Tuesday, 30 July 2013

What plants are flowering in our annual meadows?

If you wonder what is flowering in our annual flower meadows have a look at our little photo ID guide below to help you to recognise the annual flowers. Many of the annual plants will probably look familiar as they are also often planted in gardens.

Californian poppy (Eschscholzia californica):
Flowering time: June-August
Bright orange, yellow or even orange-red (see picture below) cup-shaped flowers and finely divided grey-green leaves.

Virginia stock (Malcomia maritima):
Flowering time: June-July
Small scented pink, purple and white flowers with 4 petals. Small oval grey-green leaves.
Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima):
Flowering time: June-July
Clusters of small white flowers which have a strong honey-like scent. Small rounded leaves.

Showy baby`s breath (Gypsophila elegans):
Flowering time: July-August
White flowers on tall slender stems (in picture growing together with field poppy). Lanceolate opposite leaves.
Red flax (Linum grandiflorum):
Flowering time: July-August
Bright red or salmon flowers on slender stems.
Small lance-shaped waxy leaves.
Field poppy (Papaver rhoeas):
Flowering time: June-August
Bright red cup-shaped flowers on tall hairy stems. Hairy pinnate leaves.
Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis):
Flowering time: June-October
Flower heads with bright yellow or orange ray and disc flowers. Oblong-lanceolate hairy leaves.
Borage (Borago officinalis):
Flowering time: June-August
Bright blue, white, pink or purple star-like flowers and big very hairy leaves which smell of cucumber when crushed.
Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus):
Flowering time: July-October
Flower heads with pink ray flowers and yellow disc flowers on tall stems. Finely divided leaves.
Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus):
Flowering time: July-August
Flower heads with bright blue, pink, purple or white ray and disc flowers (in picture growing together with yarrow (on the left)) on tall grey-green stems. Grey-green lanceolate leaves.
Cosmidium (Thelesperma burridgeanum) and Golden tickseed (Coreopsis tinctoria) :
Flowering time: August-October
Flower heads with yellow and dark-red to brown ray flowers and brown disk flowers on tall stems. Cosmidium has very narrow finely divided leaves whereas Golden tickseed leaves  are a little bit broader. Another clue is the colour variation of the flowers. Cosmidium has mostly flowers which are yellow with a brown center. Golden tickseed shows a bit more variation and has also flowers which are either nearly all yellow or all dark red. Otherwise both plants look very similar and are not easy to distinguish from each other.

The plant to the right is most likely Golden tickseed (Coreopsis tinctoria)
Golden tickseed can have flowers which are dark-red

Monday, 29 July 2013

What plants are flowering in our perennial meadows?

If you have visited our perennial flower meadows you might have wondered what plants are flowering in the meadows. Below we have compiled a little photo ID guide for you and hope it will help you to recognise the meadow plants. Some plants have finished flowering now but if you come back next year you can hopefully see them in full flower.

Red campion (Silene dioica): 
Flowering time: May - June
Dark pink unscented flowers with deeply notched petals. Deep-green opposite leaves.
If you see a similar-looking plant but with white flowers it is most likely White campion (Silene latifolia)
Meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris):
Flowering time: May-June
Yello cup-shaped flowers on tall branched stems. Finely dived leaves.
Creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens) looks similar but leaves are much less divided and plant has creeping stems which root at nodes.
Ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare):
Flowering time: late May-June
Flower heads with white outer ray flowers and yellow disc flowers in the center. Dark green serrated leaves.
Birds-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus):
Flowering time: June-August
Yellow pea-like flowers sometimes with an orange tinge and leaves with 5 leaflets.

Red and White clover (Trifolium pratense and T. repens):
Flowering time: May-July
Typical clover flowers (red clover on the left and white clover on the right in picture), trifoliate leaves (3 leaflets).
Rough hawkbit (Leontodon hispidus):
Flowering time: June-August
Flower head with dark yellow ray flowers on a single stem and hairy leaves which form a basal rosette.

Hawksbeard (Crepis spp.):
Flowering time: June-September
Flower head with bright yellow ray flowers on a branched stem with small leaves all along the stem.
Catsear (Hypochaeris radicata) has similar-looking flowers on a branched stem, but stem is bare and never has leaves
Musk mallow (Malva moschata):
Flowering time: July-September
Pink showy mallow flowers (in picture growing together with Viper`s bugloss) in clusters along a tall stem. Leaves finely divided.
Viper`s bugloss (Echium vulgare):
Flowering time: June-August
This plant is unmistakable. Bright blue flowers along a tall stem and with basal rosette of rough, hairy lanceolate leaves.
Wild carrot (Daucus carota):
Flowering time: July-September
Tall white umbels (in picture growing together with Black knapweed) with carrot-like pinnate leaves and a carrot scent when crushed. Often the umbels have a small purple flower in the centre which can be quite conspicuous.
When the wild carrot seeds become mature the umbel starts to close and resemble a bird`s nest. It can become detached from the flowering stalk and blow around in the wind which helps with seed distribution.

