Every Wednesday, I hope to find a new ‘weed’ to investigate. My only criterion will be that I will not have deliberately planted the subject of our inquiry. Who knows what we will find…..
This small, lilac member of the daisy family seems to be popping up all over the place in my half-mile territory. These photos were taken in Coldfall Wood, where it makes the dried-up winter pond look like an Impressionist painting. But this delicate-looking plant has had a long journey. It comes originally from North America (it was introduced to England by John Tradescant in 1633), and it is a prairie plant rather than a woodland one. Nonetheless, it seems to made itself at home in all kinds of damp and neglected places, bringing a wash of pale lavender amongst the green
This is not an easy plant to identify at the species level. We have Common, Confused, Narrow-Leaved, Glaucous, Hairy and Changing Michaelmas Daisies, and every possible hybrid. As I squint at my photographs, I suspect that my daisies are Confused . On a bad day, I know exactly how they feel.
The great thing about Michaelmas Daisies, as anyone who has planted them deliberately will know, is that they are full of energy and colour when most other plants are giving up. They seem to be particularly attractive to hoverflies, a creature that prefers flat, easily-accessible blossoms.
Until 1752, this plant was known as Starwort. But when the Gregorian calendar was introduced, it was renamed the Michaelmas Daisy because its flowering coincided with St Michael’s Day on 29th September. However, I rather like the notion of a patch of Starworts, flowering under the harvest moon in a tiny ancient wood in North London, just as they have done for hundreds of years.