Sunday, 1 June 2008

The Flags are out

It is always a good sign when the Flag Iris are in flower. It is a sign that the warm weather is truly upon us. The pond is sporting an abundance of the native yellow flag iris -Iris pseudacorus- and around the edges of the clump are some blue iris cultivars -Iris laevigata- which is a Japanese variety with a white flash on the petals. This variety will only grow in shallow water, whereas the pseodacorus will also grow in damp soil.
Iris can be used as a medicinal herb. The bruised roots can be used as a poultice to reduce the effects of bruising. Slices of root will relieve an aching tooth when pressed against it. The iris root is also the source or Orris powder, which is used in perfumes to add a violet like smell.
In some texts, the yellow flag iris is known as Jacob's Sword or Segg, which is an Anglo Saxon word for short sword. It is also thought that the shape of the Iris flower was the inspiration for the Fleur-de-lis used as a symbol in heraldic crests, showing its three distinct draped petals.

The bumble bees are very active at present with the commonest species by far being the buff tailed bumble bee, Bombus terrestris. They are extracting pollen and nectar from the flowers of a Berberis shrub in the garden hedge. This plant is also called the Barberry - producing a dark berry which when eaten by birds, discolours their feaces resulting in dark scarlet spats around the garden.
There are also a few white tailed bumble bees, Bombus licorum, as shown in the photograph below.
The buff tailed bumble bees buzz is a constant hum all over the bushes and shrubs as you walk by. The bees flit from one flower to another in a seemingly random pattern, though I suspect they can smell the flowers that contain the sugary nectar at a distance.

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