Tuesday, 24 July 2018

August 2018 -- St John's Wort and a reservoir

Ogden reservoir

After the fierce heat of early July — when a first-ever temperature of 50 oC was reached in the greenhouse — came the rain. I never thought that rain could be so welcome after last year’s wet summer, but the recent showers revived flagging gardens and freshened the atmosphere.
     Heat-induced physical torpor being lessened, I went for a walk round Ogden reservoir. As I ascended the path through farmland it was noticeable that their was no smoke from moorland fires in this area and a light breeze made walking a pleasure. Passing a pond I could see that the surface was largely covered by the handsome flat leaves and small bright yellow trumpet flowers of the Fringed water lily (Nymphoides peltata). This is not a true water lily nor is it a native plant, but it is commercially sold for use in water-gardens. It can be very invasive. Despite having alien status, the brassy flowers shone cheerfully in the sunlight. Who introduced it into the pond I wonder?
     On descending to the water’s edge I chatted to an angler who bemoaned the decline in the number of pike in the reservoir. Fishermen have always released them when caught but now they are being taken for food by foreign nationals. As we spoke a large fish swam towards his feet with an effortless grace. ‘There you are. Six or seven pound pike’. It certainly was impressive as it glided to deeper water — olive green with a pointed head and very streamlined. Loud and sinister chords from a full orchestra would not have been inappropriate.
      Apparently pike do not waste energy pursuing their fish prey but lurk amid dense aquatic vegetation and then go in hard with a fast burst of speed, their specialised teeth making escape
impossible. Their predatory feeding habits help to maintain an environmental balance, the man said.
S John's Wort
     As I walked to the car park I glanced over a wall to see a fine patch of wild flowers alive with bees and butterflies, and it included a colony of St Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum. (It has tiny glands which look like holes in the leaves.) This was reputed in ancient lore to have direct links to St John the Baptist which gave the plant powerful magical properties. The uses listed in Culpeper’s Herbal seem mundane by comparison: ‘Good for those that have been bitten or stung by any venomous creatures’.

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