Black knapweed (Centaurea nigra):
Flowering time: July-September
Flower heads with purple ray flowers (in picture growing together with white-flowered yarrow) and brown bristly phyllaries (bracts). Hairy, often lobed leaves, lower leaves stalked, upper leaves stalkless.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium):
Flowering time: July-September
Flower head with white, sometimes pink ray and disk flowers produced in a flat-topped cluster. Finely dived almost feathery leaves with a strong sweet scent.

Tufted vetch (Vicia cracca):
Flowering time: July-September
Climbing plant (tendrils at tips of the pinnate leaves) with blue to purple pea-like flowers in a one-sided cluster and a smooth stem.
Wild marjoram (Origanum vulgare):
Flowering time: July-September
Clusters of small pink flowers and small ovate aromatic leaves. The leaves can be used to flavour food such as pizza and pesto.

Field scabious (Knautia arvensis):
Flowering time: July-September
Flower head with many small pink to purple flowers on tall leafless hairy stems. Hairy greyish-green pinnate leaves.
Common fleabane (Pulicaria disenterica):
Flowering time: July-September
Flower heads with yellow ray and disk flowers. Downy to almost wooly plant with wavy-edged leaves clasping the stem.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Extrafloral nectaries: how plants attract bodyguards to fight against plant eating insects

Do you think plants only produce nectar in flowers to attract pollinators and to help with pollination? Read on as plants have evolved more uses for nectar than you might expect.

Extrafloral nectaries on a cherry leaf stalk
Many plants (for example cherry (Prunus), willow (Salix) and passionflower (Passiflora)) have nectar-secreting plant glands which develop outside flowers and are not involved in pollination. These glands are called extrafloral nectaries.

Extrafloral nectaries can occur on leaves, plant stalks (petioles), plants stems, fruits and virtually any other above-ground plant part. Extrafloral nectaries can look quite variable in different plant species and can range from single-celled trichomes (plant hairs) to complex cup-like structures.

The nectar produced in extrafloral nectaries is used to attract predatory insects (such as ants or wasps) which will not only drink the nectar but will eat plant-eating insects as well. Thereby the plant recruits its own personal army of bodyguards which are fed with nectar and in return defend the plant against harmful insects.

Extrafloral nectaries are used to attract predatory insects
So next time you see a cherry tree have a look for the extrafloral nectaries (located on the leaf stalk and very obvious); maybe you can even see some ants or wasps drinking the nectar.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Leeds Flower Meadows July 2013

Summer is here! And with this British heatwave and plenty of sunshine, our flower meadows are thriving all over the four corners of Leeds. To find out exactly where our meadows are located, click here

Perennial meadows

The five perennial meadows are looking great with a wide variety of sown species flowering. Most meadows are currently dominated by ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), wild carrot (Daucus carota), common knapweed (Centaurea nigra), yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and viper's bugloss (Echium vulgare).

Viper's bugloss
Lovely colours: ox-eye daisy, musk mallow and viper's bugloss at Burley Park meadow
Burley Park meadow
Common knapweed & ox-eye daisies
Stanhope Recreation Ground meadow (Horsforth)
Action shot: sampling our Ebor Gardens meadow (Osmondthorpe)

Other species flowering now include self-heal (Prunella vulgaris), bird's-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), musk mallow (Malva moschata) and tufted vetch (Vicia cracca). These provide a variety of flower shapes and sizes for different pollinators to visit, as well as looking brilliant to us humans!

Musk mallow
Tufted vetch
Bird's-foot trefoil

Annual meadows

The ten annual meadows are at varying stages of development - some have quite a few flowers, whilst others are still looking quite bare. We hope that more sunshine (and a little bit of rain!) will encourage the annual meadows to grow.

The meadows which are further ahead are currently covered in lots of sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima), virginia stock (Malcomia maritima), white wall rocket (Diplotaxis erucoides), baby's breath (Gyposphila elegans) and a few Californian poppies (Eschscholzia californica).

Lush and green: Stanningley Park meadow
Little dots of colour: Armley Park meadow
White wall rocket
Virginia stock
So sunny: Californian poppies
Nearly there! Californian poppy buds
What a contrast with the mown grass (East End Park meadow)
Sweet alyssum
Counting flowers at our Seacroft Ring Road meadow
View from our meadow at West Park Playing Fields (can you spot our information board?)
Our information boards are up! Please look out for them next to our meadows


We are already seeing a variety of insect pollinators on both our annual and perennial meadows - here are a few of our favourite snaps from the past week...

Honeybee (Apis mellifera) on white wall rocket
Solitary bee (Colletes sp.) on ox-eye daisy
Hoverfly (Myathropa florea) on wild carrot
Tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) on common knapweed
Common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum) on bird's-foot trefoil

We hope that the field poppies (Papaver rhoeas) and cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus) will flower soon - the annual meadows will soon be a burst of beautiful colours in Leeds' parks and green spaces.