Slender speedwell

Slender field speedwell

Slender field speedwell

Like the Common field speedwell (Veronica persica), the Slender speedwell (Veronica filiformis) has relatively large bright, blue and white flowers, each held at the end of a long stalk, well clear of the leaves.

The Slender speedwell can occur on bare patches of soil but is most often seen in lawns. Its prostrate stems enable it to continue to grow despite regular mowing and it seems to be able to hold its own even when crowded by grass tillers.

The easiest way to separate it from the similarly large-flowered Common field speedwell is to look at the shape of the leaves. The Common field speedwell has a distinct point at the leaf tip, whereas the Slender speedwell has a rounded tip to the leaf.

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A Nightingale Sings In Whiteknights Park

This afternoon I was out enjoying the sunshine and doing a spot of fly-catching in the meadows near the meteorology field station. At about half past 3, I thought I heard – or perhaps imagined – the jug-jug-jug-jug phase of a nightingale’s song. A few minutes later and it sang again, a longer phrase: I was not suffering from sunstroke induced hallucinations but was indeed hearing a nightingale sing, from dense vegetation down near the lake.

It was still singing earlier this evening, thanks to Peter Gipson for the update. It’s late in the year now for a nightingale to be setting up territory, so this is probably either a late passage bird or a wanderer that has been displaced from one of the nearby nightingale hotspots at Theale to the west and Dinton Pastures to the east. Well worth hearing whilst it is with is. It was near the main bridge this afternoon and a bit further south this evening, sticking to the east side of the lake. Directions are, in any case, hardly necessary: if it does sing whilst you are out searching it will immediately give its location away!

 

 

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Common field speedwell

Common field speedwell

Common field speedwell

True to its name, this is one of the most common speedwells on campus. It is certainly much more common than the other field speedwells.

The common field speedwell (Veronica persica) turns up on wasteground and disturbed ground amongst other vegetation wherever there is plenty of light. The plants’ stems grow along the ground sometimes producing a thick mat. The bright, blue and white flowers are each held at the end of a long stalk that extends out well beyond the leaves.

Capsule shape, and the hairs on the capsules, are important diagnostic characters for speedwells. In the common field speedwell the v-shape between the two lobes of the capsule is very broad.  The capsule hairs are held upright. Some of them are glandular and can be seen, under a hand lens, to have a small droplet of liquid at their tip.

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Speedwells – well represented on University land!

Speedwells have small blue (occasionally white, lilac or pink) flowers, either occurring as single flowers or in a spike. There are 20 native species of Speedwell (Veronica) in Britain. A surprisingly large number can be found on campus, with even more occurring on the University’s farm at Sonning.

Of the 20 British species, three (V. alpina, V. fructicans and V. verna) are restricted to mountains and three more (V. praecox, V. spicata and V. triphyllos) are rarities in the Breckland area of Norfolk and Suffolk. The other 14 are listed below:

  • Wetland or marsh:
    • Brooklime (V. beccabunga)
    • Blue water speedwell (V. anagallis-aquatica)
    • Pink water speedwell (V. catenata)
    • Marsh speedwell (V. scutellata)
  • Heathland
    • Heath speedwell (V. officinalis)
  • Woodland
    • Wood speedwell (V. montana)
    • Germander speedwell (V. chamaedrys)
  • Disturbed ground/wasteland/arable fields
    • Thyme-leaved speedwell (V. serpyllifolia)
    • Ivy-leaved speedwell (V. hederifolia)
    • Slender speedwell (V. filiformis)
    • Wall speedwell (V. arvensis)
    • Common field-speedwell (V. persica)
    • Green field-speedwell (V. agrestis)
    • Grey field-speedwell (V. polita)

 

Species

Whiteknights Campus

Before 2009

Le Grice & Jury 2009

Since 2009

Wetland or marsh
    Brooklime

X

X

X

    Blue water speedwell
    Pink water speedwell
    Marsh speedwell
Heathland
    Heath speedwell

X

Woodland
    Wood speedwell

X?

X

X

    Germander speedwell

X

X

X

Disturbed ground
    Thyme-leaved speedwell

X

X

X

    Ivy-leaved speedwell

X

X

X

         ssp hederifolia
         ssp lucorum

X

X

X

    Slender speedwell

X

X

X

    Wall speedwell

X

X

X

    Common field speedwell

X

X

X

    Green field speedwell

X

X

    Grey field speedwell

X?

X

X

There is also a non-native, but self perpetuating, species of speedwell on campus: American speedwell (V. peregrina). This has become established on the experimental plots behind the greenhouses by the Harborne Building.

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Mosses and Liverworts of Whiteknights: 4. Saproxylic Mosses & Liverworts

Lophocolea bidentata, one of the few common liverworts found on decaying wood in south east England

Lophocolea heterophylla, one of the very few liverworts commonly found on decaying wood in south east England. Image by D. Morris

4. Saproxylic Mosses & Liverworts

This is the fifth in a series of posts exploring the mosses and liverworts (bryophytes) of Whiteknights campus. The first three posts described the rich flora of bryophytes growing on trees (epiphytes) on campus, while the second described some of the many species adapted to live on stone (saxicoles). In this post attention is turned to the specialised bryophyte communities that can be found growing on decaying wood on campus (saproxylic, lit. of rotting wood).
Continue reading

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Prunus on campus – at least the naturalised ones!

This is a great time of year to admire the Prunus species on campus. Not only are the ornamental cherries wow-ing us with their blossoms but the naturalised species are also in flower.

Cherry laurel

Cherry laurel in flower in early April

 

Parts of the wilderness are dominated by Cherry laurel (P. laurocerasus). This is an evergreen shrub that reaches a height well over my head. It has racemes of white flowers in April. Continue reading

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Bright gold – or tenacious weed?

Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale agg.) get a variable press in Britain.

Beauty or weed?

Beauty or weed?

They are, arguably, beautiful flowers (actually groups of tiny flowers as Dandelions are a member of the Asteraceae family) but my sister wages war on the species as her most hated weed. I guess they can look messy when you have a mixture of flower-head buds, flower-heads, seed heads and old stems that have shed their seeds, but a road-side verge full of golden dandelions has got to be as bold and cheerful a sight in spring as a verge full of golden daffodils!

So why do gardeners hate them so much? Maybe because they are difficult to remove or relocate. Some self-seeding wild flowers make a welcome addition to the garden and are easily removed from the ‘wrong’ place or once they are past their prettiest stage. Not so the dandelion.

Regrowth from a cut Dandelion root.

Regrowth from a cut Dandelion root.

The dandelion’s tap root goes extremely deep, enabling it to compete effectively for nutrients and water. But, for some reason, the root is less woody than is general for tap roots, so it readily snaps when pulled. The lower section that remains in the ground, has the ability to regrow even if none of the plant stem material is left behind. A small ring of new shoots develop around the broken root surface and each of these shoots pushes up above ground so that one shoot is now four or five… or seven or eight. That’s why my sister hates them! That and the fact that every amazingly engineered dandelion clock is a ticking bomb of potential new recruits to the population. The seeds will seek out and find the bare soil where weeds have been removed or ground has been prepared for vegetables or chosen flowers.

Children, however, are much more likely to pause in wonder at the bright jewel of the flowers, or enjoy the fun of blowing away the seeds of a clock – even if breaking the stem and getting the white sap on your hands is supposed to make you wet the bed!

Stars in the grass

Stars in the grass

How’s this for a child’s-eye view:

Yellow and shining
Fluffy disc of gold upturned
A star in the grass.

 Cassie Newbery – aged 11

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