Friday, June 24, 2016

Boot-mud seedlings

I first read Weeds and Aliens, a volume in the New Naturalist series written by Sir Edward Salisbury, a former Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, almost fifty years ago. One particular section, where he discussed seeds distributed on footwear, has always stuck in my mind.

Salisbury went to some lengths to demonstrate the effectiveness of seeds dispersal by our feet as we walk around. He even swept up the soil on the floor between the pews of churches after services and germinated seeds of plantains, daisies, irongrass, pearlwort, chickweed and several grasses that had been carried in on the feet of the congregation.

He had a particular bee-in-his-bonnet about Roman soldiers carrying seeds across Britain in mud on their hobnailed sandals.

Early this year after a visit to Hayley Wood in Cambridgeshire  I followed Salisbury's example and scraped the mud from my walking boots into a seed tray to see what would germinate. The picture above shows some of the seedlings. So far I've been able to identify:

Broad-leaved dock
Broad-leaved plantain
A willow herb species
Mouse-ear chickweed
Wood avens
Herb robert
Hairy bittercress
Toad rush
4 unidentified seedlings

plus four species of grass that I haven't identified yet.

No real surprises but quite a mixture. The wood is famous for its oxlips but I don't seem to have had any luck picking up their seeds on my boots!

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