Commons Update

Commons Update - August 2017


The weather over the last few months has been unpredictable to say the least, but the mixture of warm hot sunny days and downpours of rain has meant that flowers and plants are flourishing this year.  The wild flower planting at Putney Lower Common was exceptional.     

The heather is putting on an amazing show and the heathland is a carpet of purple. Earlier, the Oxeye daisies and thistles provided another show of colour, along with the many other wild flowers and grasses.  

One plant, or herb, in particular that is doing well this year is Yarrow, Achillea millefolium. With its small delicate white or slightly pinkish flowers, it can be found in fields, meadows and also by the roadside and flowers from June to September. The leaves of the yarrow are what make the plant easier to identify - with their feathery appearance and can be anything from 5 – 15 cm (2- 8 in) long.   A member of the very large sunflower family, Asteraceae, it is quite closely related to wild and cultivated chamomiles.

YarrowIt has a fascinating history in both myth and folklore. Named Achillea millefolium by Linnaeus in 1753, the genus name was allegedly based on the idea that Achilles was said to rely on this humble herb to heal warriors on the battle field.  That is likely to be the reason why the plant received its nickname, “Soldier’s woundwort" as it is known to aid wound healing.  The word millefolium, means "thousand leaf" or "thousand leaves", referring to the many leaflets on the finely-divided leaves.

The usual English name yarrow is apparently derived from gearwe, an Anglo-Saxon name, or from the River Yarrow, Gaelic for rough stream. 

All over the world, herbal medicinal traditions have embraced Yarrow. It goes back millennia  in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine and was used in Native American medicine throughout North America.  Indeed, a Neanderthal skull in Spain, from about 50,000 years ago, had traces of yarrow in its teeth. Since yarrow is bitter, the researchers believed the Neanderthals used it as medicine, not food

Other medicinal uses are supposed to include use as an insect repellant, an appetite stimulant, an ease for gastrointestinal complaints, and to help break a fever.  


In other news, we have had many reports of sightings of the very beautiful Jersey Tiger Moth Euplagia quadripunctaria in and around Putney Lower Common and Putney Heath.  

This is still quite a rare moth to see in many parts of the country.  It is now fairly well established along the south coast from Kent to Dorset but there is also a thriving population in parts of London, but whether this is due to range expansion or the result of accidental introduction is still unclear.   

It flies both in the daytime, when it can be found feeding on various flowers, particularly Buddleia, as well as at night when it is attracted to light.   It's larvae feeds on a wide variety of herbaceous plants including Common Nettle (Urtica dioica), Hemp-argimony (Eupatorium cannabinum), White Dead-nettle (Lamium album), Borage (Borago officinalis), plantains (Plantago Spp.), Ground-ivy (Glechoma hederacea) and Bramble (Rubus fruticosus).


THE PLAIN - Our thanks to everyone who helped in our endeavours to encourage ground-nesting birds to The Plain this year.  Keeping to paths and keeping your dogs on lead really does help enormously and this year there was certainly evidence of Reed Buntings nesting.  The Plain is now open again but please be aware of contractors mowing and collecting the grass this week.