Kex, Lace and Poison – almost an A – Z of Umbellifers by Kari-Astri Davies
We had another informative talk from Kari last month on the subject of Umbellifers
Kex/keski/kesh: different names for various umbellifers eg Carrots also known as Birds Nest, Kex and Rantipole, Hogweed also called Pigweed or Keski.
Lace: the umbels of small flowers create a lacey effect eg Queen Anne’s Lace (wild carrot)
Poison: several umbellifers are highly poisonous eg Hemlock Water Dropwort.
Umbellifers are part of the apiaceae or umbelliferae (carrot) family, the 16th largest family of flowering plants. They have complex flower heads of predominantly flat umbrella like umbels made up of small, mainly white flowers. They have been around for a long time mostly as herbs, many of which came from the Mediterranean and many of the very early introductions are now classified as native.
The family includes perennials eg Sweet Cicely, annuals eg Ammi majus, or bi-annuals eg carrot and Cow Parsley and some are monocarpic eg Angelica. There are many edible umbellifers which are used for both culinary and medicinal purposes but there are also several highly poisonous ones as well. As with many introductions brought in for their beneficial attributes some have turned into pernicious weeds, a good example being Ground Elder.
Some examples of edible umbellifers, many of which are also good garden plants: vegetables: celery, celeriac, fennel, parsnips, and carrots; herbs: parsley, caraway, cilantro, dill, fennel, anise, celery, and chervil to name but a few.
Garden favourites: Astrantias, Eryngiums, Cow Parsley, Queen Anne’s Lace (Wild Carrot), Baltic Parsley and many more
Poisonous umbellifers: Poison Hemlock, Hemlock Water Dropwort, Giant Hogweed and even Parsnip leaves can cause a skin reaction caused by furocoumarins.
Many umbellifers are good for attracting pollinators although these are predominantly flies rather than bees and some such as Pignut are indicators of ancient pasture.
Propagation is best by seed which should be sown fresh in the Autumn.
The weather is set fair and preparations are nearly complete for our inaugural plant fair this Sunday, 8th July. Lots to tempt you with many plant stalls, crafts stalls and, refreshments with plenty of wonderful cakes! Make a day of it 10am until 4pm Pumsaint Hall and field.
Monthly Tips from Julian…..
We all tend to think of gardening as a very healthy activity, but I’ve had a couple of reminders over the last month that some plants need handling with care – although I’ve always been careful with Euphorbia sap, I do deadhead one purple leaved form to prevent it seeding everywhere, and this year got a couple of nasty blisters pop up really quickly where I wasn’t careful, enough – so maybe wear long Marigold gloves to do this? Also I was squishing daffodil seeds out of damp seedpods for 20 minutes or so, again without wearing gloves, and 2 hours later suffered really bad stomach cramps which lasted all afternoon – daffodils and snowdrops are quite toxic plants, and this seems to extend to the foliage and not just the bulbs. And then there are the really toxic ones like Monkshood (Aconitum).
On the subject of daffodils, the foliage is now dying back so it is ok to cut it back/mow the grass without reducing next year’s vigour.
For those growing tomatoes or indeed peppers, aubergines etc, with the sort of flower where the anthers and pollen is held inside the flower in a tube like structure (and who don’t already know about it), now’s the time of the year I’m regularly out in the greenhouse with my trusty pink and slightly grubby vibrator. Tomato flowers really need buzzing to get a better fruit set, and if you don’t get lots of bumblebees inside your greenhouse or polytunnel doing this naturally, it’s well worth doing this every couple of days. I know this is worthwhile because a few years back we went on holiday for a week and Anne kindly agreed to come and water our tomatoes but I didn’t feel I could ask her to do the buzzing – so 2 weeks later it was obvious we had a gap on the fruit trusses of several blank spaces where the flowers hadn’t set, because they hadn’t been buzzed.
Summer Social and Growing Challenge
Due to our increasing numbers this year’s summer social for members is being held in the Coronation Hall, Pumsaint. As always please bring along a plate of food to share.
We will also be sharing our successes (or failures) of this years’ growing challenge – growing a pot for pollinators. If you can’t manage to bring your pot, do try and take some photos and bring them along instead.
July Meeting – Malcolm Berry – The Dreaded Gardener ‘Weaving the Web:Towards a Natural Garden’
Malcolm Berry is a Natural Gardening tutor and speaker, promoting home food production and the encouragement of biodiversity.
Malcolm will be talking to us on how he manages his own garden. Follow him on Facebook (click here)
Brenda’s Open Garden
Brenda had a lovely day for her garden opening for the NGS last week and the garden itself was looking lovely. Thanks from Brenda to all helpers and cake suppliers and to Brenda for her donation to Cothi Gardeners funds.