August 19th – One of the more startling recolonisations of recent years has been the teasel. This dramatic, prehistoric looking plant grows a familiar, spiny seedhead beloved of small songbirds, particularly finches, but the name teasel comes from its industrial use as a comb for ‘teasing’ wool into thread.
When I was young these were a rarity around here, and I never saw one of these tall plants until adulthood. Now, thankfully, they are profuse and in lots of wayside hedges, scrubs, meadows and field-margins – which is helping the bird population.
August 1st – One of the less obvious food sources for smaller birds like goldfinches are the wind-borne seeds of dandelions, ragwort, thistle and here, rosebay willowherb. Growing like buddleia in any urban setting where there’s a scrap of extractable nutrition, this prolific weed has gorgeous pink flowers and produces huge amounts of fluff, containing its seeds.
Small birds will spend ages on seedbeds picking out the tiny black seeds and gorging upon them. It’s fascinating to watch, and these are an excellent source of nutrition.
Everything has a purpose in nature.
September 18th – It was grey and just after heavy rain when I returned to Brownhills. There traffic had been bad I I hit the canal through Central Brownhills.
On the old cement works bridge, teases grow well every year, and this year there are a fine crop, looking as prehistoric and alien as ever.
These wonderful weeds go largely unnoticed, but they are fascinating. Taking their name from their utility for teasing out cloth and yarn, they now provide winter food for songbirds, particularly goldfinches.
June 28th – One of the plants that’s commonly considered a nuisance and confined to edge lands and waste ground is rose bay willowherb, or old man’s beard.I’ve always felt the scorn for this violet midsummer trooper was unfair, as it’s another beautiful weed.
Fast growing with well-recognised wind-borne seeds, this tall plant is seen in hedgerows and other land that goes untended. It has a beautiful smell and adds a lovely purple tinge to otherwise dull spaces.
I’ll get you all looking at your weeds in a new light if it kills me…