Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wild liquorice

Amazing what you can walk past without noticing it isn't it? Even yards from your own front door. And I pride myself on my sharp eyes. Honestly, I get more myopic by the day.

Well, a case in point is this. T'other day I was nonchalantly strolling down the lane when my companion said, 'Hey Mel ,what's that plant down there?'

I looked down at the verge, perplexed. Clearly this plant had grown up over night. It was definitely not there when I walked to the station the previous day. Definitely.

Here is the magical plant. How it has escaped the predations of the over-enthusiastic verge mowing round here I cannot say. But it has. And thank goodness.



Not exactly invisible or microscopic is it?

Obviously in the pea family but not a plant I know well. It is Astragalus glycyphyllos otherwise known as wild liquorice (or licorice) or milk vetch.



The flowers are a kind of off yellow. Rather subtle. You must excuse photo - it was blowing a gale! But the seed pods are really whacky. They look like an upturned hand - with all the fingers gathered together. Weird!



I checked up in Dony immediately to see if it was recorded in this area and it wasn't. Maybe a new record for this km square? So I photographed it and emailed the county recorder in my excitement. Clearly it is not an exciting finding as I didn't hear back. Shame. I think it's rather nice anyway.

It's more famous cousin Astragalus membranaceous is a native of China and called huang qi (which means yellow leader). The root is highly prized as a tonic and used in Chinese herbal tradition to 'strengthen the immune system'.

References

John Dony (1976) Bedfordshire Plant Atlas. Borough of Luton Museum and Art Gallery

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