers. Most of us will be aware of the flowers that grow in our gardens but what surprises me is how few of the wild flowers that I know.

I pass them every day but rarely look at them. Well this year will be different - even if many of them may fall under the letter 'X' for unknown.

'U' - Urtica, Uticularia

As you will see I have had to resort to Latin names again and 'urtica' for the second time in A-Z Challenges.

However for urtica dioica the emphasis this time is on how useful this plant/flower has been. I know it as the common - 

Nettle

Covered with stinging hairs this perennial has tough yellow roots and often forms large patches. Its flowers are small and hang down in loose spikes. Male and female flowers are on different plants.

It has been a source of  food, medicine and dyes since the Bronze Age. It contains iron, calcium, potassium and other trace elements, vitamins A and C and histamine. Its uses have been for treating internal and external bleeding and skin complaints such as eczema. It can lower blood sugar and is used for treating rheumatism.

Nettle leaves can be dried and used to make tea. Nettle beer can be made from the young tops; it may also be boiled and eaten as a vegetable which tastes like spinach - it's richer in iron and vitamins than spinach.

The mature plant once provided fibres to be spun into cloth for sheets and tablecloths.

Cattle are immune to the stinging hairs. Cut and dried nettle is fed to poultry, goats and cattle. Caterpillars of many butterflies (comma, small tortoiseshell, red admiral, peacock and painted lady) feed on nettle leaves


Uticularia vulgaris is an insect eating water plant which nourishes itself through its leaves. It's a plant I've never seen. its yellow flowers rise above the surface of lakes and ponds.

Bladderwort (uticularia vulgaris)
Air filled bladders grow on its finely divided, straggly leaves, The bladders catch small aquatic animals and digest the decomposed remains. The plant spreads by detached pieces of the submerged floating away and sinking to the bottom.

Attributions:
  • Nettle (uticaria dioica) - 7 July 2005, ex geograph.org.uk, by Mike Pennington, CC BY-SA 2.0 generic
  • Bladderwort (uticularia vulgaris), Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC - 14 June 2009, by Jason Holliger - CC BY-SA 2.0 generic