bell heather, bog asphodel, Conwy mountain, erica cinerea, foxglove, heather in bloom, heathland, medicinal uses of plants, plants poisonous to animals
Conwy Mountain is beautiful now, it’s rocky cliffs and crags are coloured and softened with masses of pink/purple heather and the lower slopes are clothed with a mantle of ferny green bracken.
Erica cinerea – Bell heather, is a species of heather that is native to western and central Europe. It is a low shrub growing to 15–60 centimetres (5.9–24 in) tall, with fine needle-like leaves 4–8 millimetres (0.16–0.31 in) long arranged in whorls of three.
The plant’s common name is taken from its pink/purple bell-shaped flowers that are 4–7 millimetres (0.16–0.28 in) long, and produced during mid to late summer.
This species occurs mainly on dry heaths where the soil is acidic or peaty; it tends not to be found in wetter places, where it is likely to be replaced by the similar-looking Cross-leaved Heath, Erica tetralix. Its growth is not as large or dense as that of common heather or ling.
Bell heather has been used extensively over centuries in a wide variety of ways, including use as bedding material for both livestock and people. Bundles of the dried stems have been used to make brooms and to thatch roofs; it has been burnt as fuel, wound into ropes and used to repair holes in tracks and roads.
TRADITIONAL MEDICINAL USES
Heather has a long history of use in traditional or folk medicine. In particular it is a good urinary antiseptic and diuretic, disinfecting the urinary tract and mildly increasing urine production.
Part used : flowers
Uses : Particularly used for urinary infections.
Antiseptic, Cholagogue, Depurative, Diaphoretic, Diuretic, Expectorant, Sedative, Vasoconstrictor
Foxgloves that have flowered prolifically this year are still bearing flowers at the tips of their elongated stems.
The large mountain pool is currently full to overflowing and the ground for some distance around it is soft and boggy, with large pools of surface water covering the walking tracks. On what would have been the edge of the pool a few weeks ago, I was excited to spot some spikes of Bog Asphodel. I wanted to get a photograph of them of course, but they were now surrounded by water and very boggy mud. I managed to get fairly close to them, but as there was no way I was going to kneel to put myself on a level with them, the resulting picture is not as clear as I would have liked, but you get the general impression.
Bog Asphodel – Narthecium ossifragum
A fascinating and unusual plant that grows in short wet grassland on acid soils, Bog Asphodel has bright yellow flowers with six narrow widely-spaced petals and six long stamens that are surrounded by yellow hairs, like a miniature bottle-brush, with a prominent orange anther on top.
There were just a few flowers to be found here, but in other places where the appropriate habitat occurs, during July and August carpets of the deep orange yellow flowers may be seen, to be replaced later in September by a carpet of orange and russet-brown as the flowers fruit.
Despite the plant’s English name, it is not particularly closely related to the true asphodels. The Latin name means “weak bone”, and refers to a traditional belief that eating the plant caused sheep to develop brittle bones.
In Northern climes it was once used a yellow hair dye and as a cheap substitute for saffron.
Bog Asphodel may be poisonous to both sheep and cattle, although not all stands of the plant are toxic, and the toxicity may be the side effect of the plant’s response to a fungal infection. However, affected plants , if ingested, cause serious kidney problems and a photosensitive disorder which is variously called ‘alveld’ (elf-fire), in Norway; ‘saut’ in Cumbria; and ‘plochteach’, ‘yellowses’ and ‘head greet’ in Scotland that are brought about by tri-saccaride saponins, ‘narcethin’ being the major one.
A real surprise was to find this little collection of mushrooms, which I’m fairly sure from mushroom forages in Spain, are Chanterelle’s, but not sure enough to risk picking them!
And finally, thistles.