Churchyard Nature Note with Andrew Tompsett

July 2014

Potholes, bluebells and hogweed

Road potholes have been in the news recently and our churchyard paths have not escaped. We are expecting that contractors will be coming in very soon to repair and resurface some of those which have become eroded and potholed. The north drive will be rolled/dressed and some potholes in the road around the church building will be levelled making these areas safe and pleasanter for everyone, also remembering the Illogan Fair on 19 July.

As soon as a puddle forms and cars drive through it, the hole deepens as the sand and gravel are splashed out. (Potholes can form quite quickly.  May we respectfully suggest that if one is forming, that car drivers try, as far as possible, to avoid running through the middle.)

The bluebells were lovely this year and are now dying away just leaving the flower stalks bearing seed pods. It may appear that all activity is finished until next spring but this is far from the case. The sugars made in the green leaves and stalks continue to be moved to the bulbs to be stored as starch. Sometime during next winter the reverse occurs and the sugars are mobilised as the plant shoots. Another major development in late summer is the formation of tiny flower uds in the middle of the bulb ready to spring up again next April.

What, you may wonder, happens to this year’s seeds which are shed from the little seed ‘boxes’ at the top of the old stalks. The small black seeds fall to the ground and may germinate next spring forming a spear-like green blade beneath which a small bulb, about the size of a grain of rice, soon forms. Given enough space to develop, this bulblet has a means of easing itself downward from the surface into the soil by using a special root which contracts dragging the young bulb down.

Hogweed that vigorous plant with flower stems over a metre tall is becoming overwhelmingly prevalent in the churchyard and needs to be reduced through cutting off the flower heads before the seeds have formed where ever possible. Any volunteers to assist in this task would be welcomed.