Nearly stumped

I’m a bit of a plants-person and pride myself on being able to identify most plants, but in the last week I have come across two plants, in two very different circumstances, that I am unfamiliar with: I spotted the fist plant whilst on a weekend away with my sister in north Norfolk. A stunning perennial growing out of a sand dune, what amazing tenacity! Although quite stumped, I did say that it looked like it was a member of the Borage family. I took this photograph of it and starting my research when I returned home.

It’s funny how plants come in and out of popularity, how what may be classed as a weed today will have a slightly different form tomorrow and will be on the best sellers list. If I lived in Norfolk I would probably walk past this wild flower every day and think nothing of it, but because it was new to me, it was a rare gem indeed. It’s rather like when we are abroad, we marvel at their hedgerows and fields of beautiful wild flowers but we often just think of our own as weeds.

My mystery plant is Cynoglossum officinale and it is a member of the Boraginaceae family. It is a biennial; preferring sandy soils particularly near the coast and on ground that is subject to regular disturbance. Apparently unpalatable to grazing animals it can therefore be found in over-stocked pastures and on the disturbed ground of rabbit warrens. It is also found on coastal dunes, field edges and waste land.

The flowers are quite small in comparison to the size of the plant and are deep maroon in colour. It has large, grey-green, hairy leaves. Two of the diagnostics are that it has four quartered bristly seeds and that it smells of mice. I have read that one of the old English names for this plant was Rats and Mice. Commonly, it is now known as Hound’s tongue.

It is a very attractive plant (I didn’t smell it), but I have read that it has compounds that if taken over a long time would cause liver failure.

The seeds are available to buy and that it is easily established from seed sown in the autumn or spring. So, if you have sandy soil it could be worth having a go, but remember not to sow near a bench or path unless you don’t have a good sense of smell!

I’m still stumped by my other mystery plant but I’m enjoying trying to find out what it is.

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One Response to Nearly stumped

  1. Sandy Shore says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I think it’s really great that you take the trouble to photograph and research plants that you don’t know. Rats and Mice is an intriguing name. Hounds Tongue I get because the pinky red is quite hounds tongue-ish.

    Looking forward to reading about your other mystery plant too! I guess it’s easier when you have an inkling to go by. But what if you don’t?

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