Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Flowers from Mr Allotment Warden

Well you weren't expecting a lovely bunch of flowers for me were you? Mine's not really that kind of blog usually is it? Mr Allotment Warden (MAW) came to my plot especially on Sunday to ask me what the above plant is. 'You're a knowledgeable person' he said. My heart sank - not knowledgeable enough evidently. We discussed its similarities to groundsel and tutted over the fact it was over 3ft tall on his neighbour's plot and MAW's Wild Flowers of Britain & Europe not being able to shed any light on the matter.

We agreed that it was best removed before it sets seed and I offered to take it home to see if trusty Francis Rose could help out. It did and I can now exclusively reveal it's Ploughman's Spikenard (Inula conyza). Quite a nasty looking brute isn't it? It flowers from July to September (so this specimen obviously doesn't read the same books as me), and grows on calcareous soils, grassland, scrub and rocks. I went up later to pick some strawberries and see if I could give MAW the results of my research. He wasn't there, but my allotment neighbour Brian was. I haven't seen him for a few weeks, so it was good to catch up. He offered me the pick of his large patch of Sweet Williams, the real old fashioned kind. So I did get a lovely bunch of flowers after all today - complete with the smell of my childhood.

Update: Simon over at The Plot Thickens is much better at identification than I am! It is in fact Bristly Oxtongue (Picris echioides). It keyed out closer to I. conyza initially in Francis Rose and the specimen I was given originally had some of the characteristics of both plants. I've now had another look at the plant and various pictures on the internet (these are very variable, so I wonder if others have had the same problems with identification as me, or the plants themselves are quite variable in their character) and I'm in agreement with Simon. Well done mate and thanks - I owe you a beer :)

P. echioides - leaf detail


  1. Umm looks mighty like a spiny bugger...but the flower seems to be not half bad...what are you growing in your garden plot?

  2. Well done on Ploughman's Spikenard!

    I just picked yet another bunch myself. Aren't they amazing? Sorry I mean sweet williams. I love them in particular because mon amour is called william so they make me smile when I see them.

  3. Looks like a prickly customer! Well done on finding out what it is.

    I get a really invasive but pretty weed/wildflower in the garden here, roots down to Australia, took me forever to find out what it was until t'internet arrived. now I know it as Green Alkanet.

  4. Hi Sandi - it is and welcome back! As for what I'm growing - everything but the brassica family. You name it and I'll have a go :)

    Emmat - MAW now has the information! AND Threadspider & picked a gorgeous bunch of sweet williams each today :) Hope you liked your link from here!

    Zoe - I still go for my trusty Francis Rose - t'internet pictures & info I researched to link to for this post weren't that good, which is unusual!

  5. Hi VP, I like it. I'll see if I can get some seed from Chilton Seeds and grow some on my allotment.


  6. I love that name -Ploughmands Spikenard - it conjours up forgotton times.

    There are so many beautiful smells around at the moment and Sweet Williams must easily be in the top5!

  7. LOL--WHY do people give you all the credit and then ask something you don't know? I fancy myself as knowing quite a few plants and a bit of tips & tricks and such, but people rarely ask my things I know!! WHY?! OK, you may continue your day now. ;-)
    ~ Monica

  8. I recognise the leaf but seem not to be troubled by the plant -I didn't know the name-down here in the bottom corner of the plots. Must just be lucky. Although I do have ALL the bindweed! : )
    (I'm enjoying the Sweet Williams)

  9. It grows all over the place here in south west France and the leaf gets completely stuck into the fur on my two long haired cats. It also attaches it's self to my socks and is rather painful.

    It is a pretty plant but I'm still trying to get rid of it from my veg patch though.

  10. Saw your comment over at James' blog, VP. Hey--you solved this mystery here and got a shout out there, so that's two for you. Hope the universe swings round to your point of view tomorrow.

  11. Hi VP. Are you sure it Ploughman's Spikenard and not Bristly Ox-tongue? When I saw it first I thought straight away it was daisy family. Eg, see here


  12. OK, sorry, Inula is also a daisy.


  13. Big & nasty looking. I'm glad that's not the kind of Spikenard we have around here.

  14. I love sweet william - the colours and the smell. They alway takes me back to my childhood when we used to hide in the hedge next to a big clump in the border.

    Thanks for the memory VP I'm making a note to try them in my scented bed next year.

  15. Simon - here's hoping you're successful and well done on spotting my mistake

    Suburbia - they're lovely. Did TIMP include them in her poll?

    Garden Faerie - it's just the way he is

    TS - glad you are - mine are still going strong here too

    TMG - thanks for your support. I think the situation got even better, but is now even worse?

    MMD - glad the beast is not over on your side of the pond

    Arabella - you're welcome. Looking forward to reading about them next year


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