Blue Sowthistle In Bradwell

 In Bradwell, Environment

It’s not often that a village has its own wildflower, but Bradwell stands apart. The blue sowthistle pops up all over the village, mostly on verge edges. It can grow a metre high and looks erect and stately. However, last year, after a good start in the spring, it flopped in the drought and never really recovered. This year it again grew well over the spring and the rains in May kept it going. The blue flowers are all over the village. The name sowthistle reflects that if you cut the stems, a latex like milk arises. This milky latex was considered to help lactation in mothering sows. This suggest that it was a forage plant for stock in the past but is no longer favoured. Various websites suggest that it is a garden escapee. Whatever, blue sowthistle in Bradwell is a very attractive plant.

The species

At first glance this does not appear to be a British wildflower and the wildflower book simply suggests that it is ‘established in scattered places in England’. The latin name is Cicerbita macrophylla. A distribution map shows it to have a stronghold in the Peak District whereas it is unknown in many areas, especially on the coast. I also doubt that it is a garden escapee because I have never seen it in gardens. However, those people who like herbs will know it as a perennial, growing from rhizomes.

Blue sowthistle in Bradwell

There is a blue Alpine sowthistle growing on the Cairngorms. This is not the one growing in Bradwell but it is similar. This alpine species exists at only 4 mountain sites and is very rare. Apparently, it has a very tender texture and fresh green colour which makes them very palatable to herbivores. Consequently, the historic populations of the plant in Scotland have declined over the centuries; they have been grazed out of existence. So, as long as we keep the cows away from our verges in Bradwell then this plant will continue to be the ‘Bradda plant’ for the next generation, assuming any of us are still around to see it.

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