DALS WILDLIFE SITE { WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND}

WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND

Brooklime

Dal. dalswildlifesite.comBrooklime's invasive habit soon covers large areas if left unchecked. Photograph by D.A.L.

Introduction

Brooklime is a common plant which has an invasive habit. This species has been given my favourite Latin species name of beccabunga. It is probably of Germanic origin back-signifying a brook and bunge alluding to a bunch, or from the Flemish beckpunge meaning mouth smart alluding to the sharp taste, the leaves were once eaten in salads, whichever the case I just love the name which rolls of the tongue.

The common name brooklime also alludes to habitat ie, brook and lime, lime is an old English word for mus, thus a plant that delights to grow in the mud of brooks. It also thrives in the margins of streams, ponds and even lakes. In fact it grows in the same type of habitat as the watercress whose foliage is superficially similar to that of the brooklime. In the margins of a local lake the plant has spread with remarkable rapidity in the last five years or so. Where the margin has silted up in the southern channel the plant has covered a large area. It is possible that an assault on it by the countryside rangers will be required to put a halt on its march.

Stem and leaves of brooklime. Note the rooting habit.

Brooklime-note the roots which have a creeping habit. Photograph by D.A.L.Dal dalswildlifesite.com

Description

The plant has stout , succulent, hollow stems, that root along their length. {see photograph below} where the roots have formed there rises up more erect stems that produce the leaves and flowers. Where the leaves are produce the stem is often tinged with a reddish hue. The foliage on the erect stem parts are short stalked and arranged in opposite pairs. They are oval to oblong in form rather thick and slightly succulent and rough textured. Brooklime has a shiny appearance turning a blackish colour when dried

Flowers---are rather numerous and appear on long stalks from the axil where the leaves join the stem. They are normally a bright blue colour, however, every now and again pink varieties occur. The veins of the petals are of a darker blue colour. There is a white eye in the centre surrounded by a scarlet hue. They are relatively small flowers in comparison with the size of the plant, roughly 5-8mm wide. The flowers are pollinated by insects of which many visit the flowers. They flower from May to September.

Brooklime growing by the water's edge.

Dal. dalswildlifesite.combrooklime growing by the waters edge. Photograph by D.A.L.

The forget-me-not-like flowers are blue.

Dal. dalswildlifesite.comThe plant also grows in muddy areas away from water. Photograph by D.A.L.

Flower stalks in bud.

Dal.dalswildlifesite.comThe long flower stalks arise from the axil where the leaf joins the stem.Photograph by D.A.L.

Uses.

--Tannin, volatile oil,bitter principle are the main constituents of brooklime.

Brooklime is now considered of little use as a medicinal herb . However, in the past it was used to cure all kind of afflictions from gout and swellings to burns. It was considered as a mild diuretic.

In culinary preparations ---they can be added to salads, mixed with water cress or cooked with other strongly flavoured greens. Personally I find them a little unpalatable. Conversely I know many people who do find them wholesome and enjoyable.

In the garden This plant attracts wildlife. The plants requirements is wet soil and grows in water. It is a fine marginal plant for ponds and grows well in bog gardens. However, because of its invasive habit it needs to be kept in check. It will also grow well in woodland gardens,and sunny edges. It is a good plant to attract bees.

Propagation--seed may be sown in autumn in a cold frame. When the plants are large enough to handle they may be placed in individual pots. However, the best way is by division which is very easy. Any shoot pulled away will easily grow on.

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