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Petasites looking lovely

Petasites looking lovely

Wandering around Penarth yesterday it was hard not to notice this plant growing on steep slopes below the sea cliffs. Immediately I thought it was Butterbur; a plant that I associate with roadsides, that flowers early in the year and produces large leaves through the summer. Part of me was thinking however this is very early for Butterbur and I was also struck by its intense fragrance, but then it was late in the day and who knows what flowers by the sea!

Anyway today I had a closer look and Streeter straight away alerted me to the range of Butterbur like plants (members of the Petasites family), something that I had not really paid much attention to before. So this was not Butterbur  Petasites hybridus that I  had seen before but P fragrans. The Latin name gives it away really as does the flowering time as P fragrans flowers from November through the winter and it is strongly vanilla scented.

Ray florets on left and disc florets on right

Ray florets on left and disc florets on right

With P fragrans the outer ray florets are strap shaped, the inner florets five lobed with a dark purple centre from which emerges a stamen (apparently there are only male plants in this country). The basal leaves are also present while the plant is in flower.

So I have learnt not to assume anything, even what I thought was an open and shut case like the Butterbur is not as straightforward as it first seems.

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