Friday, June 8, 2012
Wildlife on Walls: 7. Wall Pennywort
Wall pennywort Umbilicus rupestris is one of those plants that would be much less common if humans hadn't built the perfect habitat for it, althought its distribution is geographically restricted by climate. It's confined mostly to the milder south western part of the British Isles. This photograph was taken near the Pembrokeshire village of Dale in Milford Haven, where the distinctive style of dry stone walling, constructed from vertical flat rock, provides the perfect niche for the plant.
I have tried to introduce this plant in a stone wall in my garden here in north east England and although it survived for a while our severe winters killed it.
The leaf stalk is attached to the centre of the fleshy, circular leaves, like an umbrella shaft - an arrangement known as peltate in botanical parlance. That produces a belly button-like dimple in the upper leaf surface, which accounts for its other common name, navelwort. John Gerard also included the mildly erotic names lady's navel and hortus veneris (the garden of Venus) in his herbal.