Wild West Yorkshire nature diary
female blackbird at the bird table linseed grown as a crop


Tuesday 25th July 2000
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perennial sowthistle leavesperennial sowthistle flower
THERE ARE THREE common sowthistles, Smooth, Prickly and, shown here, Perennial Sowthistle. It's the tallest of the three, but there are two sure ways to identify it;

  • Look closely at the hairs on the receptacle (the bracts that cover the flower). In perennial these are gingery orange. Through a magnifying glass these hairs glisten, each holds a sticky yellowish droplet at the end. They look like the trap hairs on the leaf of the insectivorous plant Sundew, and probably a similar purpose, in discouraging insects.

  • The bases of the leaves, where the leaf meets the stem, are rounded, not pointed.

  • At up to 7 centimetres, 2 inches, across the flowers are noticeably larger than other sowthistles (the flower I've drawn was closing for the evening).

Like other sowthistles it produces a milky latex fluid when the stem is broken. This tall weed has sprung up in one or two neglected places in the garden. As I drew it, I noticed that one of the leaves (above, right) has been bent back and held in place by white silk, perhaps by a moth, or a spider.

linseedlinseed grown as a crop A five-petalled blue flower has grown up in the flower tub at the foot of the bird table. It has probably sprung up from seed spilt by the birds. It seems to be Linseed, Linum usitatissimum, the variety of Common Flax which is grown for its oil rich seeds. After extraction of the oil the remaining mash is used as the basis for cattle cake. The oil is still used as the basis for artists' oil paints, and is also used in the manufacture of linoleum. From my school days, I remember the smell of the sticky oil which I used to treat my new cricket bat. My father kept in an old a Harvey's Bristol Cream bottle, with a twist of rag as a stopper, so I formed the impression that if you couldn't get linseed oil, sherry would probably make a good substitute for treating cricket bats.

cleavers Scrambling up around the linseed is Cleavers or Goosegrass. Small hooks on the leaves help it climb amongst other plants, while the small globular seeds, covered in larger hooks, attach themselves to passing animals and to clothing, especially to hiking socks.

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

E-mail; 'richard@daelnet.co.uk'

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