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Botanical 2013

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Opposite you see the humble stinging nettle, which by the way has thrived well this year.

Its botanical name is Urtica dioica and as far as we know was brought here by the Romans, its sting is said to be a counterirritant, which if rubbed near an injury makes the injury less noticeable.  historians have said that the Romans also used it for food by boiling it like spinach and because it has always been a prolific grower they were never short of greens.

Many butterflies also lay their eggs on them, principally the Peacock, and Red Admiral whose caterpillars feed off the leaves.

Next time you get stung try to remember the good that they do.

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To your left is the beautiful blossom of the Horse Chestnut or Conker tree, Aesculus Hippocastanum which grows and flowers along the western side of the park primarily.

These trees like every other species it seems is under threat by insects that have entered the country from abroad.

From the beauty of the tree on the left to a tree that loses all its leaves prematurely, with all the connotations, illness and Virus attack, such a shame.

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To your right we have Plantago Media or the common Plantain, how many people look closely enough to see how beautiful it is.

It is growing where the grass is no longer being cut under the trees on the north side of the park, it has many medicinal properties for the herbalist.

But never use a plant or root for any reason unless you seek information from an expert

The Oak, (Quercus Ruber) has long been associated with magic and superstition, perhaps because of its longevity and strength.

It was thought that sheltering under an oak during a storm would protect you from lightning. Two particular oaks in Priory Park would contest this theory, in fact the oak is often the target of lightning because the furrowed bark holds water and consequently conducts electricity along the whole length of its trunk.

Its fruit, the acorn and its leaves are supposed to hold magical powers too.

Wear the oak leaves to protect you from evil, hug the tree if you have a hernia, carry an acorn on your person to deter ageing!!! Pagan botox perhaps?

This year many acorns have been produced, perhaps due to the weather, but the oak can have an over abundance of them one year and next to none another.

The oak has male and female catkins on the same tree which is wind pollinated, thus not reliant on insects, so perhaps too much rain does not help them, thereby affecting mast (fruit) setting in a bad year.

Always a worry for the wildlife, acorns are an important source of nutrient rich food that sustains many,  Squirrels, Jay, Deer, Crow and other small mammals depend on this harvest feast before the winter.

Some acorns  have been affected by the Knopper Gall Wasp which causes a curious misshapen nut which is then destroyed from within by the emerging insect.

It has in general been an abundant fruit year,  helping wildlife, so hopefully the many wild creatures will get through this winter well, without starving.                                                   PJ

THE OAK AND  ACORNS

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one of the many grasses that have flowered and seeded in the area left unmown on the north side of the park

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