Chicory- October 2021
Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a member of the large plant family including daisies and dandelions. Being rather beautiful with its intricate shape, and because bees love it so much, it is this month’s flower of the month.
Chicory has large flower heads that are often light purple or lavender colourer. Some native varieties do appear pink or white but these are less common. The petals appear long and cuboidal with a serrated outer edge. These often overlap one another so from a distance it appears as a full circle but on closer inspection it is just a multitude of individual petals. Flowers close up during the afternoon so the best time to look for them is during the morning. The reproductive parts at the centre of the flower head appear wiry and spindly. Growing to 100cm tall and having tough grooved stems, this makes it at home in any wildflower meadow or hedgerow.
Cichorium intybus is a useful culinary herb, The honey from this plant is a greenish-yellow and tasting like the leaves. Underneath a microscope, the pollen has a spiky silhouette due to the projections on the exine. Throughout history, Chicory has been adopted as a coffee substitute during tough times. The main reason for modern cultivation is that it is rich in vitamins and nutrients so an excellent food for livestock.
Greater Celandine - September 2021
Common across the entirety of the United Kingdom, Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus) can be found in hedgerows, woodlands, gardens and in meadows.
The leaves are a greyish-green colour, irregularly shaped whilst being smoothly serrated. Each flower has 4 petals that are almost elliptical. These are bright custard yellow and do not overlap one another. Flowers can be seen from April all the way through till October. The seeds are small and black. Each of the seeds has an elaiosome which is a small fleshy structure that helps to attract ants. The ants then help to disperse the seeds which is known as myrmecochory. The plant can grow up to 30 inches so is an easy one to spot.
It is sometimes known as the ‘Celandine poppy’, it is a member of the poppy family so is not related to the similarly named Lesser celandine (Ficaria verna). In Devon it is known as St John’s Wort. It is considered to be a native species in the UK, whilst in the USA it is seen as invasive due to its spread across the nation. Whilst it doesn’t produce nectar, bees can often be seen collecting pollen from this plant.