Sunday, April 18, 2010

Chicksands Wood

Following a sighting by Andy & Melissa Banthorpe, I couldn’t resist visiting Chicksands Wood this afternoon in order to experience a plant that I’ve always wanted to see, and yet always failed to locate before now.

But it was a mammal that got me excited first of all. I made my way southwards from Appley Corner and past the monument to George Montague Dunk, 2nd Earl of Halifax. Suddenly a Weasel ran onto the ride about 25m in front of me before noticing me, stopping dead, and then bounding back in the direction it had come from. I waited and tried to squeak it back, and was rewarded a few moments later as it reappeared, pausing once again in the centre of the track, before disappearing into the scrub on the other side. After having spent several hours waiting in prime Weasel habitat and following up Weasel leads in recent weeks, I should have known that I would finally see one via a chance sighting!!

I continued southwards before coming to this spot:

You can see the a number of pale plant spikes on the right-hand side of this photo, with a further spike just visible amongst the vegetation on the left-hand side...

It’s Toothwort, a strange plant that lacks any green chlorophyll and parasitizes the roots of several tree-types, tapping into the plumbing of the host plant and diverting the sap for its own benefit. Hazel is the plant that it is principally identified with, but I think that these spikes may very well be parasitizing Elm or Willow roots. Another old country name is the 'Corpse Flower'...look at its ghostly appearance and you understand why some folk in a former age believed that it wasn't roots that this scarey plant grew from.....!!

Why 'Toothwort' then? Look at the scales below the flowers...just like a set of molars - I really didn’t need to be reminded of my up-and-coming dental appointment!!

I’ve looked this strange plant up in my various reference books and can’t find one instance of it being used in past herbal remedies, which is unusual for such a distinct species. I counted 15 spikes in total.

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