Monday 30 May 2011

Helictotrichon pubescens - Downy Oat-grass

Grass of the Month for May 2011                

Downy Oat-grass is one of my favourite grasses

  • It flowers early in the year, in early May - two weeks before its relative, Meadow Oat-grass
  • It has big shiny spikelets
  • It is easy to identify vegetatively because it is one of only two "ordinary" medium/large grasses which have newest leaf folded and have hairy leaves.
  • The other grass is Bromopsis erecta - but Bromopsis has long tapering points to the blades, whereas Helictotrichon has parallel sided blades with blunt, hooded (boat shaped) tips
  • Its leaves feel soft and downy
  • The base of the blade is as wider or wider than the middle of the blade
  • It grows on base rich soils so can be found with other interesting plants
  • the vegetative shoots can have red stripes on their shoots a little like Holcus - but Helictotrichon has folded leaves.

The other "ordinary grass" with folded leaves is Upright brome - Bromopsis erecta. Helictotrichon has very blunt  leaf tips - shown here - whereas Bromopsis has very gently tapering leaves.

Helictotrichon vegetative leaves have short ligule (shown at top) -but the culm leaves have longer ligules as you go up the stem.

Helictotrichon pubescens has two or three florets per spikelet, hence two or three awns per spikelet.
Helictotrochon pratense has three to six florets per spikelet.  This is very helpful except when you find a plant with three florets per spikelet.

(for links to other grasses through 2010 and 2011 see Grasses Page)

Saturday 21 May 2011

Hordelymus europaeus - Wood Barley

Grass of the Month for April

This is a rare woodland grass. ( BSBI Map )
Hordelymus euroapeaus has vegetative features very similar to Bromopsis ramosa (Hairy Brome) i.e.
  1. Tufted
  2. Grows in basic woods
  3. Hairy - long hairs
  4. Dark green
  5. Blades widest in the middle (as for nearly all woodland grasses)
  6. Big auricles
(These are distinguishable from the other big inland grasses with auricles:-  Couch grass - which has rhizomes,  and Wall Barley which has very big clasping auricles and the blades are very floppy, and it is an annual)

In the pictures below where there are two grasses, the Hordelymus is on the left of the picture and the Bromopsis on the right.

Vegetave differences include:

  1. Hordelymus has a ligule < 1mm long, Bomopsis usually > 2mm
  2. Hordelymus auricles are more horizontal and clasping, brompsis point more downwards at 45 degrees
  3. The collar edges "pull back2 and stick out more in Hordelymus, perhaps resulting in the more horizontal auricles
  4. The hairs on the Bromopsis blade edge and sheath are very regular and parallel to each other, they are more untidy on the Horelymus
  5. Bromopsis has deep red colour in the basal sheaths, whereas Hordelymus is pale brown.

Hordelymus on left of picture, Bromopsis on right

The short ligule and auricles on Hordelymus europaeus

Saturday 7 May 2011

£1 a day for food

So how is my living off £1-00 a day for food going?
Here is the food I bought for five days:-

2   500g bag lentils at £1-00 each
1  750g packet quick oat porridge at 95p
1   2.5 kilo packet potatoes at £1-00
portion of butter                         £0.30
2 tblspoons brown sugar             0.10
portion of salt                             0.10
1/20th bottle Cool Earth coffee    0.15
portion of nutmeg                        0.10
portion of barbecue flavouring       .10
1/2 a fudge bar given to me            .15
2 cups of tea given to me  friends   .10
1 slice white bread given                .10
Total: -                                        £5-15 - (but I will have some oats left over and maybe some potatoes)

Good Points:

I find I am saving time by not nipping down to the Coop garage or Booths in the evening to see if there are any bargains for sale.

There is much less washing up than usual.

I abandoned using the nutmeg flavouring for the porridge after the first day - I didn't like it.

The butter and the salt even though in small quantities make the microwaved potatoes delicious.

The barbecue flavouring was good but finished quickly.

I still haven't been out to collect leaves of ground elder to boil.. I really ought to....

I quite enjoy the "homeopathic" coffee - about 8 grains of coffee per mug of hot water.

Bad points:-

I did not wash the lentils as was written on the package the first two days. and although I scrub the potatoes I wonder if there are chemicals left on them - they are not organic. - If I had this diet for four weeks on the go I would wonder if I was getting pesticide chemicals from the food and would be be missing my "Five veg" a day, and wonder about my calcium intake.

Friday 6 May 2011

Spring Plants

I went for a walk/jog beside the River Ribble down to the Locks and up to Stainforth Foss. there is some hawthorn coming out below my house, but above it it is still on bud or just about to burst through. In the field over the river the cows have hammered the Ladies Smock but left the vegetation on the steep riverbank and also next to the wood where the white wild garlic is spilling though and growing well in the grass of the field. There is Greater Stitchwort on the bank in the field to the south.

At Stainforth Foss and just south of it there are lots of bluebells in the grass - Maybe the drought is holding up the grass, and the bluebells show better.  The water level in the river is ever so low. There are minnows in the river. Children from the caravan club are pond dipping.  Town Hall clock grows on the roadside going up from the packhorse bridge.

As I return through the field above the main road towards the Hoffman Kiln I note that the Ash trees are still almost as bare as in winter - the leaves are just beginning to show on some trees - whilst the sycamore is fully out.  the black plastic bags of silage which were dumped there about twenty years ago are still there.

There is a laburnum tree in full yellow flower near the exit to the kiln area.

The Royal Wedding - William and Catherine

Every Newspaper has featured the royal wedding - so here is this blog editor's contribution.

 Settle got bedecked ready to have a street party on the Friday- but I would be en route to Box Hill on the wedding day, ready for my Grasses course. Here are two pictures of Settle on the day before.

I caught the 7.30 train from Settle, noting that the Hawthorn was not out in Settle, was coming out in Skipton and going south of Leeds was fully out.

On the tube from Kings Cross to Victoria  they announced at the station before Green Park that "Green Park" was closed because it was full so anyone wishing to see the wedding should get out now and go to Embankment. .. my geography and knowledge of London is not good, so I stayed on to Victoria. Here I surfaced and made my way past cordons and police towards Buckingham Palace - well, the back of Buckingham Palace, along with hundreds of others to mill around, knowing there was no way we could get to the front where the royal pair would be going after their service.

A Spanish lady interviewer was being filmed interviewing any group she could find who would speak Spanish so I photographed people photographing the cameraman filming her.  People were wearing Catherine and William masks. A young man in shorts with an eastern European accent was selling cake stands that would fold up and go in a box.

Suddenly two horses and a carriage came out of the back gates of the palace with smartly dressed riders, followed by more empty carriages and beautiful horses.

So we were rewarded! we had seen something.