Garden Snail

garden snail, Helix aspersaThe Garden Snail, Helix aspersa, has a thin, lightweight shell but that still looks cumbersome as it explores a fern-filled crevice in an old wall (see previous posts). As I drew it from a photograph that I’d taken this morning I noticed traces of damage to the shell with what appears to be a healed break in the rim and hairline fracture on the ‘back’ of its shell.

I imagine it being surprised, perhaps by a bird, retracting into its shell then falling from the wall onto the pavement below.

garden snail, Helix aspersa

A second snail clung precariously to the base of the stems of Common Ragwort, growing from a crevice near the top of the six foot high wall amongst the fronds of Rusty-back Fern and Wall Rue.

Wall Rue

wall rue, Asplenium ruta-muraria

Wall Rue, British Ferns, 1861
Wall Rue, British Ferns, 1861

Wall Rue, Asplenium ruta-muraria grows alongside the Rusty-back Fern in the crevices of an old wall in Ossett. It is a common fern of walls and limestone crevices.

Leathery leaves and long wiry roots are useful adaptations for conserving water.

Like the Rusty-back it is a member of the Spleenwort family, used as a herbal remedy for diseases of the spleen and also in the treatment of rickets.

Rusty-back Fern

rusty-back fern, Ceterach officinarumrusty-back fern fronds, Ceterach officinarumThe Rusty-back fern, Ceterach officinarum, has rusty scales on the backs of its leaves. These cover the spore-producing sori and probably help prevent the fern from drying out. During dry spells the fronds roll in at the edges.

Growing to just few inches, this fern is found in dry crevices in limestone and in old mortared walls. A small colony grows on a north-east facing sandstone wall on Station Road, Ossett.

It is best grown in a cold frame, potted rather high, among loam mixed with a large proportion of brick-rubbish, and not over-watered.

Thomas More, British Ferns, 1861

Rusty-back or Scale fern, drawn by W.W. Coleman, British Ferns, 1861.
Rusty-back or Scale fern, drawn by W.W. Coleman, British Ferns, 1861.

Rusty-back fern is a member of the spleenwort family and was used to treat diseases of the spleen. Legend has it that Cretan sheep with spleen disorders would greedily devour its rootstock.

It’s scientific name Ceterach is said to derive from the Arabic  ‘Cheterak’ the name that Eastern physicians used for this plant.