Sunday, June 9, 2013

Flowery Tynemouth

There's a fine display of wild flowers around Tynemouth Priory at present. The top of the cliff is carpeted with red valerian. This plant, from south west Europe, was first recorded in Britain's gardens in 1597 and began spreading into the wild in 1763 - and it's still spreading, especially in coastal locations where it likes to grow in the mortar of old buildings. It produces a lot of nectar and is one of the plants that hummingbird hawk-moths like to visit.

Down on Tynemouth pier this sea pink (aka thrift) plant is thriving between the rusty old railways lines that once supported the travelling cranes that unloaded ships berthed alongside the pier.

The second introduced plant species that carpets the cliffs here is  Alexanders, a green-flowered umbellifer from southern Europe that was introduced by the Romans and grows in great profusion here. Its glossy leaves are edible and it was once cultivated as a pot herb, but by the 15th. century had been replaced in the garden by more palatable celery.

The native wild food plant that graces these cliffs is wild cabbage, the ancestor of garden cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and kale which produces these spectacular sprays of yellow flowers.

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