Saturday, 23 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016 - Wildflowers 'T'

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.

'T' - Tansy, Thistles

This is a shot taken alongside the River Tees at Yarm in North Yorkshire. You should recognise one of the flowers in it if you have visited 'I'

The pink flower is Indian Balsam but it's the yellow flower that was involved in a country practice, to eat in a Tansy pudding at Easter in remembrance of bitter herbs eaten by Jews at the Passover.

The Tansy can have up to 100 flower heads in its dense, flat-topped yellow clusters. An aromatic herb, its strong smell has medicinal and insecticidal properties. Its fern-like leaves once were used to staunch and to prevent miscarriages.

The ferny leaves may be used to spice up omelettes and cakes. At one time Tansy cakes were  a traditional Easter treat.

A more macabre use was its insect repellent properties to keep blowflies off meat and .... corpses!

In preparation for the Challenge over the last year I have taken hundreds of photos of flowers. Now I have have come to write the posts I have discovered that I should have paid more attention to their leaves as well if I was going to differentiate between species.

I never knew, for instance that there are 11 varieties of - 

The AA Book of the British Countryside illustrates the various sorts.

Spear Thistle - the famous emblem of Scotland
This biennial which can grow to a height of 6ft grows in hedgerows, waste places and disturbed ground is regarded by many as a vigorous weed. There is no mistaking its prickly nature.

The welted, melancholy, musk and meadow thistle have no prickles. The stemless (or dwarf) thistle will make you painfully aware of its presence should you be unfortunate enough to sit down on one at a picnic.

The flowers of the cotton thistle (the tallest of them all) are covered in white hairs and the woolly's flowers with a white cotton like growth. I have not seen any of these nor the white flowers that make the carline thistle stand out.

Carline thistle
  • Carline thistle heads - 18 May 2008, ex, by May and Angus Hogg - CC BY-SA 2.0 generic.


bellybytes said...

That was very informative though I won't see a single flower that you mention in my part of the world!

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

Mother has something beautiful for every little niche.

Jo said...

One tends to dismiss thistles as nuisances but they are really very pretty so long as you don't grasp most of them. I remember hearing about tansy and it's cakes but have never tried one.

Guilie Castillo said...

I wonder if tansy will grow here in CuraƧao... The insect repellent properties would come in very, very handy. (For mosquitoes, not corpses :D )

Great post, Bob! And thanks for the visit over at Life In Dogs. Happy A2Z day off tomorrow!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bob - I always love it when I look up wild flowers and see the varieties - if I get the common one I'm pleased! But the Carline thistle is fascinating to see ... while Indian Balsam and Tansy ... are good choices too, as well as the lore ... cheers Hilary

Miss Andi said...

I didn't know about the insect repellent, now I'm going to look for tansies, mosquitos are killing me :)

Andrea from The Script Bible
Volunteer in Damyanti's D Company #atozchallenge

Liz A. said...

Pretty flowers. Well, at least this has been a learning experience. Next time you'll know to pay more attention to the leaves.

Liz A. from Laws of Gravity