One of my botany assignments saw me spending several weeks with my head down, peering in verges, gutters and the gaps in the pavements, for members of the Cabbage (Brassicaceae) family. This got me a few funny looks!
There are lots of edible vegetables in this family, including cabbages, turnips, mustard etc, in fact all flowers in this family are edible! The cabbage family is also known as the Crucifer family, because the four petals of the flowers are in the shape of a cross. You can see this clearly on this Honesty (Lunaria annua) plant in Belgrade Road.
Crucifer flowers also normally have four sepals under the petals, six stamens and a distinctive seed pod. This Honesty has a very large distinctive attractive pod as shown below.
A couple of crucifers that are very common in Seaford at the moment are Danish scurvygrass (Cochlearia Danica) and Hoary Cress (Lepidium campestre). This scurvygrass thrives on the shingle by the beach huts, but also on the side of many pavements and roads, where it has spread countrywide due to the use of salt in the Winter.
Hoary cress is also widespread on verges and roadsides, and can be an invasive unwelcome weed in farmland.
The brassicacaea family includes many large yellow flowers such as rape and charlock. These can be difficult to differentiate without close examination of the seed pods, so I’ll be waiting until some of them are going to seed before completing this assignment!
There are also many very small white flowers like this garden escape Alyssum (lobularia maritmia). It was some of these that I recently needed to keep a close eye out for.
I was delighted to find the first target on the edge of the pavement opposite the “Covers” which is an area being managed for wildlife by the council, and monitored by “On the Verge”.
Shepherds purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) is a common weed, with very distinctive pretty heart shaped seed pods which apparently resemble little pouches/purses worn by medieval peasants!
I finally found some Thale Cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) in the pavement cracks in Saxon lane, and was also pleased to spot another crucifer, Annual Wall Rocket (Diplotaxis muralis) there and along the pavement of College Road.
If I walk past you in the street, don’t take in personally, I’m just checking out the weeds!
If you would like to get involved in our regular plant surveys or observations, do get in touch!