Wednesday, 6 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016 - Wildflowers 'E'

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.

'E' - Eggs and Bacon, Elder

I was surprised when a flower that I've known since I was a boy and that has its name in the Oxford English Dictionary does not appear with that name in my wildflower books.

Eggs and Bacon (on Portrack Nature Reserve, Stockton)
The dictionary says that eggs and bacon is the name of any of a group of flowers marked with orange, red or brown suggestive of eggs and bacon, especially - 

Bird's-foot-trefoil (on a rocky shore)
The common name of this plant comes from the elongated seedpods - each with a hood at the tip, which resemble a bird's foot. Besides eggs and bacon, it has numerous folk names including granny's toenails and devil's claws.

Bird's-foot-trefoil is highly toxic to humans although it has been used in a compress to relieve inflamed skin.

A bush commonly found in woodlands and roadside hedgerows is the Elder which has flowers and berries that can be put to good use.

In June the clusters of white flowers have a heavy fruity fragrance and may be used to make tea or add a musky flavour to pies.

The berries are favourites with birds; their droppings help to spread the elder. You can recognise the droppings by the purple stain they leave behind. The black juicy fruits make a distinctive flavoured wine and may also be used in pies and jellies.

The elder thrives on rabbit warrens as rabbits find it distasteful. It may also be found around badger setts and below tall trees where starlings and pigeons roost.

The pith in elder twigs is easily hollowed out with the twigs being used for peashooters or whistles - not that I've seen these for years.

Elder stems develop hard white wood which among other things may be used for carving combs and chessmen.

  • Bird's-foot-trefoil - 19 may 2008, ex, by David Baird, CC BY-SA 2.0 generic


aw said...

I love all the country names for our wild flowers, Bob. Richard Mabey in his Flora Britannica mentions around a dozen for Bird's-foot Trefoil and mentions a survey that identified around seventy names for this one little plant. As for elder the flowers make a wonderful cordial and a refreshing drink once called elderflower champagne but no longer allowed to use that term unfortunately.

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

yeah for spring. :)

Anonymous said...

"...what surprises me is how few wild flowers that I know."

I'm with you! I know that I don't know a lot of the flowers out there. Part of it is that there's always something else I could be doing. Umm, not really (procrastinator here) and so maybe I should stop and smell (or just admire) the roses and other flora now and again. :)

Thanks for the post, Bob!

Kristin said...

Grannie's toenails? I wish my toenails were so lovely.

Finding Eliza

Jo said...

Didn't know that name applied to several different flowers. You are right, I couldn't make a recipe from them LOL. In the part of North Carolina where we lived they used to lay down carpets of seeds to generate wildflowers at the sides of the roads. Really pretty when they grew.

Wendy said...

I was thinking "eggs and bacon" seemed like a good name for the flowers, given their color.
When I was first married, I hung clothes on the line to dry. Every day there would be some blasted purple stain. In our case, it was from the mulberry.

Sheila @ A Postcard a Day said...

I have to admit I've never heard the name "eggs and bacon". Elder I knew well when we lived in the country, as it made determined efforts to take over our garden.