Anenome - Anemone nemorosa
This is a true marker of spring in Linn Park. The distinctive white flowers with yellow stamens have emerged under the trees. The petals always look almost dishevelled and some of the have purple streaks and veins.
It rarely sets fertile seeds and when it does they aren’t viable for long. It spread across the woodland floor through the root system at a rate of two metres every hundred years !
However it does survive for many years in the partial or deep shade many years not even flowering, simply producing the distinctive leaves and slowly spreading. Then when a tree falls and there is more light for a few years it is well placed to prosper. So it is a marker of ancient woodlands and indicates that Linn Park has been wooded for several hundred years.
In May, it's worth going into to the woods to see the bluebells which carpet the woodland floor and banks. They are often set off by the white wood garlic which tends to grow at the bottom of the slopes with bluebells in a blue haze stretching upwards.
Linn Park has both the native and the Spanish one which has escaped from cultivation. They are easy to tell apart with a bit of practice:
|Leaves||Are thinner less than the width of one's index finger||Are wider, usually more than one's middle finger|
|Flower head||Is one sided and the flowers droop down||Flowers are all the way round the step and droop less|
|Petals – peel one off the from the base of the flower||Curl round only at the tip and tend to be thinner and more parallel sided||Start to curl and spread out from mid way and the petals are ovoid|
|Flowers||Scented and thinner and only the tips curl back.||Unscented and more bell shaped|
|Anthers (look into the flowers)||Are cream||Are blue|
However hybrids occur: so in Linn Park there are flowers with all variations in between.
Does it matter? Some botanists worry about non-native species taking over, (sounds familiar?). However Spanish bluebells tend to only occur in urban woods and there are many (5 out of 6) woods only have native bluebells. Flora is always changing due to man’s influence, introduction of new species and now climate change. Some of the introductions like Japanese Knotweed and Rhododendron may present challenges, but in Linn Park we also have sycamore, beech, Himalayan Balsam, and Pyrenean Valerian. In the grand scheme of things we have higher priorities than Spanish bluebells.
Lords and Ladies (Cuckoo-pint) - Arum maculatum
This is widespread under trees in Linn Park. The long stalked leaves have short backward facing lobes and a long blade and can be purple spotted. However the flowers are distinctive and has resulted in many names some quite ribald; the Elizabethan name of Willy lily is a good example.
The leaves fade and then the plant is spotted due to its bright red berries poking up from the soil usually in shade.
Lesser Celandine - Ranunculus ficaria
From early spring through to early summer this is a flower carpets under the trees throughout Linn Park, especially the entrance from Clarkston Road. In the limes beside this road leading to the White Bridge there are clumps in the forks up the trunks.
It is one of the first flowers of spring and it buttercup flower brightens up the woods as they waken from winter. It spreads readily as the knobbly tubers readily break free from the roots. Perhaps these knobbly tubers were responsible for its old name pilewort as there is a sort of resemblance with the cause of that affliction.
The actual name celandine is derived from swallow, however it flowers long before the swallows arrive and perhaps this association is due to the (unrelated) Greater Celandine that the hatted Botanist hasn’t yet found in the park. Might you find it fists - let us know !
Foxgloves are instantly recognisable with their tall flower spikes and vivid colour at the woodland edge or in thickets on the heath. They define “a particular moment of the year – the end of spring and beginning of high summer, when the landscape first begins to have a spent, tawny look.” (Richard Mabey)
They prefer acid soil and they are plentiful especially on the east side of Linn Park.
Medicinally they are an important plant as the leaves contain digoxin which slows the heart rate and makes the heart pump more effectively. It is used to treat heart failure especially due to a common arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation. Before the last century it was one of the few effective medicines doctors had available (along with opium, senna and aspirin. All are also derived from plants). Digoxin is still used but less than a decade or two ago. It has a narrow effective dose between too little and toxicity.
Foxglove has an important place in medical science. William Withering wrote about how to use it medicinally in 1785 emphasising the importance of dose and so established the science of pharmacology and separated modern medicine from herbalism (An Account of the Foxglove).
Although it is medically active the leaves are bitter and it is only a poisoning risk to ill-advised herbalist patients. It’s popular with kids, the flowers make great finger puppets and if you pinch the end of a barely open one they will pop when squeezed.
The flowers act like a magnet for bees and it thought that the mottled pattern at the entrance and the hairs are to improve pollination when insects visit.
Enchanters Nightshade - Circaea Lutetiana
It is neither a nightshade (the deadly variety is a relation of the tomato) nor has anyone claimed any magical properties for it. The name maybe actually derived from a French name for the herb that Homer’s Circe used to change Ulysses’ crew into pigs.
The plant occurs in woods in dark and dank places and unlike most other woodland flowers it blooms in summer after the trees have their leaves.
Ramsons (Wild Garlic) - Allium ursinum
This is in full flower and scent at the moment in the park. Alongside the bluebell the white flower and garlic scent is distinctive.
Ramsons is a native and a marker of ancient woodlands like the Wood Anemone which is also coming into flower.
Like all members of the Lily family is it based on the number 3. The stems is triangular, there are two sets of 3 petals and two sets of 3 stamens with 3 little green bulbils in the middle of the flower.
Despite its alternative name of wild garlic, it is milder like a chive and the leaves can be eaten raw as a garnish. You can also pick the flowers and put them in a vase of water .... after a few days the green bulbils expand and can be eaten as a garnish in a ham sandwich for example - delicious.
Toothwort - Lathraea squamaria
This is one of the botanical ‘notables’ of Linn Park. It grows here and only a couple of other places in Glasgow area.
It is a ghost of a plant, a parasite with no chlorophyll, which erupts through the leaf litter in late March and April with white scaly stems and tiers of flowers that resemble dirty, mauve stained molars.
It is parasitic on the roots of trees and derives most nourishment from the host, but it is also thought to be carnivorous and the hairs trap insects in small irregular cavities and then they are digested.
The root is a thick scaly rhizome which looks like a buried snake and for me just completes the freakish unwholesome picture.
Ivy - Hedera helix
Ivy is our only evergreen liana – a clinger and hanger on. As such it stands accused of smothering trees and demolishing buildings, however it is not a parasite and attaches itself with adhesive suckers and it is only when it finds soil or a deep crevice that these are transformed into potentially destructive roots. It can climb up well over a 100 feet and the sheer weight and wind drag this represents may damage both trees and buildings. The dense foliage can also block the light from host trees and slowly smother them.
However it is an important habitat for many insects and animals. It is surprising to many that it is one of our most important flowering plants, but its flowers in October and November provide insects, especially bees with a vital feed before winter.
Ivy has very variable leaves and their shape depends upon the amount of light.
Wood Speedwell - Veronica Montana
This understated flower is widespread in the shade under trees in the Park, for instance in the woods at the west end of the white bridge.
It is well worth a second look.
The stem is hairy all round and the leaves have short stems and the pale lilac and the flowers have an interesting asymmetric shape and two stamens that seem too big for the flower.
This flower is an Ancient Woodland Indicator (AWI) species which means that Linn Park has probably been a woodland since before 1600.
There is more about Ancient Woodland Indicators at https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2016/04/plant-ancient-woodland/