Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Pink Purslane

Across the road from me is one of Kirkwall's green bits - a little gem - the Willows. It's full of Sycamores and Wych Elms, nesting Rooks, Jackdaws and Collared Doves, flowering Lesser Celandines, Crocuses, Snowdrops, Bluebells, Daffodils, a teeny bit of Ground Ivy and now, masses of Pink Purslane.

Pink Purslane isn't always pink - the flowers can be any faint or deep shade of white through to pink. While obviously attractive, it does have a darker side - the ability to take hold and dominate at the expense of some of our native plants. It's a plant of eastern Asia and North America and was brought to Britain probably in the 18th century. The belief is that it arrived in Manchester with imported cotton. By 1838 it was noted in the wild and has spread rapidly since then.

It succeeds where others do not ie. it has the ability to flourish in deep shade and is one of the few plants that can colonise the poor soil under Sycamores. It is prolific and its mass of spring leaves suppresses other vegetation - the leaves flop over and take a long, long time to die back. It also has the ability to penetrate tarmac.

In Orkney it has invaded virtually all 'tame woods' and is even found in some of the 'wild woods'.

This last image shows the plant at Gyre Woods in Orphir - the floppy leaves have taken possession of the woodland floor.

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