Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Wonderful display of winter heliotrope Petasites fragrans on the cliffs at Dawdon on the Durham coast today. The fragrans species epithet refers to it scent, which to me is reminiscent of marzipan but is sometimes described by others as vanilla.
This plant was first introduced into Britain from the Mediterranean region of North Africa in 1806 but by 1835 it had established itself in the wild. It has spread widely ever since, with increasing rapidity after being thrown out in garden waste. All British plants are male so it never sets seed, spreading instead via a rapidly creeping underground rhizome. Gardeners soon discover that this is a very invasive species in cultivated soil and is very difficult to eradicate. Every fragment of the rhizome regenerates into a new plant.
In a location like this it's pretty harmless, bordered on one side by a wide tarmac footpath and on the other by the cliff precipice, although its leaves shade out most other vegetation. It can be a problem plant in nature reserves, though.