Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Winter heliotrope

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. 


  1. One of my favourites Phil. I normally see it by a grotty roadside, not overlooking the North Sea! Merry Christmas!!

  2. Have great Christmas and New Year Steve - and happy hunting in 2015!

  3. I had always imagined Heliotrop to be a deep purple. What do I know?

    Have a good year in 2015 Phil.

  4. think the name may have come from the scent, which is similar to that of Heliotropium arborescens

    All the best for 2015, Toffeeapple - and many thanks for your comments

  5. Thanks for the info; the greeting too!

    I wish you another interesting year.