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Erophila growing in abundance amoung concrete setts at base of wall in March

Erophila growing in abundance amoung concrete setts at base of wall in April

I took this photo of Common Whitlowgrass Erophila in flower in April and wanted to go back and photograph them in situ, but when I went back earlier this week they had already fruited and died. Like other members of the Brassicaceae, Erophila have 4 petals but these are deeply divided (bifid). The leaves are also contained within the basal rosette and there are no stem leaves.

Erophila verna agg

Erophila verna agg

I made a few sketch notes at the time of the leaf hairs which are forked, and the tiny flowers but I didn’t get round to completing the task. (This is very similar to the drawing by Stella Ross-Craig, plate 31)

Sketchbook entry of E verna agg showing bifid petals and forked hairs on leaves and part of stem

Sketchbook entry of E verna agg showing bifid petals and forked hairs on leaves and part of stem

The Francis Rose key does not attempt to separate the species but merely says there are 3 species that can be called Erophila verna agg.. Stace describes 3 species E majuscala, E verna and E glabrescens. I don’t think I could attempt to identify these without fresh specimens so I will settle for E verna agg.. This is the sketchbook entry for what the plants look like now. All of the basal rosette of leaves has disappeared but the old Silicula are now prominent like tiny Honesty (Lunaria annua) fruits.

E verna agg with fragile remnants of plants now lacking any sign of basal leaves and drawing of ex fruit

E verna agg with fragile remnants of plants now lacking any sign of basal leaves and drawing of ex fruit

Another small plant that caught my eye at about the same time was this Scurvey grass Cochlearia, another member of the Brassicaceae which has spread along main roads probably encouraged by salting of the carriage way.

The white flower under the crass barrier

The white flower under the crash barrier

Again I intended to return and study the plant in more detail and when I did I found it had finished flowering and looked like this

Cochlearia showing fruiting and finished seed heads

Cochlearia showing fruiting and finished seed heads

IMG_8091

Cochlearia with clearly petiolate stem leaves. Sessile ones are not clasping the stem. Note interesting ridges and grooves on main stem

Again as its finished flowering, identification relies on the fruit and leaf shape. Streeter says that C anglica has basal leaves with a more tapering base (cuneate) and all the rest have cordate basal leaves. Its difficult to say with my sample as the basal leaves seem to have rotted away, like the Erophila.  However what fragments remain suggest cordate. Streeter then says that the leaves are stalked (petiolate) and this means it is probably C danica. However in the description of the plant he says that the upper leaves may be stalkless (sessile) but not clasping. Stace also says uppermost leaves may be stalked but not clasping stem. Rose says they are all stalked. However Poland and Clement describe the species as stem leaves sessile, often clasping. So different descriptions and I resort to Clapham, Tutin and Warburg;  and they describe C danica as

‘..stem-lvs mostly petiolate, not amplexicaul.’ (CTW p56)

Amplexicaul means clasping the stem. So I feel fairly confident in saying this is Danish Scurveygrass (Previously called Hastate Scurveygrass) Cochlearia danica but the conflicting information in the keys and descriptions make it harder for the beginner especially when the plant is not in flower.

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