Sowbread is a low and tufted plant to 10cm with pink, large down-turned petals in the well-known cyclamen shape which appear before the leaves from late August onwards. The leaves are heart shaped, toothed and dark green. This is an introduced/naturalised species of woodland and hedgerows that was first recorded in the wild (in Kent) in 1778.
It flowers August to September. This example was found growing in Ashton at the bottom of Shay Lane by a lamp post.
Lords and Ladies Berries
Arum maculatum is a woodland flowering plant species in the family Araceae. It is widespread across most of Europe, as well as Turkey and the Caucasus. It is known by an abundance of common names including snakeshead, adder’s root, arum, wild arum, arum lily, devils and angels, cows and bulls, cuckoo-pint, soldiers diddies, priest’s pintle, Adam and Eve, bobbins, naked girls, naked boys, starch-root, wake robin, friar’s cowl, sonsie-give-us-your-hand, jack in the pulpit and cheese and toast. The name “lords-and-ladies” and other gender-related names refer to the plant’s likeness to male and female genitalia symbolising copulation.
The leaves appear in the spring followed by the flowers borne on a poker-shaped inflorescence called a spadix, which is partially enclosed in a pale green spathe or leaf-like hood. The flowers are hidden from sight, clustered at the base of the spadix with a ring of female flowers at the bottom and a ring of male flowers above them. The leaves may be either purple-spotted or unspotted. See entry for Lords and Ladies in May.
Above the male flowers is a ring of hairs forming an insect trap. Insects, especially owl-midges are attracted to the spadix by its faecal odour and a temperature up to 15C warmer than the ambient temperature. The insects are trapped beneath the ring of hairs and are dusted with pollen by the male flowers before escaping and carrying the pollen to the spadices of other plants, where they pollinate the female flowers. The spadix may also be yellow, but purple is the more common.
In autumn, the lower ring of (female) flowers forms a cluster of bright red berries which remain after the spathe and other leaves have withered away. These attractive red to orange berries are extremely poisonous. The berries contain oxalates of saponins which have needle-shaped crystals that irritate the skin, mouth, tongue, and throat, and result in swelling of throat, difficulty breathing, burning pain, and upset stomach. However, their acrid taste, coupled with the almost immediate tingling sensation in the mouth when consumed, means that large amounts are rarely taken and serious harm is unusual. It is one of the most common causes of accidental plant poisoning based on attendance at hospital emergency departments.
It flowers April to June with berries in late summer. This cluster of berries was seen on the edge of the garden at Spy Hill Farm.
The only true Convolvulus of the Bindweed family, this semi-prostrate or climbing perennial is a pernicious weed. It has attractive scented pink, white, or as here pink and white flowers with a pair of tiny bracts on the stalk below. The leaves are arrow shaped and the plant typically climbs through the hedgerow or on wire fences. Field bindweed is found in many different crops but is a particular problem in cereals and in perennial crops. It trails over the ground and climbs among the crops pulling them down and hindering harvesting.
Field Bindweed flowers from late June onwards but more typically is found from mid-August. This example was found growing in the hedgerow at the top of Norton’s Lane.