On waste-ground

Old Jerusalem tree (agave) backed by a threatening sky.


Admiring the building rain clouds (at last we may have rain!) I pull over to get a shot of an old ‘Jerusalem tree’ against the dark sky. I haven’t time to walk today but on the other side is a patch of waste ground covered in wildflowers. Are they all Oxalis? Let’s have a look.

Oxalis pes-caprae on a patch of waste ground


There is (of course) plenty of Oxalis , its bright yellow flowers open in spite of the low-light (they close in rain or at dusk). Behind it there are some flowers of the dandelion-like Smooth Hawksbeard (Crepis capillaris) but there’s also a good bit of tatty looking wild radish as well. Combined it gives a yellow theme to brighten a dull day.


Alexanders stems within a mass of leaves
Alexanders, Smyrnium olusatrum






Back where the terrace bank rises, there are bigger plants with grooved stems and a mob of leaves supporting umbel clusters. Yellow again but less bright, but big space-takers, these are Alexanders, a.k.a. Horse Parsley (Smyrnium olusatrum). They can grow up to 5 feet odd, but here the owners of the nearby terrace strim now and again, so these are just a couple of feet tall. Alexanders are common across Europe but I only recently learned their spread was helped by man – the Romans took them into Britain because leaves, roots, stems and buds are edible. Apparently they taste something between parsley and celery. The latter has replaced them in agriculture now, but they persist on waste ground. Horses love them.

Musk Storksbill’s little pink flowers


It’s not all yellow though: Musk Storksbill (Erodium moschatum) puts out tiny pink flowers right by the road.

Hound’s Tongue

And I’m pleased to find the strange furry leaves and tiny, shy, black and white flowers of Hound’s Tongue (Cynoglossum cheirifolium), tucked well in, away from the road and foot-traffic. Later in the year I find myself picking off the burrs more often than I see the flowers in Spring.


A few yards further on Hollow-stemmed Asphodel, a delicate, beautiful bulb that often grows on roadside verges. This is one of my favourite of early flowers.

Hollow-stemmed Asphodel


Now I must run. But I’ve seen at least half a dozen species in flower. Not bad wilding for 5 minutes on waste ground in February!



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Grass Hopper

Born near the sea on the east side, grew near the sea on the west side; more than 15 years down here in the south, hoping about between the mountains and the Med. Madly in love with the Natural world!

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